Updated: May 10
England Students were victorious with a 25-21 win over France Universities on Saturday 6 May 2023, marking the side's first win on French soil in 17 years.
Dubbed Le Crunch Universitaire, the fixture saw the longstanding rivalry between the two men’s sides come to a fore at the Stade André Beaudry, Terrasson-Lavilledieu.
Led by captain Josh Barton, England established an early lead. Exeter University’s Sam Higginson was the first over the white line in the fourth minute, with Loughborough full back Charlie Titcombe’s twelfth minute penalty taking England to eight points in the first half.
But the strength of the French side shone through, with a high-speed display of skill sending them surging through the English defence to clock up three tries of their own, each converted by fly half Tanguy Lacoste. At the half time whistle England Students sat 13 points behind their rivals.
The English side returned to the pitch hungry for the second half. A solid set piece laid the foundations for Cardiff University’s Ben Chapman to claim England Students' second try shortly after the whistle, with Titcombe mopping up the two points. Loughborough University’s Nathan Pope landed England another score in the 64th minute, before a second conversion from Titcombe took the side into the lead 22 - 21.
Tensions in the stadium were high with both sides battling to chase down the win. The French attack was kept at bay with a highly physical defensive display from England Students as the clock reached the final minutes, before a second penalty from Titcombe in the 77th minute cemented the win 25 – 21.
The battle was reminiscent of the England Students’ clash against the French in 2022, when Titcombe again edged the team to a narrow victory in the final minutes with a penalty taken from beyond the halfway line.
Ahead of the clash, England Students came 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.
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 players.