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History – Rugby

The students of Loughborough College formed the first student team at the start of Michaelmas term, September 1919. The first UAU game took place in the 1930- 31 season with the Loughborough Colleges XV beating Nottingham University 8 – 0.

By this time rugby had become established as the major sport at Loughborough Colleges. 1939 saw the Colleges reach the UAU final for the first ever time in an evenly contested game, Swansea scored the only try of the match to win the championship for the sixth time in seven seasons.

The period after the war produced three of the great names of Loughborough rugby: Two future captains of England, Eric Evans and Jeff Butterfield, and Ray Williams who eventually became Secretary of the Welsh Rugby Union. In 1953 the Colleges won the UAU for the first time and through that decade extended their fixture list to become one of the leading clubs in the Midlands. In 1959 the college won the Middlesex 7’s for the first time and started a series of matches against St. Luke’s College Exeter.

In 1962 John Robins joined the College Staff and became coach to the rugby club. During this tenancy as coach the 1st XV fixture list expanded to include Leicester, Gloucester, Rosslyn Park, Moseley, and London Irish. John Robins was an innovative coach of worldwide renown and credited with revolutionising attitudes to fitness in English rugby. He went on to become the first British Lions coach (though he was officially termed “manager” due to regulations that banned coaches at that time).

1962 – 1968 were six magnificent years for Colleges rugby, winning every UAU title except 1965. From this period, Gerald Davies, John Mantle, Colin MacFadyean, Dave Rollit, John Taylor and Bev Risman were some of the Colleges players who went on to become world class international players.

In 1967 John Robins left Loughborough to be replaced by the now legendary Jim Greenwood, who himself had played for Scotland and the British Lions. In 1970 he coached the Colleges to victory in the Middlesex Sevens, followed by the first ever UAU final to be held at Twickenham, where the Colleges beat Nottingham University 22 – 3. This 1970 – 71 side was probably the strongest ever to represent the club, including six future internationals, Louis Dick, David Cooke, Clive Rees, Fran Cotton, Steve Smith, and Dick Cowman. Jim Greenwood wrote two books to worldwide acclaim: Total Rugby and Think Rugby, and they remain essential and inspiring reads for any coach.

The 1976 – 77 season was the first for Loughborough Students Rugby Club, formed when the Student’s Unions of the University of Technology and the Colleges merged. The new club kept pace with the old by winning the UAU in 1977/78/79. 1978 – 79 was a superb season with the team losing only twice under the captaincy of the talented young centre Clive Woodward.

The gap left when Jim Greenwood left was filled by Rex Hazeldine. Rex later became England’s first fitness coach, and was an integral part of the revolution of attitudes to the game at international level. In 1984 the 1st XV again tasted success, winning the UAU, the Leicestershire Cup and beating the touring Australian Universities, with the Freshers XV beating England Colts for the second year in succession.

In the 1985-86 season coached by Morgan Thomas and Captained by Andy Robinson, the 1st XV won through to the third round of the John Player cup losing 18 – 6 to a strong Wasps side, but went on to earn the Triple Champs tag after winning the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd XV UAU Championships.

Since then the Loughborough Students side has been coached by Dave Willetts, Austin Swain, Ged Glynn, Alan Buzza, Dosser Smith, Alan Buzza, Paul Westgate and David Morris.

In 1996 the Students took the major step of joining the RFU League system. Having been offered the equivalent of National 2 rugby at the inception of league rugby, only to turn it down, the club joined at the bottom of the pile and have steadily worked their way up the pyramid.

The University first invested in a full time Director of Rugby in 1998 when Dosser Smith moved across after coaching Leicester Tigers to the Premiership. Alan Buzza took over from Dosser in 2001. University rugby had been left behind at the onset of professionalism, and Buzza began the job of modernizing the club. With money being offered by local clubs and high credability being given to those “on a contract” (no matter how meagre) the club was at an all time low.

League promotions in 2001/2002 and 2002/2003 brought renewed confidence and belief to the club as club spirit grew around the likes of Tom Evans Jones and Justin Abrahams. Andy Vilk scored a hatful of tries and previous unknowns James Jones and Sam Ulph typified the new era, going from 3rd XV players to 1st XV and beyond to England universities. James Jones is currently at Sale Sharks after winning two Oxford Blues, whilst Sam bemoans having been called up to the England 7s squad only to be thwarted by injury.

Despite the resurgence it took the employment of full time head coach Paul Westgate to end the 12 seasons without a British Universities championship win. The long drought finally finished with back to back wins in 2005 and 2006. When Westgate moved on David Morris took over as head coach and immediately gained League promotion to Midlands 1. Having set the goals of a mid-table finish in Midlands 1 and winning the BUSA championship for 2007/2008, a players “revolt” after the fifth league match reset the goal as League promotion. Miraculously promotion was achieved, winning Midlands 1 with several games to spare in out first season. On top of this the team nearly achieved a remarkable double, winning through to the final of the BUSA Championship, but lost to Hartpury at Twickenham.

2008-9 was an exciting season. As the first student side to take part in the National Leagues we were in new territory and started slowly with a young side. However by Christmas we had found our feet and a storming finish to the season saw us finish in sixth place. However the highlight of the year had to be the extraordinary win over England U20’s.

2009-10 saw the Students progress further, David Morris produced an outstanding pre-season programme that culminated in Loughborough beating Macclesfield in the first match of the season by the smallest of margins. After losing 12 of the first team squad, blending the old and the new in to a team that beat the eventual champions was a tremendous achievement. However the Students took time to settle and lost two of their first five matches. Subsequently, twelve games unbeaten took them to the top of the National 2 North table. A narrow loss to Caldy at the end of January led to a gap in the season due to adverse weather conditions. This break allowed the Students to refresh, leading them into a ten game unbeaten run, keeping them at the top of the table. Having led for most of the season they then faced second place Macclesfield at the end of April. A tough fixture saw the Students lose for the first time since January and drop to second place. Tough fought victories against Westoe and Preston meant the Students retained second place and a play off place. The playoff match against Rosslyn Park attracted over 1000 supporters to Loughborough and after a hard fought season the Students fell at the last hurdle to a Rosslyn Park side that were excellent on the day.

Loughborough also won the BUCS Championship for the first time since 2006 and the BUCS 2nd XV retained the BUCS Trophy. A fifth successive victory in the Real Varsity Match against Bath University and a narrow loss to England U20’s finished a fantastic season for the Students.

Since first winning the Universities Championship in 1953, Loughborough have won the Universities’ Championship on 28 Occasions, exactly half of the finals played. They also continue to be the highest competing University in the RFU structure, competing at tier 4.

The following season the Students set their sights on promotion to National 1 once again. After a strong start to the season a dip in form over the winter months resulted in a 2nd place finish for the second season in a row. An away playoff against Jersey RFC finished in a defeat once again, consigning the students to another year in National 2 North – Jersey RFC went on to gain promotion to the Championship the next season. The season also saw the end of The Real Varsity Match against Team Bath, which the Students won for the 7th year out of 7, an exceptional record that the club is proud of. On the individual front six of the squad represented England Students, Will Warden being named captain, and two players represented England Counties.

Following two close runs for promotion 2011/12 was a defining season for the Students. A slow start to the season eventually led to the young side hitting full flow and with four games of the season to go David Morris’ side clinched promotion to National 1, eventually finishing 22 points clear of 2nd place. The season also saw the biggest game in the club’s history as they faced the world famous Barbarian FC, coached by alumnus Andy Robinson. On a wet day in the new Loughborough University Stadium the Barbarians won 40 – 7, however Loughborough gave an exceptional showing both on and off the pitch.

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