OXFORD University captain Conor Kearns is used to being nervous ahead of the Varsity Match, but this year it is for a very different reason.

Twelve months ago, the fly half proved his fitness just in time to make the bench after missing the majority of the Dark Blues’ warm-up fixtures with a snapped ligament in his foot.

A year on and the Irishman will lead the team out at Twickenham at 3pm in front of the BBC 2 cameras as they bid to avenge last year’s defeat to Cambridge University, which ended a six-game winning run.

Any anxieties over team selection for the 136th Varsity Match were lifted when the 23-man squad was announced more than a week ago.

While, unlike last year when his place was unknown, Kearns, along with head coach James Wade, was the man tasked with selection.

For that reason the half back carries a different type of apprehension in 2017.

“It’s this time of year, there’s lots of nerves, anxieties, and most importantly there’s some great excitement,” said the 24-year-old, who is studying for a combined master of science degree in pharmacology at Jesus College.

“The boys are in good spirits on the whole, but I don’t think anyone will be truly happy until we get the win we want.”

Kearns added: “I think there’s something so special about the Varsity Match.

“It has such a unique position in the history of the game and it’s something you don’t really understand until you become a part of it.

“The traditions of the captains in Oxford is really special as well.

“They have good council to pass on to me and I’m so blessed some of them are still around to talk to.”

Oxford, who overall trail 62-59 in the annual fixture, have a good blend of experience and new blood in their ranks as they bid to wrestle the trophy back from Cambridge.

Among the 15 fresh faces are Canada international Dan Moor and former Heineken Cup winner Dom Waldouck.

But the Light Blues starting XV boasts two players with similarly impressive CVs as former England Sevens stars Charlie Amesbury and Ollie Phillips line up in the backs.

Kearns also believes for the eight players who tasted defeat in 2016, they will be better off from the experience.

He said: “The guys who were involved in that side learnt a lot from it. As these boys get more experience it definitely adds to what they can offer.

“There’s been quite a good number of new players in this year, so it’s provided a new-look and it brings its challenges.

“In some ways it’s really great that people are fresh-faced and starting again, morale is at a decent level at the moment.

“So if we can bundle those nerves and anxiety into excitement then we will hopefully be in a decent place.”