Each year, no matter the weather, the fixture guaranteed to draw a big crowd is the showpiece men’s rugby first-team game at Leicester Tigers’ Welford Road stadium.
Always a fierce contest, the chance to walk out in front of a packed crowd at English club rugby’s most famous ground is not an opportunity that is lost on DSU’s men’s rugby chairman Jamie Roskell, and vice-chair Joe Nunn.
Joe, a third year Architecture student, said: “There’s the opportunity to play at Welford Road and there are better rugby players than us who won’t experience coming out that tunnel, through that stand full of people.
“I’m a bit nervous and excited at the same time.”
Jamie, a third year Business and Marketing student, added: “It’s one of our favourite times of the year, really. It’s a massive event, huge occasion, with loads of supporters.
“It’s like nothing you’ve really experienced anywhere else in your life, to be honest.”
A lot of pressure, then.
That is why the club has implemented a strict training regime in the run-up to the club’s three Varsity fixtures, helping to get their players into the best shape possible in the weeks ahead.
Jamie explained: “As a standard week, for example, we’ll have a training session on Monday, sort of fitness and skills for two and a half hours, Wednesday we’ll have a match, Thursday is training again, Friday is circuits and Sundays is fitness as well.”
“And in between we fit in our own gym plans,” reminded Joe.
Jamie continued: “It’s a massively hectic schedule but we think it’s worthwhile to be on top of our game for this massive event.”
Joe also made clear that training is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of preparation.
“On top of that we have the drinking ban as well, so from 8 February we have no drinking up until game day, and we have a nutrition plan that everyone sticks to. This is to get everyone in the right mindset, to get into everyone’s head how serious we’re taking it.
“But regardless, win or lose, you all become great friends through the process of training together, going through hell together in the gym, losing together.”
The pair said that the mood within the camp has become more focused in recent weeks, as training and hard work appear to be paying dividends, evidenced by a stand-out result a few weeks ago.
Jamie said: “I’ve seen a real change in people the last couple of weeks. Everyone starts really getting in the zone. Everyone’s training starts ramping up.
“It’s peaking at the right time.”
Joe agreed: “I think that since before Christmas it’s definitely stepped up.
“The difference between last term and this term is definitely noticeable - everyone’s getting their heads down.
“We won that cup game very comfortably [98-15 against Stafford] and I don’t think we would have beaten them by as many points as we did if we played them the term before.”
Jamie admitted that as the first and second teams linger around the mid-table mark in their respective leagues, they probably haven’t done as well as they would have liked.
Men's rugby have a strong tradition of supporting Movember - here they are pictured last November.
But with a talented squad, and things just starting to fall into place at the right time, they have given themselves the best chance come Varsity, and have a real chance of winning.
He said: “We’ve got some really talented boys, but it just wasn’t really coming together. Only now is it starting to click.”
Joe added: “I wouldn’t want to go onto that pitch thinking that we can’t win, otherwise we wouldn’t be doing what we’re doing.
“We are the underdogs, they’re playing in a higher league than us, but 100 per cent all the boys believe if we keep putting the effort in that we’re putting in, we can go out there and give it a real good go.”
And what is it about Varsity fixtures that make them so special?
Joe explained: “It’s just always been a big thing coming in as a Fresher. There’s so much hype around it. It’s just such a big rivalry.
“You’re more riled up and it matters more than any other fixture.”
“There’s no love lost,” elaborated Jamie, “and when you’ve played a few, you’ll notice.
“Both teams dislike each other. There’s such a desire to win on both sides, to have the rights to the city, if you like.”
Jamie said he feels a certain responsibility to his fellow Demons to perform well during the game, and said: “The whole occasion of it, running out in front of all those fans and knowing you’re playing for your uni, and you’re the best player, in your position, in the whole university, you feel a big responsibility and it’s a big privilege.”
As well as playing at Welford Road, #TeamDMU's rugby sides are supported by Leicester Tigers - including fly-half Freddie Burns.
Drawing such a large crowd can be a nerve-wracking thought, but Jamie and Joe urged DMU students to get behind the team and show their support as they seek to score a famous victory.
Jamie said: “All of the sports teams tend to pull together at Varsity because we’re all fighting for the same cause.
“We’re going to support other teams, and we’ll be heading down to others, so we’d love the support too, and out-sing Leicester to give the boys a bit of a boost.”
And he has one final message for his fellow athletes. “Don’t leave anything out there, have no regrets. Win or lose, play 100 per cent and you won’t regret it.”
The men’s rugby firsts game at Welford Road is on Wednesday 11 May and kicks off at 8:05pm. Click here for the full list of Varsity fixtures and get behind #TeamDMU.