Former Glasgow schoolboy and Edinburgh district player Jamie Weston will this afternoon lead his side out at Twickenham, knowing the team must overcome a favourites tag to claim one of rugby’s most prestigious prizes.
The 24-year-old former Watsonians scrum-half is captain of Oxford University and after helping the team overcome Cambridge University in last year’s Varsity Match, for the first time in six years, Weston is hopeful he can play a part in doing it all over again.
He admitted: "I’m very excited about the game - it’s something I’ve looked forward to for quite a few years, and getting the chance to play in this final a second time, and captain Oxford, is a tremendous feeling.
"We know we are favourites because of what we did last season. As well as most of the team still being with us, we have added some strong players, but it’s like any real derby match in Scotland - being labelled favourites counts for nothing when these teams meet."
A Kelvinside Academy schoolboy, Weston’s rugby career path might have taken him to Glasgow Caledonians by now, but instead, after finishing schooling at Merchiston and going on to impress with Watsonians, to the point of earning five Scotland under-21 caps, he became one of the many players catapulted out of pro rugby in Scotland when his Edinburgh district side was merged with the Borders, leaving him without a job.
He explained: "Rugby has always been a huge part of my life, and always will be, but I took the opportunity that provided to further my education.
"After I’d finished my degree in business studies at Heriot-Watt University, I wasn’t quite sure, but I knew a couple of lads who’d come down here, and having watched guys like Gavin Hastings and Eric Peters play for Cambridge in the past I’d always quite fancied giving varsity rugby a go. And with professional rugby being as precarious as it was I decided to come to Oxford."
Combining a masters degree at Keble College with his terrific enthusiasm for the game, Weston was a popular choice among last year’s cup-winning squad to take on the skipper’s role this term. As he has found out, however, the captain’s job is a multi-faceted one.
"It has taken me by surprise how much responsibility you have. I had to choose the coaches - but we have great guys in our full-time director of rugby Steve Hill and Bristol backs coach Mark Tainton - and I pick the team, explain to players why they’re not in."
The Oxford team - which only lost 34-26 to Sale Sharks in a recent friendly - has been boosted by the arrival of Australian international back-row Brett Robinson and USA prop Ray Lehner, adding to such notable figures as former Australian under-21 captain David Kelaher and Western Province No8 Justin Hendriksz.
Cambridge, incidentally, beat a Harlequins side, featuring Eric Peters, 29-18 in their warm-up.
"It will be tough, but we have a lot of quality and also a great mixture of players," admitted the captain. "You don’t get the chance to play with that kind of top-class mix anywhere other than the Barbarians really, so I'm delighted to be part of it."
The diminutive, classy scrum-half is quick to dispel notions of rugby now taking a back seat and admitted that a return to the pro game in Scotland remains in his thoughts.
"Coming down here wasn’t a case of turning my back on rugby," he said. "I knew rugby was taken seriously here and, in fact, the first term is basically all rugby for those in the squad - we tend to have to work hard and catch up after the Varsity Match is out of the way.
"By the time I return to Scotland early next year, I’ll have played in two cup finals at Twickenham - hopefully, won both - and got a masters degree from quite a prestigious university. What I do back in Scotland I don’t know yet; I’ll be looking for work, and if the opportunity to play professionally comes along I’ll be delighted.
"But, right now, winning at Twickenham is uppermost in my mind - finishing my time here with a second victory would cap a fantastic year."
Weston will have two Scots in opposition this afternoon in fellow under-21 international Stuart Moffat at full-back and Angus Innes at blindside in the Cambridge team. The game is being shown live on Sky Sports with a 2pm kick-off.
Saracens have cited England captain Martin Johnson for two alleged acts of foul play during Saturday’s Tetley’s Bitter Cup quarter-final defeat at Leicester.
It is understood the incidents relate to alleged use of the knee on Saracens fly-half Duncan McRae and a punch thrown at prop Julian White.