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Pringle Farm Pillagers to provide Cambridge University RUFC first test of new academic term

Elisha Clark has been helping to put together the Pillagers' women's invitational team. Picture: Keith Heppell
Elisha Clark has been helping to put together the Pillagers' women's invitational team. Picture: Keith Heppell

The Pringle Farm Pillagers are a new name on the list of fixtures for Cambridge University RUFC this academic year.

The Light Blues will kick off their long road to the Varsity Match on Wednesday, October 20, and it will be against the team just listed on the website as purely ‘Pillagers’.

Behind the team are honorary president Simon Kidney and chairman Rowland Winter, both figures well known on the Cambridgeshire rugby scene.

The idea for the team came about in the summer as Shelford player and coach Mike Gillick and Kidney discussed entering a team in the Shelford Sevens tournament.

They decided to do so using the name of Kidney’s business Pringle Farm, which was also the headline sponsor.

One thing then led to another, and that saw former Cambridge and current Coventry director of rugby Winter get involved, and a committee was formed which also includes Kidney, Gillick, Ben Adams, Andrew Hutchinson and Niamh Finlayson.

“We ended up setting up an actual club, an RFU-registered club, after some deliberation called Pringle Farm Pillagers,” said Kidney.

“It was solely to do the Shelford Sevens and maybe a few other sevens, then things got out of hand a little bit, and someone suggested why don’t we play an invitational XVs as well.

“We looked at some of the invitational teams that are around, and we thought if we can engage then we can probably get good quality out as well.”

They are now two weeks off the first matches as a XVs side, and it is not just centred on a men’s invitational team – there will also be a women’s select team facing the Light Blues on the same day (October 20) at Grange Road.

“There is one thing playing rugby, there is another thing playing rugby with a load of mates for a game that doesn’t really have, for us, much consequence apart from a good night,” said Kidney.

“Equally, there are a number of all-male invitational sides at the moment and it was equally important for us to be able to put out a female side invitation as well.

“It not only attracts the top women’s talent from around the area, but I think it may be the first time we’ve been able to showcase the men and women on the same night against the same invitational side at the same time.

“It was important that we showcased both, and we’re able to put out two strong teams as a bit of an opener – a bit of a festival for Cambridge University rugby as well.”

Pringle Farm Pillagers have committed to bringing a team to face the university for the next five years, which is in tandem with Robinson Manufacturing – for which Kidney is CEO – buying the club a new scoreboard of which part of that was to give a five-year headline sponsorship of a match each year.

In the summer for the sevens tournament, the Pillagers were represented by players from Shelford, Cambridge and the likes of David Halaifonua and Jack Ram.

They hope to have a similar balance of Cambridgeshire-based players, Premiership academy players and university alumni, with the women’s team having a similar mix and being drawn together by Shelford’s Finlayson and Leanne Robinson, and former Light Blues’ captain Elisha Clark.

The women’s match kicks off at 5pm, and the men’s game will start at 8pm. For more information about the Pillagers, go to pillagers.co.uk.

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