Sport | Varsity Grand Finale – Captain's verdict
LS Sport’s Joshua Jalal speaks to men’s rugby club captain James Munro and first XV player Alex Beaumont in the lead up to the Varsity Finale at Headingley Carnegie.
James and Alex both walked into the studio excited by the prospect of their first interview and quickly seemed as comfortable with the microphone as they do with the rugby ball. It is clear that the upcoming Varsity fixture excites them and they are relishing the challenge. the club was hit by several injuries putting a blunt end to what was a brilliant start. “I think we need to build on last year; we started really well winning Varsity and then beating Loughborough, but tailed off due to injuries and inconsistency, something we have addressed and is essential to perform well at the top level.”
Those two victories last season were followed by a four month period without a win, “we need to look at playing the next game at our best.”
With preseason well and truly underway there is, however, reason for optimism, with a wave of changes to the squad. A talented influx of first years will be joined by new forwards coach, Chris Walker, and backs coach Fred Burden, who was previously with Leeds Carnegie. “Fred Burden is doing a terrific job and Chris Walker is taking the forwards through their paces”.
Alex irrefutably agrees, nodding his head as James addresses the much anticipated class of freshers. “We have Joe Mellony from Worcester Warriors, Dom O’Connor from the Sale Academy and another lad who has played the last year in New Zealand.”
The new crop of talent replaces, of course, an equally talented group of third years led by Will Magee, last year’s Varsity winning captain, who now plays for GK IPA Championship side Ealing Trailfinders and Thomas Francis who has joined London Scottish, “some big characters and talent has left the club and is a challenge for this year’s group of boys to step up.”
Varsity is only weeks away and both are relishing the prospect of playing in front of 11,000 spectators. The weather has been notoriously bad in past fixtures but has seemingly played to the advantage of University, something James acknowledges: “at 6 o’clock the skies just open up”.
When asked whether the boys are prepared both James and Alex agree that they will be able to perform no matter the weather. The venue, home to Leeds Rhinos from February each year, promises to provide spectacular hospitality to players and fans alike, an experience that James admits is something special.
He said, “what amazes the boys is that the exposed stand, with the rain and the cold, is completely full. It is really touching that that many people care about the finale and Varsity on the whole, it really is brilliant.”