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England Students return for 2023 to take on France

Updated: Feb 1, 2023

The Students’ RFU have today confirmed the return of England Students for 2023, with a clash against France Universities set for later this spring.

Taking place on Saturday 6 May 2023 at the Stade André Beaudry, Terrasson-Lavilledieu, the fixture is set to reignite the long-standing rivalry between the two men’s sides. Last year’s match, held at the home of Newcastle Falcons, saw England Students secure a narrow 16-15 victory in the final minutes.

England Student Representative XV was formed in the early 1970s, with the first fixture against France Universities two decades ago marking the beginning of a successful and enduring partnership between the sides. By bringing together the best talent from across the English and French student populations to battle it out on the field of play, each nation aims to shine a spotlight on university rugby and the power it has to uncover and develop the next generation of professional players. Among those who have represented England Students in recent years are 7s star and Olympic silver medallist Dan Bibby, Bristol Bears back row Fitz Harding, Bath hooker Tom Dunn, and Exeter Chiefs tighthead Harry Williams, as well as England greats such as Josh Lewsey, Tom Mitchell (GB 7’s captain) Will Greenwood and Lawrance Dallaglio. While France Universities count Fabien Galthié, Thierry Dusautoir, Raphaël Ibanez and Serge Betsen among their esteemed alumni.

Ahead of the clash, England Students will come together to train at RAF Cosford, Albrighton, led by Head Coach Darren Fearn, Newcastle University’s Director of Rugby. Fearn is joined by Gareth Nesbit and Mark Matzopoulous as Assistant Coaches, and Andrew Kennedy as Team Manager.

Player nominations are now open, and close at 5pm on Monday 13 February 2023. Eligibility criteria and details of the nomination process can be found here.

Mark Hyndman, SRFU Chair, said: “The SRFU are delighted to continue its support into this programme as we bring together the best English eligible players from the University sector many of whom are battling it out in BUCS Super Rugby week in week out. Our opposition have a score to settle from last year and will be prepared for us – so its going to be a great contest.“

Damien Bardot, Director of Communication and Partnerships at the Federation Franchise Du Sport Universitaire, said: “In 2023, it will be a joy to welcome our English friends (but also best enemies!) back for the ‘Crunch Universitaire’. The competition between our two nations constitutes much more than a simple game: it is a true tradition, based on a strong and historical partnership between the French University Sport Federation and the Students' RFU. By working together to develop and cast a light on university rugby, our two federations have enabled many generations of players to experience unique and privileged moments.

“Next May we will write a new page of our history book in Dordogne, and we wish to carry on the story for a very long time. Vive le rugby universitaire, vive Le Crunch!”

Tug Wilson MBE, RFU Council Member for Royal Air Force Rugby Union, said: “The long-standing relationship between the Armed Forces and the Students RFU has helped to grow and sustain rugby union in a unique manner over many years, not only through fixtures but also through hosting students for bespoke military style training events.

“The opportunity to further develop this relationship with the England Students by hosting them in the lead up to their fixture against France Universities is very exciting. The RAFRU and RAF Cosford are very much looking forward to engaging with the squad as they prepare for what is set to be another brilliant showcase of student rugby.”

For more information or for interview opportunities please contact Beth Sims, SRFU Communications Lead, at

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