Cardiff University rugby team were put through their paces by Justin Burnell and Gareth Baber, with Jamie Roberts and Sam Warburton on hand, ahead of this Wednesday's Varsity match.
30,000 students are expected to cheer on Cardiff and Swansea Universities as they do battle at the Millennium Stadium on Wednesday 2nd May for the Welsh Varsity Cup.
Since it began in 1997, Welsh Varsity has grown year on year. Today students compete in more than 20 different sports over the course of a day, culminating with the fight for the Varsity Cup.
Ahead of the big game, Cardiff Blues coaches and players, Gareth Baber, Justin Burnell, Sam Warburton and Jamie Roberts were invited by Cardiff University Rugby team to hold a training session
Cardiff University are looking to regain past form after losing in 2010 and 2011, but with Swansea having a history of fielding players such as Alun Wynn Jones, Richie Pugh and Dwayne Peel the challenge will certainly be tough.
Cardiff Blues Back coach, Gareth Baber, who held a session with the Cardiff University students said,
“There are huge rivalries when it comes to Varsity games.”
“I was fortunate enough to play in one up in Twickenham but every educational institution has its big rivalry with its local neighbour and this is the big one for Cardiff.”
“It’s great for the two universities, great for rugby in Wales generally and a good place for students to demonstrate they have the skills to play regional and professional rugby.”
“It’s still a great breeding ground for players.”
“Not all players are going to be picked up at 16-years-old and come into development structures at professional clubs.”
“There are a lot of boys going off to uni and there are good links with rugby clubs.”
“We certainly have a good relationship with Cardiff and it’s important that we keep in with their players and coaches to make sure any quality guys come into the regions.”
“We’ve just helped out with the session.”
“We’ve spoken about a couple of elements of their game in terms of what they want to do.”
“It’s been a pleasure doing the session, they’ve taken everything on board despite the rain and enjoyed themselves.”
“It’s been chucking it down with rain, but we’re fortunate to be on a 3g pitch which is a great facility for the university, had we been in the mud I might have been losing my rag a bit.”
Speaking at the training session, Cardiff University medical student and Lions star Jamie Roberts said:
“The Varsity Match becomes the pinnacle of many players’ university sporting careers and 99% of them won’t get the chance to play on the Millennium Stadium again, so it is really a highlight for them and a pretty special occasion.”
“I’m sure the boys don’t need any motivation to play on the hallowed turf, it’s a great chance for them, so they should make the most of this opportunity.”
“Culminating with the rugby match at the end of the day, Varsity is an opportunity for the two main universities in Wales to go head to head in all sports and have a great day.”
“It’s obviously very competitive and with these guys putting in a lot of effort into their extracurricular activities, as well as university, hopefully they’ll reap the rewards of a victory on Varsity day and have a great night out as well.”
“I had a game with Cardiff University when I was coming back from a shoulder injury.”
“I played one half for the Cardiff University RFC for my sins, as I’m actually a medic; I got a lot of stick for that.”
“I’ve never played in Varsity but I’ve watched it every year.”
“It’s always been a great occasion.”
The Millennium Stadium will also host some great warm up acts and a dance off between Cardiff’s Snake Charmers and the Swansea Sirens at half time.
In its early years, the Varsity Match was held alternatively at Cardiff Arms Park and St Helens, the home of Swansea Rugby Club. In 2003 and until 2007 the match’s venue was the neutral ground of the Brewery field in Bridgend before returning to the home/away format. This is the second year the Varsity will be held at the Millennium Stadium.
Wales Captain, Sam Warburton, said:
“I’ve been to Varsity a couple of times to watch and I thought the standard was great.”
“It’s fantastic for students and I remember the Man of the Match last year had people knocking on his door with professional contracts afterwards.”
“It’s great exposure for the students and it’s something that a lot of them won’t ever experience again, which is why it makes it so unique.”
“It’s an extremely rare opportunity to play on that ground.”
“It’s probably one of my favourite places in the world to be honest with you. I love training there, team runs and games.”
“It’s a very special place and it’s great for other people to have that experience as well.”
“My advice would be to just treat it like another game.”
“I think if they start thinking about it as the biggest game they’ll play this year then they might force things and not play their natural game.”
The match kicks off at 7.30pm on Wednesday 2 May. Tickets to support both Cardiff and Swansea at the 2012 Millennium Stadium encounter cost £10 and are available from www.welshvarsity.com