On Thursday December 10th, Twickenham hosts the 134th instalment of The Varsity Match.
Aside from the historic nature of this famous fixture, this year’s match will have added importance for Oxford University as the Dark Blues attempt to claim an impressive sixth successive victory. This would be a new record for the fixture but Cambridge will as always be doing everything in their power to stall this winning streak and widen their series lead of 61 wins to 58.
Among the Oxford ranks one player can boast the staggering record of having played in all five of those recent wins and is now eyeing up his sixth win in a row. Due to make his sixth appearance on Thursday, loosehead prop Lewis Anderson will be looking to equal the record set by England international Herbert George Fuller between 1878-83.
Take The Three had a chat with Lewis before his impressive milestone.
Take The Three: Lewis, congratulations on the selection for your sixth Varsity Match but how is that even possible?!
Lewis Anderson: I’m studying for a Doctorate in Sociology (my research is on social inequality in mental health) and I’m in the second year of my DPhil. But it’s my eighth year at Oxford! I also did a BA in Classics, then an MSc in Sociology, and another MSc in Criminology & Criminal Justice.
TTT: Wow, that’s impressive. How do you have time for rugby?
LA: To be honest ‘rugby/studying’ is basically my life in a nutshell at the moment!
TTT: Do you play for a local club at home?
LA: Yes – Sidcup RFC. I’ve played there since I was 10.
TTT: Rugby has been a huge part of your life then? What is your favourite rugby memory as a fan?
LA: That would be as a young Wasps fan in 2004 watching Rob Howley sneakily snatch a try from under the nose of Clement Poitrenaud to win the European Cup in extra time against Toulouse. Also, as an even younger Sidcup fan, proudly watching my Dad write someone off with a huge tackle in a Veterans game.
TTT: What about as a player?
LA: The first scrum of the Varsity Match in 2013.
TTT: Who is your favourite professional player and why?
Can’t choose one, but Dan Carter, Richie McCaw and Conrad Smith all for the same reason – their success comes from having incredible skill and guile rather than just being unusually large.
TTT: Did you get to any Rugby World Cup games recently? How did you enjoy the Tournament?
LA: I thought the tournament in general was very good, and watching Japan beat South Africa was the highlight. I went to only one game – England vs. Australia. That wasn’t such a good night, but the Australians definitely deserved it, they played excellent rugby.
TTT: Turning to the Varsity Match, Thursday obviously marks a big milestone for you but which of the last five matches has been your favourite?
LA: It’s hard to say, they’ve all been special. Maybe 2012 because we came back from what looked like a sure defeat. We were 19-6 down in the second half and our coach decided to take off our scrum-half, a pro who had been on the bench in the Heineken Cup final the previous year. Somehow (well, largely through Samson Egerton – now in the England 7s squad – and Charlie Marr) we clawed it back. 2014 was also special because we scored so many tries, and there was one at the end in particular which was beautifully crafted.
But I think 2013 has to be my favourite, not only because we routed them in the scrum, but also because of how we came together as a team after losing a man to a red card. There was a fantastic feeling of collective concentration and effort, perfectly reflecting how closely the team had come together off the pitch.
TTT: How have you celebrated the last five wins?
LA: The team normally has a weekend away to celebrate. The only one I’ve been on was last year, when we travelled to Istanbul, which I highly recommend.
TTT: How will the 2015 instalment differ?
LA: To state the obvious, having a player of Jamie Roberts’ stature involved will really add to the occasion. We’ll have to watch out for his creativity and flair. Personally, knowing it’s the last time I’ll be able to play in the Varsity Match will make it an emotional occasion too.
I’m also really glad the women’s match will be at Twickenham too. It should help raise the profile of the women’s game, so that more people end up getting involved and seeing how enjoyable and fulfilling being part of a team can be.
TTT: What’s your prediction for the game?
LA: An Oxford win – but not comfortably.
Tickets for the 134th Varsity Match at Twickenham can be purchased from http://www.thevarsitymatch.com/