World Cup boost for Varsity Match

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The Independent Online

The World Cup factor has started to kick in for the Varsity Match. Demand for tickets is not exactly hitting fever pitch, but sales are up on last year by around 1,000 at the latest count.

Steve Hill, the Oxford University coach, said that the Dark Blues had found crowds were up by anything from 10 to 15 per cent in the matches leading up to next week's Twickenham showdown on 9 December.

"We have topped 1,000 spectators at three of our recent matches," Hill said. "And the Rugby World Cup certainly gripped the colleges and caught the imagination.

"In the past the individual colleges have struggled to get enough players to make a XV for the inter-collegiate competition, and matches have had to be cancelled," he added. "But this term we have not had to cancel a single game. Suddenly everyone wants to play."

However, only a tiny number have the talent to gain selection for the showpiece match, which features two powerful packs - Oxford perhaps having a slight edge - and two enormous No 8s: Stewart Eru, the Cambridge captain, who is winning his second Blue, is a beefy 17 and a half stone but his opposite number, Thomas Hayman, is even bigger at 18st 12lb.

As usual, no one wants to be regarded as favourites. Cambridge have been dogged by injury, while Oxford have won one more of the warm-up matches than the Light Blues, so they are narrowly tipped to gain revenge for last year's defeat.