Ahead of this week’s epic Varsity rugby encounter, Gair Rhydd Sport caught up with Cardiff’s captain Jake Cooper-Woolley to get his thoughts on the match.
Having competed in BUCS Premier A division for the first time in four years, Jake was proud of this season’s achievements. “It has gone very well” he says, “We recorded the double over Swansea, beat UWIC for the first time in the club’s history and narrowly lost a BUCS Championship quarter final to the reigning champions Durham”.
With such accomplishments this season (mainly those two wins over Swansea), I was keen to find out how the team has been able avoid complacency to remain focused. “Going into the Varsity match with two wins is bittersweet as Swansea may prefer the title of under dogs, meaning we are now expected to win. In 2009 we lost to Swansea twice in the league then won a tight varsity match. However we’re aware that this is a one off game in front of a large crowd, who will play a part. Whichever team holds their nerve better on the day should win.”
Aside from handling nerves, preparation is always a huge part of the Varsity process and this year is no different. The squad has been attending early morning gym sessions all season, and Jake is confident about the squad’s recent, more tailored work. “We have been back in training for a couple of weeks now, running through moves, just making sure that we are raring to go and ensuring that everybody knows what it will take to beat Swansea. We try not to worry about them and what they’re doing; we just concentrate on our roles and jobs for the day. We have also been on a compulsory drinking ban for the last month in order to ensure that the boys come into it at 100%.”
Perhaps Cardiff’s best preparation though, has been competing in a higher league than the 2011 squad. Jake notes, “This year we have played tough fixtures week in and week out. We’ve also had some historic wins in comparison to the 100-0 drubbings we handed out last year. There is no doubt in my mind that in 2012, Swansea are coming up against a different team, with a much better attitude.”
And so to Jake’s thoughts on the match itself, where he’s hoping that Cardiff will thrill the crowd at the home of Welsh rugby. “We have a very talented squad from 1 to 25 this year, so we want to come out and play rugby. We are aware it is entertainment for the students, so we want to play some attractive stuff. But, we still have a strong pack of forwards and if we need to, we won’t be scared to tighten things up and take them on up front.” When asked who he believes will be Cardiff’s key players, Jake remained loyal, complimenting the entire squad. “We have exceptional players in all positions. The likes of Jonny Macdonald, Cameron Pimlow, Ross Wardle, Will Jones and Charlie Simpson are all special players with the ability to create something out of nothing. We also have a very strong pack with international age grade representatives throughout. This match will be about honing a team performance with all of us offering something different.” Discussing where they might be able to exploit Swansea, Jake believes Cardiff can’t take anything for granted. “We haven’t worried too much about Swansea because on the occasions that we have played them this season they have been missing a few key players. We’re aware of our strengths and if we play to them, hopefully they will lead us to a win.”
Though this isn’t Jake’s first time playing in the Varsity match, it’s his first time captaining the side. When asked about the extra responsibility, Jake said, “Being captain requires a little bit of media work for the university. Photo shoots, interviews and things like that, but nothing too major.” However this extra responsibility does have some perks, namely lifting the trophy. “It will be massive to win the Varsity as captain, in my final year at university, in front of what will hopefully be the largest crowd in Varsity history”.
Make sure to buy your ticket and support the boys as part of that crowd come May the 2nd.