Men’s University rugby: Ever to excel

Scottish university rugby clubs made up one third of the founding members of Scottish Rugby in 1873 and recently standards have seen a marked increase.

The University of St Andrews RFC, Edinburgh University RFC, and Glasgow University RFC were three of the eight founding members of the game’s governing body, the then Scottish Football Union.

Over the last five years university rugby in Scotland, which competes in the British University College Sports leagues, has undergone a significant increase in both the standard and competitiveness of play.

An example of this can be found at Edinburgh University who gained promotion to BUCS Premier North B League in 2011 and finished an impressive third place last season among their English counterparts.

Furthermore, Scottish champions Aberdeen knocked out English heavyweights Loughborough University after extra-time in the BUCS Championship cup reaching the quarter finals before being over-turned by Bath University.

Commenting on last season’s league success in the top tier of Scottish University rugby, BUCS Scottish 1A, Aberdeen first XV captain Jamie Lauder said: “It’s a really tricky league to get right, but the key factor in our success was the excellent commitment from the lads.

“The Loughborough game showed that Scottish University rugby shouldn’t be underestimated, not now, and it has put Aberdeen on the rugby map”.

Glasgow first XV returned to the top tier of Scottish university rugby, earning promotion at the head of an unbeaten league run last year. The BUCS Scottish Rugby 1A, 2013/14 season holds the promise to be the most fiercely-competitive to date.

Peter Jericevich, the Rugby Development Officer at Glasgow University, said: “I have done a lot of work this year trying to create a more professional set-up.

“I have been very impressed by the standard of rugby played and the amount of quality players in university rugby that could go very well in the club game”.

No team has reflected the competitive nature of the league more than Dundee University who won the league in their debut season back in the 2011/12 following promotion.

One of the biggest games on the Scottish University rugby calendar is the annual varsity game between St Andrews and Edinburgh Universities. The match is billed as the oldest varsity game in the world, pre-dating Oxford v Cambridge by 15 years. London Scottish play hosts at Richmond Athletic Ground as all three of the clubs seek to bring the Scottish Varsity into the rugby conscious.  

St Andrews has made efforts to develop its sporting clubs launching its “Performance” programme back in 2005, with rugby being identified as a focus sport. The University’s is also the first in Scotland to employ a full-time rugby director of sport, David Ross, to develop the programme.

Ross said: “A lot of people overlook university rugby as club rugby is always the focus but I would compare the standard [Scottish BUCS 1A] to National League rugby.

“The rugby is extremely competitive and this is catalysed by the changing composition of the squad each year.

“Our long term goal is to, like Edinburgh, gain promotion to the BUCS Premier North B League allowing the young players to experience a higher and different brand of rugby”.

Last Season

Last season’s title was decided in a winner-takes-all game at Bridgehaugh as Stirling narrowly lost at home to Aberdeen 20 – 19. Stirling University was designated as Scotland’s University for Sporting excellence by the Scottish government in 2008 and now holding the headquarters for the Scottish institute for sport they will be striving to claim the title they lost so narrowly last season.

With the league consisting of only six teams, every game counts as all universities will have one eye on the title and the other glancing nervously over their shoulder at relegation.

The league and fixtures for next season can be found at the following link: http://bucs.org.uk/BucsCore/League.aspx?id=2323&sport=Rugby+Union