Oxford University men’s rugby team has pledged to donate their brains to the Concussion Legacy Project ahead of Saturday’s Varsity Match with Cambridge.

Ahead of Saturday’s varsity match at Twickenham, the Oxford players have followed in the footsteps of England World Cup winner Steve Thompson by offering to give their brains to research into chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and other consequences of brain trauma in contact sport.

In September, Thompson pledged to donate his brain to the Concussion Legacy Project when the brain bank was formed through a partnership between Concussion Legacy Foundation UK and the Jeff Astle Foundation.

The Oxford men’s team have now become the latest sporting athletes to pledge their brains to the Concussion Legacy Project to help try to stop the growing number of former rugby players from becoming diagnosed with dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases.

Dr Adam White, executive director of the Concussion Legacy Foundation UK, said: “We have a goal of finding a cure for CTE by 2040 and to do that, we need to accelerate the research by looking at more brains now.

“Donating your brain is a tremendous gift and we hope the leadership shown by Nick Civetta, Louis Jackson and the rest of the Blues varsity team will inspire others to come forward and participate in both brain bank and clinical research. If the athletes of today participate in research, we can have a cure for CTE within their lifetime.”

The Oxford University Rugby Football Club (Oxford University RFC or OURFC) is the rugby union club of the University of Oxford. The club contests The Varsity Match every year against Cambridge University at Twickenham.

The University of Oxford RFC was founded in 1869, fifteen months before the creation of the Rugby Football Union. The first Varsity Match was played in February 1872 in Oxford at ‘The Parks’, the following year the return game was played in Cambridge on Parker’s Piece.

In 1874, the game was decided to be played on a neutral ground. Oxford, like rivals Cambridge, have supplied hundreds of players to national teams and was vital in spreading the sport of rugby throughout Britain as past students brought the game back to their home counties.

The very first international player to be capped whilst at Oxford was Cecil Boyle, who represented England in 1873, one season before Cambridge University. In 1951 OURFC became the first Western rugby team to tour Japan after World War II.

OURFC currently has 3 Men’s teams: 1st XV Blues, 2nd XV Greyhounds and 3rd XV Whippets. All three teams play Varsity matches against their respective Cambridge opponents. Additionally, a Men’s U20s squad also contests their own Varsity Match alongside the Women’s 2nd XV.