The annual match between the Oxford University RFC and Cambridge University RUFC is one of sport’s longest-running fixtures, kicking off in 1872.
‘The Varsity Match’, has today become the 161st inductee into the World Rugby Hall of Fame.
An on-field presentation ceremony took place at Twickenham Stadium ahead of the 141st staging of the match with the immediate Past President of the RFU, Jeff Blackett, awarding prestigious Hall of Fame caps and pins to the Stephen Pearson (RFU Council member for Oxford and Blue in 1983, 1984 and 1985) and Jess Tayenjam (Chair of CURUFC and Blue in 2011).
The first men’s Varsity Match encounter took place at The Parks in Oxford in 1872, only a year after the maiden international between Scotland and England was staged at Raeburn Place in Edinburgh.
The women’s Varsity Match, first played in 1988, became part of the historic rivalry when they joined the men in playing at Twickenham Stadium in 2015 for an event that is now jointly marketed under the banner of ‘The Varsity Matches’. The year 2015 was significant for both clubs as it was the date when the men’s and women’s clubs merged to form single entities.
Both fixtures are played annually and remain an integral part of the sporting fixture list to this day.
“World Rugby is pleased to recognise and celebrate the role that Varsity rugby has played, and continues to play, in the development and promotion of men’s and women’s rugby globally,” said Sir Bill Beaumont, World Rugby Chairman.
“Varsity rugby is fundamental to the grassroots of our community game and has been and will continue to be a vibrant and necessary pathway for many past, present and future internationals.
“World Rugby sees the Varsity Match as both aspirational and inspirational and inducting it into the World Rugby Hall of Fame will be a fitting recognition of the unique institution that it is.”
Some of the greatest players and those that have helped to shape the game in its evolution over ‘200 years of rugby’ have participated in the fixture, either in the dark blue of Oxford or the pink (their original kit colour)/light blue of Cambridge.
Almost 700 players from the two clubs have played test rugby, including British and Irish Lions, Rugby World Cup winners and captains of their country, from the Home Unions and overseas.
Only a year after lifting the Webb Ellis Cup as New Zealand’s Rugby World Cup 1987-winning captain, David Kirk won a Blue for Oxford, while Gavin Hastings (Cambridge) and Gareth Rees (Oxford) are two other World Rugby Hall of Fame inductees to have experienced one of rugby’s finest traditions at first hand.
Stephen Pearson (RFU Council member for Oxford) and Dick Tyler (RFU Council member for Cambridge) said in a joint statement: “We are hugely honoured that World Rugby have chosen to celebrate the Varsity Match in this way and delighted at this recognition for all those who have played and otherwise supported rugby at the two universities over the last 150 years.”