Varsity Match: Morrison follows father’s footsteps

COURTENAY Morrison will run out at Twickenham in Cambridge colours for the Varsity Match this afternoon, 30 years on from when his father Iain helped the ‘Light Blues’ to victory in the famous rugby match.

Iain Morrison in 1983 and, right, son Courtenay, who wears the same colours at Twickenham today

The 22-year-old reveals that his playing style has been compared to that of his father in the past, but as an outside centre he operates in a very different position to his flanker father. Morrison has come through the ranks at Dollar Academy, where he played in the Scottish Schools Cup final at Murrayfield, and Loughborough University, where he studied International Relations. Now studying a post-graduate degree in Criminology at Cambridge, he is eager to compare the Twickenham Varsity atmosphere with that of Murrayfield.

“The Varsity Match was definitely part of my motivation for coming here,” he said yesterday as he prepared to meet the team and head to London. “It is such a huge game in the world of rugby, a great occasion and a great stadium to play in, and there’s also the fact that my dad played in it 30 years ago which is what led me to Cambridge.

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“I enjoy my rugby and, after a couple of injuries knocked me back last year, I’m looking forward to seeing where this season takes me. I’ve never been involved in such an intense build-up for one match but I feel a lot of the pressure has dropped away in recent weeks as we’ve got to know each other better and develop a good team spirit.”

Morrison spent a year with Eastern Suburbs in Sydney and at Loughborough played alongside another famous son, Ollie Robinson, one of former England and Scotland coach Andy Robinson’s brood. While Andy never featured in the Varsity Match, Iain Morrison – now rugby writer for Scotland on Sunday – played and won twice, featuring in teams with a host of players who were or would become internationalists, notably Rob Andrew and Gavin Hastings, and beat an Oxford side including Stuart Barnes.

Oxford also have a new Scottish face in their squad, former George Watson’s captain Graeme MacGilchrist just being edged on to the bench this afternoon by competition for places in the back row that Dark Blues coach James Wade said this week was the strongest for some years. At 25, he is still only the seventh oldest in what is an experienced Oxford squad.

Gunning for a record-equalling fourth straight win, they have 13 returning ‘Blues’, and another among the replacements, while Cambridge have five ‘Blues’ in the starting line-up and a further two on the bench. Oxford have won five of their 11 build-up games, and Cambridge seven with one draw in 12 warm-up games, with Cambridge confidence lifted last week when their ‘LX’ club beat Oxford’s Greyhounds in the second XV Varsity Match for the first time in ten years.

“We have had a good preparation,” added Morrison, who is hopeful of a step-up to pro rugby when his studies finish in June. “The way we came back from 20-odd points down against the Steele Bodger Invitational XV to win 35-34 said a lot about our fitness and spirit. We also beat Sydney Uni last week so we’re all really looking forward to getting to Twickenham.”

Oxford University: J Taylor; H Hughes, M Janney, G Turner, H Lamont; J Hudson, S Egerton; L Anderson, N Gardner, I Williams, M Rickner, W Rowlands, J Harris, G Jones. Subs: F Heathcote, J Wisson, H Macdonald, T Reeson-Price, G MacGilchrist, M Shorthose, A Macdonald, E Doe, P Olivier.

Cambridge University: T May; N Jones, C Morrison, K Cooke, A Murdoch; D Stevens, H Peck; W Briggs (capt), T Pascoe, F Sanders, S Annett, J Baker, M Mather, A Smith, S Farmer. Subs: P Calvert, W Yeeles, S Alderson, N Viljoen, C O’Sullivan, I Cherezov, A Abrahams, J Boyd-Moss.