The 13-times capped back row cap will don the No 9 jersey against Cambridge, while fellow international flanker Bianca Coltellini, of Italy, finds herself playing in the centre as the Dark Blues go in search of their first win since 2016.
Johnes played for Wales in the Women’s Six Nations this year and has been a regular in the back row for Bristol Bears in the Premier15s tournament. The 23-year-old Coltellini, who plays for Milan, won her first caps in the Six Nations at the age of 19 while playing for Hartpury College.
“I’ve got to do whatever I can to help those around me to turn in a great performance on the day – that’s what I want to achieve,” said Johnes, who is reading geography at St Catherine’s.
“I’ve been able to experiment with a few different skills in the build-up games. I’ve been practicing my box kicking, which was completely new to me, and I’m just looking forward to playing with my new team mates.
“I missed out on playing with my mates growing up because I was playing for Wales at 17, so being at Oxford is giving me the chance to make up for that and to enjoy myself. I’ve been able to offer some advice and support to a few of my new team mates and it looks as though things are building nicely towards the big day.”
“It isn’t as intense or pressurised as playing for Bristol Bears or Wales, but I certainly know what is expected of me on 4 July and how important the game is to the university.”
Oxford skipper Fiona Kennedy is one of eight returning Blues in the Oxford starting line-up for a game that will be played under the RFU’s Law Variations due to COVID-19 constraints. That means there will be no scrums or mauls allowed.
Cambridge skipper Elisha Clark is also one of seven Blues in her starting XV and she has the 2019 winning captain Fiona Shuttleworth in the back row alongside her twin sister Jenni once again. It will be Fiona’s fourth appearance in the Varsity Match, while fellow veterinary medicine student Alice Elgar will be hoping to come off the bench to win a sixth Blue.
The Light Blues completed their preparations with a game at Loughborough University last weekend and will head into the game in Leicester looking for a 10th win in 14 meetings as they attempt to close the gap even further between the two arch-rivals. First played in 1988, Oxford lead 21-12 overall having won 13 of the first 14 clashes.
“It has been a difficult build-up for the players on both sides because of exams and the COVID restrictions, but at Cambridge we are all so excited at the prospect of playing a Varsity match after such a long break from the last one,” said Clark.
“We’ve got a lot of experienced players and a lot of good new recruits who have blended in well since we resumed training. The law variations should make it an even more exciting spectacle for players and spectators and we simply can’t wait to get out there and chase another win.
“These matches are very special and I think this one at Leicester will be even more so because of the times in which we are living.”
The Women’s Varsity Match kicks-off at 1.00pm followed by the Men’s game at 3.30pm. For full details on how to buy tickets, or to order the Live Stream of both matches, go to thevarsitymatches.com.