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RUGBY UNION: Blues' strength proving selection headache
OXFORD University head coach James Wade says competition for places is the fiercest it has been in his time at the club.
Wade, whose side host Worcester Warriors at Iffley Road on Sunday (3), has won two out two Varsity Matches since taking the reins in 2011.
But as he and captain John Carter plot a fourth straight Dark Blue victory at Twickenham on December 12, they have plenty of selection headaches.
Asked whether they were nearer to knowing their strongest side, Wade said: “We are getting closer, but there is probably more competition this year than there has been in the past.
“The squad is far deeper than it has been in the previous two years I have been here.
“It is a great situation to be in, but it is proving a bit of a headache as well.
“The competition is raising the standards for the boys in training and in matches.
“If someone makes a mistake or doesn’t play well, there is someone else to come in.”
Flanker James Harris captains the side in the absence of the ill Carter, while prop Hamish Macdonald (shoulder) and wing Henry Hughes (knee) are one or two weeks away from full fitness after their respective injuries.
Oxford still include 11 Blues, with wing Ed Doe, fly half Jacob Taylor, prop Ian Williams and No 8 Graeme MacGilchrist the four not to have played in a Varsity Match yet.
Will Rowlands forms a powerful second-row combination with Mike Rickner, while Oxford will look to Sam Egerton to provide the spark behind the scrum.
“We are looking for a tougher test from Worcester than we had in the last couple of games, something similar to that posed by Newport Gwent Dragons (who beat Oxford 20-18),” said Wade (pictured).
“I am expecting them to field some senior boys who are not involved in their first XV, but I have no idea to be honest.
“We want to see how the players hold up under pressure.
“We want to score a few more tries, finish better and create a little bit more.
“We are going to try and entertain a bit more too.”
Wade added that the Dark Blues were now embarking on a run of four testing home games, with Russia, Major Stanley’s and Sydney University to follow.
“We want the fixture list to be tough,” he said.
“We want people to come to Iffley Road to see top-level rugby.”
OXFORD University are running a two-for-one ticket promotion at Sunday’s home match against Worcester.
Anyone buying for the Warriors clash can get in to the following Sunday’s showdown with Russia at Iffley Road for free.
The promotion is limited to one ticket per person, with the club are also offering a free season pass to anyone who buys a Varsity Match ticket on Sunday.
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