OXFORD University RFC are optimistic fundamental changes made to the annual Major Stanley’s Match will pay off.

This year marks the 97th edition of the historic fixture, which will be played at Iffley Road on November 14.

But there will be a major change – for the first time the Dark Blues will not face a Major Stanley’s XV – an invitational team which once boasted internationals.

Instead, Cardiff RFC who play in the Principality Premiership ­– the Welsh Premier Division – will be the opponents.

While it remains the most public part of Oxford’s preparations for the Varsity Match, they have turned into one-sided affairs in recent years, with the students winning five of the last six and averaging about 38 points per game.

“We have made a fundamental change for this year, driven predominantly by the difficulty in pulling together an invitational side good enough to give the Blues a meaningful fixture,” said Tim Stevens, the club’s general manager.

“As such we decided upon inviting a club side to play the Major Stanley’s Match with the Blues representing the Major Stanley’s XV in the traditional white kit, branded with both OURFC and MS logos.

“We approached Cardiff RFC as this season is the 130th that Oxford and Cardiff first played each other.”

The fixture dates back to 1894, but the first official match was played in 1919.

Major Stanley was a local resident who took an interest in the Dark Blues and was the club’s first representative on the Rugby Football Union committee between 1907-1923.

He would raise a side to take on Oxford and over the years it has attracted some of the best players in the world, including internationals Hugo Porta (Argentina), Stuart Barnes (England), Brendan Mullin (Ireland) and Gareth Davies (Wales).

But the fixture has dwindled and the Dark Blues, who recently returned from a tour in Madagascar, have acted to ensure its legacy continues.

Stevens said: “Cardiff have bought in to the concept.

“So we will be promoting this year’s fixture with a Welsh theme.

“The women’s Blues will also play Cardiff Met in a BUCS League fixture at 6pm, and we have invited as many of our Welsh OURFC alumni that we have contacts for to attend.

“David Evans and Andy Moore, who both represented OURFC and Cardiff, as well as Wales, will be our special guests for the Q&A for the luncheon in the marquee and the Oxford Welsh Male Voice Choir will also perform.

“We very much hope that this idea will work and help to put a few more bums on seats.

“So in future years we will look to different national themes – English, Scottish, Irish, French – to create a special event but still honour the memory of Major Stanley.”