Two shades of blue
4 December 2017
Since 2014, Leonard Cheshire Disability has been charity partner of the Varsity Match between Oxford and Cambridge. In the lead up to the historic fixture at Twickenham, we caught up with the captains on both sides during their visits to Leonard Cheshire services.
'Wow. That’s amazing!' enthused Sophie Behan, the 21 year-old captain of the Oxford University women’s rugby team, on her second visit to Agnes Court in Banbury.
'I was chatting with some of the residents in their rooms and one of the guys still had a ball that I signed last year. That was great!'
On Thursday 7 December, in front of thousands of people at Twickenham and many more watching on TV, the men’s and women’s rugby teams will compete in 'the Battle of the Blues' and raise funds for Leonard Cheshire Disability.
Oxford’s men’s captain Conor Kearns, 24, made his first visit to Agnes in the lead up to his first Varsity appearance. Currently studying a masters in pharmacology, the likeable Irish-American fly-half has already represented USA at under-20 and Under-23 level. Conor told us:
'There’s been an association between Leonard Cheshire and Oxford University rugby club for a number of years. It was really nice of everyone in the service to have us over. It was lovely to meet everyone and today was a great experience.'
Sophie plays at number 8 for the Dark Blues and will lead out her side at Twickenham for the first time. The bubbly biomedical engineering student was delighted to be back at Agnes Court, which supports 23 disabled adults. Sophie spoke with great enthusiasm about the importance of giving back to the community.
'We are incredibly lucky to have the opportunities that we do. I think it’s important to be grateful every day for everything that we have, and to do what we can to help those who haven’t had the same opportunities as us.
'The experience of today was just incredible. It’s great that as we’ve had so many opportunities in our lives, we get to give something back to people who haven’t had as many.'
Both universities have strong links with our charity. Leonard Cheshire was a student at Oxford, studying Jurisprudence at Merton College. Current trustee Alistair Hignell is an ex-England international and former Cambridge men’s captain, playing four times for the Light Blues in the Varsity Match.
In September, the Cambridge University rugby teams caught up with residents at The Manor.
This year’s men’s captain, Charlie Amesbury, is making his second Varsity appearance as captain. The 31-year-old winger and former England Sevens player told us:
‘We’re all aware of the links between the Varsity match and Leonard Cheshire Disability and it’s important to actually meet people who actually benefit from the charity’s work.’
Women’s team captain Lara Gibson added:
‘This is my first Varsity match as captain and our visit kicked off the build up to the game nicely. It was lovely to meet everyone at The Manor.’
All the captains joined fellow team members to record a short video demonstrating the partnership between Varsity and Leonard Cheshire Disability. The video will be screened at Twickenham on matchday.
The action begins on 7 December, with the women’s match kicking off at 11.30 and the men’s match kicking off at 3pm. The Varsity Match brings huge numbers of rugby fans to the stadium and will be screened live on BBC Sport.