Rugby is the sport that takes center stage at the Welsh Varsity, similarly to Varsity games of other institutes. The traditional Varsity was born in 1872 between rival universities Oxford and Cambridge. The competitive rivalry between Cardiff and Swansea, the hard work and drive to defeat is not uncommon in this style of competition. The Oxford and Cambridge team show their hard work and preparation that they put in before the big event in their training video.
At Swansea University a lot of hard work, dedication and commitment is delivered by the squad, prior to the annual event, which can been seen in their promotional video. With heavy training schedules kicking in a month in advance, training four times a week, the team needs to be extremely focused.
Jon Barely, 22, a well-recognised member of the Swansea Varsity squad for the past two years and hopes to make the final cut for the 2014 game, said: “During the month of training we are expected to eat well and stay off any bad habits, hydration is also a key aspect, we also have a drinking ban in place to try to keep our bodies in the best shape possible leading up to the game.”
Varsity requires a lot of preparation and commitment from the squad members, many of which are final year students with a lot of studying to do before their finals, with Varsity training so close to final deadlines and exams it becomes hard to jungle the two.
“Getting the balance between studying and training is crucial, however it is possible to do the two, as long as you maintain the correct balance”, Said Jon.
Representing Swansea University in the Welsh Varsity gives the boys great pride. The win means everything to them, especially considering how much hard work is put in.
Ian Williams, 23, a former student from Swansea who is currently studying his masters at Oxford talks about his different experiences of representing Swansea at the Welsh Varsity and Oxford at the original Varsity.
“I don’t think I can compare the two Varsity matches, with my second year win at Swansea in 2013 and my first win at Oxford 2014 were two completely different experiences”
Having played both Varsity’s what were the preparation
At Swansea we played bucs league and also boys played club so that was the preparation for the Welsh Varsity and was taken seriously, but sometimes boys couldn’t play certain games and there are no eligibility rules. At Oxford preparation starts from January to December, Michaelmas term is the key term and we don’t play bucs, we play either premiership teams or international sides and train almost like a professional side. We play most weeks and train about four times a week not including weights. The boys have to take it very seriously and are not able to play for anyone else due to eligibility rules since it is classed as an amateur game. At Swansea we had professionals come in for maybe a couple of sessions nearer to the game, however, from September here we have professionals in from the start, people such as Charlie Hodgson, Tom Varndell, Kearnan Myall to help coach.
Do you feel that the Oxford Cambridge Varsity take the event more seriously?
The Oxford Cambridge Varsity is much more recognized in history, since it is much older, there is a lot more weight thought in getting a blue, you have your own blues number, mine being 1188. It’s not that the Welsh Varsity boys don’t necessarily take it more seriously, but the build up at Oxford and Cambridge around the game and how prestigious it has become, makes it feel so important and boys commitment to the one single team never wavers.
Which was your favourite Varsity ?
I don’t think I can compare the two varsity matches, with my second year win at Swansea in 2013 and my first win at Oxford 2014 were two completely different experiences. I treasure both in the same way as at each part of my life they were so important to me personally.
How different is the atmosphere at the Millennium to the one at Twickenham?
At both stadiums the atmosphere is unbelievable, the only main difference of the two varsities is that the Welsh Varsity crowd is much more student orientated whereas at Twickenham it is very much less so.
Varsity coach Richard Lancaster explains the incredible atmosphere of the Welsh 2013 game, he said: “the crowd was absolutely fantastic, there is no other game like it, the volume of noise that comes from this amount of people!”
With the attitudes the Swansea team have in the lead up to the game, the successful training session, and the drive to hold on to their winning title there is no reason why they shouldn’t bring the trophy home to Swansea for the twelfth year.