Banbury's Agnes Court residents routing for the dark blues
Oxford rugby stars Ed David and Hazel Ellender will captain Oxford University against Cambridge University in Thursday’s historic Varsity Match at Twickenham, raising money for disabled rugby fans in Banbury.
Men’s winger Ed, 24, and women’s prop Hazel, 21, will lead the out the Dark Blues of Oxford against the Light Blues of Cambridge in the famous annual rugby match, raising funds for disability charity Leonard Cheshire.
The players recently visited Banbury's Agnes Court care home for disabled adults and welcomed residents to several Varsity warm-up games at Oxford University’s Iffley Road rugby ground. Some lucky residents will also attend the Varsity match.
Hazel said: “There’s a history between Oxford rugby teams and Leonard Cheshire, and I love visiting Agnes Court.
"The residents have shown us lots of great support and I’ve had so much fun chatting to them. It reminds you of the impact sport can have for spectators and I’m so pleased they’re getting behind us at Twickenham.”
Ed added: “With the profile of the Varsity Match, we’d like to give people some appreciation of the good work that Leonard Cheshire does, both at Agnes Court and also in the community and internationally.”
Ed will return for his fourth Varsity Match after missing last year’s victory through injury. Ed has twelve players with Varsity experience in the team, including fellow winger Tom Stileman who will play in his fifth Varsity Match.
Ed said: “Varsity is a fantastic shared experience, trying to get the best out of people and building towards a common goal.
"My first Varsity Match, the 2015 victory, is up there with my fondest memories and is my best rugby moment so far. This year I will have the honour of being captain, which will be very special.”
Hazel, playing in her third Varsity Match after overcoming a late injury scare, names 10 starting players with Varsity experience. The Harlequins front-row forward is seeking her first Twickenham win for Oxford women, after a strong and influential season as the Dark Blues skipper.
Hazel added: “It’s a humbling experience to be captain. I’m so excited. We’ve got experience, a new brand of rugby and a real hunger. We may have lost the last two matches, but we are determined not to lose again.”
“I got involved in rugby in the second year of uni and loved it straight away. I wish I’d got involved in the game earlier and now I’m in a position to encourage more and more girls to get involved as soon as possible.
"I can try to shape other people’s experience and help them realise how much they love the sport.”
The women’s match kicks off at 11.30am at Twickenham followed the men’s match at 3pm, with both games live on ITV4.
The Varsity Match on Thursday coincides with polling day in the General Election, as it did for the first match in 1872. For most of the day at Twickenham all thoughts will turn to rugby, with the event set to attract huge crowds.
The player of the match in the men’s game will receive the Alastair Hignell medal, named after the former England international and Cambridge men’s captain. Hignell, 64, who has multiple sclerosis, is a Leonard Cheshire ambassador and will present the award on the day.
Leonard Cheshire is the main charity partner of the Varsity Match and has been since 2014. Funds raised will support their care homes, including Agnes Court, UK employment schemes and international education programmes.