To The Manor lawns: Cambridge University rugby digs deep for disability charity

8 November 2018

Varsity volunteers: Rugby stars become green-fingered gardeners at The Manor, a Leonard Cheshire home in Brampton.

Cambridge players Miles Huppatz, Henry Somers with The Manor residents Gemma Bentley, Lewis BrooksCambridge University’s Varsity teams swapped rugby for gardening on Sunday, lending their support to local disabled people as they visited a care home in Brampton.

Players from the men’s and women’s first team showed their green-fingered skills on a trip to The Manor, run by leading charity and Varsity match partner Leonard Cheshire. 

Sam Heatlie and Davy Somers, both residents at The Manor and keen rugby fans, will be ambassadors for the historic fixture at Twickenham between Cambridge and age-old rivals Oxford. 

Sam, a former player at St Neots Rugby Club, said:

‘It was brilliant to meet the players and I’m really looking forward to the match itself.’

This year’s Varsity match will take place on Thursday 6 December, with proceeds going towards the pioneering disability charity.

Founded in 1948 by war hero and global humanitarian Leonard Cheshire, the organisation supports thousands of disabled people across the globe to live, learn and work.

During their visit the players added some extra colourful plants to The Manor’s garden, and cleared the taller plants so people living there could enjoy a better view.

The players then met and chatted to several residents, presenting them with a signed rugby ball. Both Light Blues teams signalled their intent to build on the superb victories of 2017. 

Women’s first team captain and history student Kate Marks scored in last year’s brilliant 24-0 win over Oxford, and is now preparing for her third Varsity Match in three years. Selected as a Youth Ambassador for England on the Lions Tour 2017, the talented scrum half was delighted to meet up with some familiar faces at The Manor. 

Kate said:

‘I had an incredible day — getting involved in the gardening and chatting to residents.

‘We spoke to a few of the guys who seem excited about coming to watch us again at Twickenham.

‘For this year’s match we’re trying to keep the intensity high and maintain our high standards from last year.’

The partnership between Leonard Cheshire and Varsity began in 2014, with the players on both sides clearly valuing the chance to make a difference.

Manor rugby ambassador Davy Somers, resident Gemma Bentley with Cam players L-R Rowan Beckett, Miles Huppatz, Elliot Baines, Henry Somers with Leonard Cheshire staff Lois Knibbs

Kate commented:

‘I think it’s really important to get out in the community and try to give back.

‘We’re lucky enough to be involved in the Varsity Match and are in a very privileged position to do things like playing at Twickenham. 

‘We relish the chance to be involved in rugby with the team mentality and positive benefits that it brings.

‘So if we can take a few of those benefits, go out and add something different to people’s day, then that’s great.’ 

Billie Smith, Activities and Volunteer Coordinator at The Manor, said:

‘Sunday was a fantastic team effort with the lads and lasses from Cambridge — it all made such a difference not just to our garden, but to our residents: having a social with the players and talking about the game.

‘They are really looking forward to the match at Twickenham.’

Joining fans from The Manor at the home of rugby will be several Leonard Cheshire customers from around the UK, all eagerly awaiting the Varsity double-header. The women’s match kicks off at 11am, and the men’s match kicks off at 2.30pm. 

The player of the match in the men’s match will receive the Alastair Hignell medal, named after the former England international and Cambridge men’s captain. Hignell, 63, who has multiple sclerosis, is a Leonard Cheshire ambassador and will present the award on the day.

The Varsity Match is set to attract huge crowds, with large numbers of rugby fans watching live at Twickenham and on BBC Sport. For tickets visit www.thevarsitymatch.com.

Media enquiries

For further information and hi-res photos, please contact Nick Bishop on nick.bishop@leonardcheshire.org or 01202 747100 / 07889 976 267.  Out of hours contact: 07903 949 388