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Joey Gatus grows in stature in a fearsome Cambridge University RUFC back three as Varsity Match approaches

Joey Gatus in action for Cambridge University in last year's Varsity Match. Picture: Keith Heppell
Joey Gatus in action for Cambridge University in last year's Varsity Match. Picture: Keith Heppell

Joey Gatus has become an attacking talisman for Cambridge University RUFC.

The 19-year-old full-back arrived to study economics at Corpus Christi last year, and hit the ground running on the rugby pitch as well.

At the time part of the Yorkshire Carnegie set-up, Gatus caught the eye with his fleet of foot and running lines – he was the finisher for much of the Light Blues’ good work.

Give Gatus possession and not only would he make valuable yards, there was a fair chance that he would make it over the try-line as well.

A year older, a year wiser, and having been the Varsity Match distance with Cambridge, Gatus has been able to take it all in his stride this time around in the build-up to Twickenham.

“It’s going a lot better this year, we’ve had a lot more positive results, fewer injuries so I’m looking forward to the Varsity,” he says.

“I’m not sure if it’s a different feel, the group is just as close as last year. I think we’re a lot more confident this year. Last year we had no real additions, I think I was the only addition to the team as an undergraduate.

“This year, we’ve had four or five postgrads and a couple of undergrads so I think we’re a lot more confident in our ability to go and get a result.

“I think there are 18 returning Blues which helps out a lot at the start of the season. Everybody already knows the systems so we just got cracking straight away in pre-season, everyone was already set on the system and then you get the internationals come in with their experience, so they’re not going to struggle.”

Many traditions are associated with the lead into the Varsity Match – including today’s clash with the Steele-Bodger XV – which all make part of the experience.

“You’ve got to enjoy all that and last year it was all new and a great experience that not many people get to enjoy,” explains Gatus. “But I think I’m very lucky in the fact that I did it in my first year.

“This year it’s great, but also the goal isn’t to get into the Varsity squad to enjoy port and nuts, the goal is to win. I know what to expect, the occasion won’t get to me and so it should be good.”

In the past month, since the narrow defeat at Trinity College, Dublin, a potent back three has emerged for the Light Blues.

Gatus still carries the threat at full-back, but he is being flanked on either wing by Fergus Jemphrey and Tom Lovelace.

The trio have caught the eye with their ability to stretch defences, and create holes in the opposition.

“We’ve been doing great,” says Gatus, who is now attached to Rotherham Titans. “Both Ferg and Tom are new this year, with Tom doing an MBA and Ferg doing a PGCE. Both are absolutely amazing players. Ferg is a great ball carrier and Lovelace is doing well.

“It’s pretty easy for me, just get the ball and give it to Ferg or Tom to let them do the rest.

“I think they were late additions, so Ferg and Tom both came in quite late, after three or four weeks, and have just hit the ground running. They got straight into the system, and I think it’s a lot easier as a winger to just fit straight in. All you do is get the ball and run, effectively!

“They’ve done great.

“Some of the things Ferg does are crazy, you just wouldn’t expect it. You give him the ball and let him run.”

He added: “We’ve still got to keep building as we’re nowhere near the finished article. At the end of the day, we can win 10 games in the season and lose the Varsity Match and that is seen as a failure.

“We need to just keep our feet on the ground and make sure we perform on the day.”

Read more:

Chris Bell chimes a chord as one of Cambridge University RUFC's leaders in Varsity Match build-up

James Horwill and Flip van der Merwe to take the Cambridge University RUFC fight to Oxford in the Varsity Match at Twickenham

Fiona Shuttleworth hails potential of Cambridge University RUFC squad to face Oxford in Women's Varsity Match at Twickenham

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