OURFC have extra cause to celebrate the start of the new Tyrell’s Premier 15s league this week. Blues Jenny Smith and Patricia Metcalfe-Jones have spent the last two months training with Harlequins Women. The two front rowers, who earned their first Blues in last year’s Varsity victory at Twickenham, are hoping to continue the progress they’ve been making in preseason when the Quin’s open their campaign against Wasps on Saturday.
Smith, who starts her Masters in Developmental Psychology at UCL later this month, has relished the opportunity rubbing shoulders with international class, such as England loose-head Vicky Cornborough. Meanwhile Metcalfe-Jones, who plays hooker, will be returning to Oxford to start her second year of French and Italian and prepare for the 2017 Varsity Match. She is hoping her time with Quinn’s, who won the Women’s Premiership last year, will give her the edge when she takes to the field against Cambridge University. Unlike recent seasons, the Twickenham showdown will be the only time the two teams meet this year with the two Universities being placed in different BUCS leagues for the 2017-18 season.
“The training has been a step up in terms of physicality and mentality”, said Smith. “We’ve learnt loads, and the coaches have been great in helping us feel welcome”. The Oxford coaches, Gary Street and Ali Mortimer, are also entering their second season with Quinn’s. The benefits of the link have not been lost on Smith. “Gary and Ali have prepared us really well, in terms of our mind set and approach. Being happy with getting fearlessly flattened week in week out takes a certain attitude!”
With Oxford’s own preseason starting on 18th September, Captain Sophie Behan is excited at how the success of current players is increasing the profile of the club. “For the first time we’ve had a number of experienced freshers signing up to preseason before term even begins”, Behan explained. “Women are seeing the opportunity playing rugby here offers, and that can only be a good thing for the growth of the club and the Varsity Match”.