Ruck and Maul: Hignell makes his mark on Varsity with man-of-the-match medal


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The Independent Online

The former England full-back and broadcaster Alastair Hignell was the guest of honour at the 130th Varsity Match at Twickenham on Thursday. "Higgy", who played for Cambridge in four Varsity Matches in the 1970s and retired from BBC Radio in May 2008, due to the onset of multiple sclerosis, presented the inaugural man of the match award to the Oxford lock Karl Outen, after the Dark Blues' 28-10 win.

The prize, a gold sovereign from 1872 bearing the image of Queen Victoria, is worth £300 and in due course it will be made into the "Alastair Hignell Medal". Outen intended to hang on to it tightly during the evening's revelry, followed by a trip to Copenhagen on Friday and Saturday. "We would have gone, win or lose," Outen said. "As much as anything it is a thankyou to those who didn't make the team but made all the same sacrifices in the run-up. Jez Mather, the club secretary, had 5am wake-up calls for training before his work as a teacher in an Advanced Education course. He ran out with the water bottles at Twickenham and was just as much part of the win as those who played."

Women hug their hoodies

England's women may be feeling on top of the world after their Test series win over New Zealand but the pleasures they gain from the game are simple ones. It had become something of an in-joke for captain, Katy McLean, and her squad that for years they had cast avaricious eyes over the hoodies their male counterparts received in their England kit. The women were offered the hoodies as a bonus if they won the World Cup last year but they lost in the final to the Black Ferns. Unknown to the squad, after they won the first two of the past fortnight's rematches at Twickenham and Esher, an order was placed for 26 of the coveted tops. They were waiting in the changing rooms after the third match, a draw – the cue for much whooping and leaping up and down. England's men received £41,000 apiece for reaching the World Cup quarter-finals, comparable with the match fees and win bonuses they receive in other tournaments. The women play for fun, receiving travel expenses only, even paying for their own meals unless it is a team night out.

Tanking in the rankings

England's seven Heineken Cup clubs have individual concerns, but overall there is a pressing need to reverse a downward trend in the rankings that govern seedings in the Heineken Cup. When the rankings began in 2008 Leicester were fourth, Wasps sixth, Bath eighth and Gloucester ninth. It improved in 2009 when Leicester were second but this season, only Leicester in sixth and Northampton in seventh are in the Top 10, which count towards the draw next time around.

The talented Mr Ripley

Good luck to the star-studded band of former British & Irish Lions gathering in London on Tuesday for a lunch in memory of Andy Ripley, to raise funds for The Prostate Cancer Charity. A composite side from the 1974 and 1997 Lions tours will be a fascinating exercise undertaken by Sir Ian McGeechan and Fran Cotton, and they will not be short of advice from Roger Uttley, Willie John McBride, Lawrence Dallaglio, Keith Wood and Mervyn Davies. Ticket details can be found at