Ruck and Maul: Varsity teams want to fly the flag for last year's men

The 129th Varsity Match at Twickenham next Thursday will be the 14th since the RFU ended the ancient practice of the previous year's captains running touch, or acting as assistant referees as it would be called today. The two sides would like the tradition restored but it will not happen this year. Ian Minto, the general manager of Cambridge University RUFC, told
Ruck and Maul: "There's been a lot of talk about the match as one of the last great amateur bastions, people were looking back fondly and we mentioned it in a meeting with Oxford a few weeks ago. We're both in favour, we are just not sure where to take it." So when Andrew Small becomes the first New Zealander to referee the match in its 138-year history (albeit as an employee of Twickenham in his fourth season as a professional whistler in England) he will have RFU colleagues as his assistants with the flags. But there's a nice touch on the touchline, as they will be father and son Andrew and Luke Pearce.

Johnno's textbook psychology

The England manager, Martin Johnson, is routinely portrayed as a grumpy ogre but he has never underestimated the value of team-bonding. He mentioned after the recent defeat of Australia that he had urged the players to send a text to non-playing squad-mates in their positions. "It was just a recognition from the squad that those guys who come in and train with us on Monday and Tuesday are all part of the success. It's an understanding that when we get to a Six Nations and certainly when we get to a World Cup, it's a 30-man effort, that everyone's got to play their part. If you're the unlucky one who doesn't get to put your kit on, you've still got a big role to play in getting that team ready to go. Even in that last week [of the autumn] when the extra guys knew there wasn't a game the following week they all trained really well and gave the team the work-out they needed."

Message the egos

More than a dozen players were in and out of the England squad during the autumn without playing, most as injury cover, including Tom Wood. The uncapped but in-form Northampton back-rower had three trips down the M1 for early-week sessions. "It's good that you get to know the coaches, the players and the systems," he told Ruck and Maul, "and you get to know roughly where you stand in the pecking order." And where is that? "It's fairly obvious that if you're down there you must be fairly close. I'm playing as a No 7 for Northampton but most of my rugby for [his previous club] Worcester and the Saxons has been at six. And I'm doing line-out work for Northampton so I'm not an out-and-out seven for them." Wood applauded the idea of the texts as "a good thing, to build camaraderie." Only one problem. "I haven't got a phone, I lost it a few weeks ago."

hughgodwin@yahoo.co.uk

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
scotland decidesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmSo what makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes the hobby look 'dysfunctional', they say
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week