Oxford’s Karl Hudspith has taken inspiration from Harlequins and England captain Chris Robshaw as he prepares to lead the defending champions against Cambridge in Saturday’s Boat Race.
Earlier this week Robshaw sent a signed shirt to the Hammersmith-born Hudspith, who grew up in Twickenham and went to Hampton School.
“I’ve been a Harlequins fan for quite a while now. Obviously being at Oxford it’s hard for me to get to games but I do when I can,” said Hudspith, the only remaining member of the Oxford crew that won last year.
“I’ve tweeted a few times about Quins so maybe they took notice. It was a really nice surprise for me to come back from training and find a signed shirt from the England captain.”
Robshaw had gained just one international cap in a seven-year senior career before being named England captain at the start of this Six Nations campaign.
“One of the things I’ve done this year is look at great sportsmen who have gone from nothing and achieved a lot,” Hudspith added.
“I feel like that’s my journey as well. I was so terrible when I started this sport, for the first few years I couldn’t even make the top boat for my year group at school.
“To come from the Hampton School fourth eight to president of the blue boat is quite a journey.”
Oxford are hot favourites for victory this year even though Cambridge have a weight advantage of 7.9kg (17lb) per man – the second biggest weight difference ever for the race between Putney and Mortlake.
Steered by Zoe de Toledo, who went to school in Hammersmith, the dark blues have looked much better than their rivals in warm-up races and in training in London this week.
But De Toledo warned: “It’s likely to be close. They’re a lot bigger than us but we’re rowing well and it might be a race that goes to the line.
“From watching Cambridge it looks like they have made some big improvements in the last two or three weeks but we’re more interested in our own performances.”
The pressure is on Cambridge coach Steve Trapmore, who was based in Hammersmith when he was part of the Great Britain eight that won Olympic gold in Sydney 12 years ago, as he goes into his second Boat Race.
“We’ve been putting the race together for the last six months. The guys have been training hard, putting a lot of effort in and have come together pretty well,” he said.
“We know Oxford are very strong and will be very, very fast so we’ve got to be able to put it together on the day to compete with the speed that they produce.”
You can follow the Boat Race with live text commentary at www.theboatrace.org