Cambridge sport focus: Rugby Fives

Jack Malde 27 November 2013

In TCS Sport’s weekly feature, we take an in-depth look at some lesser-known university sports. This week: Rugby Fives.

The easiest way to describe Rugby Fives is probably ‘squash with your hands’ and it has nothing to do with rugby. The similarity to squash is that players, in a four-sided court, aim to hit the ball above the bar running across the front wall so that the opposition cannot return it before the second bounce. The main differences are that players hit a harder, leather-covered ball with gloved hands. There is no backhand – players have to hit forehands with both their right hand and their left hand.

This adds another tactical element as people can target their opponent’s weaker side, unless he or she is ambidextrous. The absence of rackets also gives the space to play doubles and singles, and means that players have to hit the ball harder. Rugby Fives provides quite a work-out.

The sport is commonly believed to originate from Wessex Fives, a game played by a former Headmaster of Rugby School when he was a boy at Warminster School. The open court of Wessex Fives, built in 1787, still exists at Warminster School although it has fallen out of regular use.

Previously, the team had to travel to Oundle School to play. However, with three courts in the new University Sports Centre, the club is able to train more regularly, and the glass-backed courts have added a new dimension to the game, facilitating coaching and bringing spectators closer to the action.

In the past year, the Cambridge Rugby team has had great success, winning the BUCS team tournament for the second time in a row and completing a hat-trick of Varsity wins. This year, Cambridge has already hosted a national qualifying tournament, beaten a team fielding the country’s second best player and brought a record number of players to the BUCS universities tournament.

With the new courts and increased squad size, Cambridge rugby fives is thriving and looks set to grow even larger and dominate the university competition over the next few years.