Oxford v Cambridge: Teams
At Twickenham, Thursday December 11, live on SS1 from 1.30pm
Last Updated: 11/12/08 7:27pm
Oliver: Varsity debut
The 127th Varsity match gets underway at Twickenham - live on Sky Sports - with both Oxford and Cambridge fielding a former international in their starting line-up.
Former New Zealand hooker Anton Oliver has swapped life on the south of France with Toulon for a place in Oxford's University digs, with former Wallaby Dan Vickerman moving from New South Wales to Cambridge.
Oliver was earning in excess of £200,000-a-year as he helped Toulon win promotion to the Top 14, with the promise of glamour fixtures against the likes of Stade Francais and Toulouse to come.
However, the 33-year-old, who has been named at No.2 for the Varsity encounter, left the French outfit at the end of the season and applied to study biodiversity conservation and management at both Cambridge and Oxford.
"I have a little room with a little single bed and bike that takes me everywhere," said Oliver, who played at the University of Otago before making his All Blacks debut as a 21-year-old.
"It has been a full circle, coming back to what the game was when I was first introduced to it - cycling to training and night training.
"The other night there was frost on the ground, so thick my studs wouldn't go into it. I haven't had that in about 13 years!
"On our pre-season trip, we were in Canada and we had to jump into taxis to get into the game - which we had to pay for ourselves. It is a good way to see the game through a different lens."
Oliver has found the transition from Test rugby to Varsity rugby tough - and, in his own critical eye, he has been struggling for form this season.
"I have always got high standards, but the mentality and fitness has dropped off," he said.
"Clearly there is a step down, and I'd be lying if I said I was as enthused as playing a Test match," he admitted.
Oliver will also come up against a few familiar faces. The Light Blues feature former Australia lock and line-out expert Vickerman, while the referee is a certain Wayne Barnes.
The English official was condemned in New Zealand for his performance in the 2007 World Cup quarter-final defeat to France with many critics blaming him for the All Blacks' elimination, but Oliver never bought into the argument.
"You cannot put our defeat down to the referee. There were many other reasons we lost that game. But it was quite amusing when I found it out he is in charge!" he added.
Cambridge won last year's Varsity match 22-16 and lead the 126-match series 60-52.
Oxford: 15 C Mahony (Keble), 14 S Morris (Somerville), 13 J Burnett (University), 12 T Gregory (Kellogg), 11 T Catling (Pembroke), 10 R Swanson (New), 9 B McKerchar (Keble); 1 R Lutton (Linacre), 2 A Oliver (Worcester), 3 W Thompson (St Cross), 4 I Kench (St Cross), 5 B Payne (St Peter's), 6 S McKeen (Harris Manchester), 7 P Clarke (St Cross, capt), 8 P Wright (University).
Replacements: 16 D Rosen (Worcester), 17 K Davis (Linacre) or Will Johnson (Pembroke), 18 N Van Zyl (Green/Templeton), 19 C Davies (St Edmund Hall), 20 T Henry (Linacre), 21 A Cheesman (St Edmund Hall), 22 W Browne (Balliol).
Cambridge: 15 J Richards (Hughes Hall), 14 J Wellwood (St Edmund's), 13 C Lewis (St. Catharine's), 12 M Ranby (St. Edmund's), 11 J Greenwood (Hughes Hall), 10 S Reid (St. John's), 9 D Rowe (Hughes Hall); 1 N Conlon (St Edmund's), 2 M Crockett (St Edmund's), 3 J Dawson (St Edmund's, capt), 4 M Wilson (Selwyn), 5 D Vickerman (Hughes Hall), 6 W Jones (St Edmund's), 7 T Malaney (St Edmund's), 8 T Boynton (Hughes Hall).
Replacements: 16 A Daniel (St Edmund's), 17 P Crossley (Homerton), 18 C O'Keeffe (St Edmund's), 19 C Rees (St Catharine's), 20 J Wheeler (St Edmund's), 21 R McGuire (Hughes Hall), 22 S MacLellan (St John's).