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GUINNESS SIX NATIONS 2021 PREDICTIONS

Hello there, you gorgeous people. Just when you thought lockdown couldn’t get any worse, here I am with another rugby nause predictions blog. At the time of writing (25th Jan), the Guinness Six Nations are due to go ahead as planned, so until the rugby world implodes I will write as if it plans to keep on spinning.

After last year’s effort saw me only predict Italy correctly (give the man a medal), I seriously upped my game for the Autumn Nations Cup towards the tail end of 2020 with 8/8 placed correctly. I’m hoping to keep this rich form going, and after my partner pointed out my recent blog was in fact longer than her dissertation proposal, I’m aiming to do it in significantly fewer words. So take your banana loaf out the oven, say yes to the second bottle of gin and enjoy me making a fool of myself nearly a year on from my first predictions outing.

Here are my 2021 Six Nations predictions:

Serving as my only correct prediction from last year, it almost seems redundant calling Italy’s finish in the tournament nowadays. It has been years since they won a tournament fixture and I don’t see this year being any different. However, their team is better than I and many others gave it credit for in an international context.

While they remain the Six Nations’ whipping boy, the one off Nations Cup tournament in November exposed the disparity between the quality of the European tier 1 nations and their most successful tier 2 counterpart, Georgia. While the teams did not face each other directly, there was plenty of evidence to show that Italy are still an elite level rugby nation, just not in comparison to the giants they frequently share the field with. With a solid front row, Jake Polledri bullying defences and the control of Garbisi and Allan in the back line, Italy have a foundation to build a strong team in the near future. In the meantime, I don’t think anyone is predicting anything but a wooden spoon performance this time.

I’ll try not to make this list a ‘pick where they finished last year’ event, but this is a scenario I struggle to look past. Wales are not in good shape and have shown little sign of improvement over the last year.

Wayne Pivac has had the misfortune of inheriting an ageing core of significant players without a plethora of young stars knocking down the door to replace them. He cannot be blamed for this, however the squad difficulties seem to be accompanied by a lack of tactical dynamism that has rendered the outfit fairly uncompetitive against top sides over the last year, particularly in the late stages of 2020. The return to fitness of players like Ken Owens and Jonathan Davies will always boost the squad, with the likes of Nick Tompkins and Louis Rees-Zammit also beginning to step up and spearhead the new era Pivac is trying to usher in. Nevertheless, I don’t believe significantly better than the likes of Ireland or Scotland, and without the tactical pragmatism of Gatland to get the most out of them I can’t see them having a strong outing.

I’m not sold on Ireland under Andy Farrell. They haven’t been bad, in fact they’ve looked very competent for the most part and brilliant in flashes during his short tenure. However, I have seen little evidence to suggest they remain a team who can regularly compete for Six Nations titles, as we have come to expect of them over the last decade.

The Schmidt era of Irish rugby was defined by abrasive physicality and meticulous tactical game management; a simple system which he took a scalpel to over and over to find a perfect formula the players all knew inside out and were able to implement against all manner of opposition (including two victories over New Zealand). Much of this successful team makes up the current Ireland squad, but what made it possible was the world-class brilliance of its halfbacks, Connor Murray and Johnny Sexton. Neither player is near the level they were when dismantling the All Blacks, and this decline is illustrated plainly in their lack of direction in tough games over the last year.

Furthermore, the games against England last year showed that they have the potential to get bullied by aggressive packs, and this weakness will need addressing if they are to regain their footing at near the top of elite international rugby. Their back row remains strong and the likes of Iain Henderson returning should help bolster their engine room in tough fixtures. They could easily finish higher, but I’ve got a feeling they’ll perform slightly below what is expected.

Aye, it’s the first dodgy pick alert. I will be totally unsurprised if Scotland finish lower than this, but I’ve got an inkling they might prove to be somewhat of a wildcard. Gregor Townsend’s tenure has been successful overall, yet the side strangely seem to over and underachieve simultaneously each year.

On their day, they have shown they have the talent and flair to skittle anyone. They humbled England in Murrayfield before holding them to a scintillating draw at Twickenham the following year; France would currently be Grand Slam champions without their big upset, and victories over Wales have punctuated a period of memorable games for the side. However, for all these victories they have not had a realistic crack at the title in this time, and while they have pulled off some shocks they have often failed to win key games that could have compounded their success.

While I don’t necessarily see this as the year they break free and challenge for the title, I think they are poised to establish themselves as an elite force in the tournament. The outstanding ability of their back line finally seems to be mirrored in their forward pack; Rory Sutherland has been a revelation at loose head, the Fagerson brothers bring powerful carrying into the mix and the line out menace of Richie Gray returns to accompany his workhorse brother Jonny in the engine room. It’s a pack that finally looks like it could provide the service required to set the likes of Finn Russell, Cam Redpath and Stuart Hogg alight. Watch out for the Scots this year, there might be something brewing.

My top two have swapped so many times that I almost had to flip a coin to decide, and even then I’ll just change it again.

England were the best international team that played in 2020, winning the Six Nations and the Nations Cup with relative confidence (save a nail biting finish against France in November). Following a slow start, they kicked on to develop a less attractive but flawlessly effective system of physicality and tactical kicking that saw them overwhelm most teams. The experience of Ford, Farrell and Youngs guided the midfield whilst the ferocity of Itoje, Underhill and Vunipola dominated the battles up front in nearly every game. So why aren’t I predicting them to win?

For all England’s power and kicking accuracy, I worry that they lack dynamism in open play. Good rugby teams are built on solid fundamentals of the game, the 85%; the defence, kicking, fitness and set piece. Great rugby teams have that 85%, then add to it with small percentages that take them from competent to outstanding. England may have the best foundations in the world right now, but are slightly deficient in those pieces of electricity and magic that would make them a truly world class team.

Regardless, they are still one of the best teams in the world and could very easily prove me wrong by retaining the title. But if we are looking at that 1% or 2% extra magic on top of great foundations, then look no further than my top pick.

My prediction of France to win the title last year was one of risk and optimism based on a lot of unknown variables I thought might come together successfully in a short space of time. While they just missed out, it was a closely fought race that they will feel unlucky to have come second in. This year, the prediction is made with significantly more confidence.

France are a superb outfit quickly on their way to becoming potential world beaters. Enough has been said about the abilities of Antoine Dupont (in my opinion the best player in the world) and his halfback partner Romain Ntamack that I won’t go too deeply into it. Even with the latter missing the first couple of rounds with a broken jaw, Matthieu Jalibert is an outstanding deputy and the team will benefit from a fresh Ntamack later in the tournament. Outside of this heralded pair, you have an underrated second row of Willemsen and Le Roux, classy loose forwards Ollivon and Aldritt, on top of back line operators like Bouthier and Thomas, not even mentioning the terrifying threat of Vakatawa.

It is a team brimming with star quality, coupled with a rock solid defence engineered by Shaun Edwards and a fitness not often witnessed by French teams in the past. If this team comes close to reaching their potential, I see them being a dominant force in international rugby for years to come. They are my pick for the 2021 Six Nations Champions.

Final table:
1. France
2. England
3. Scotland
4. Ireland
5. Wales
6. Italy

And that’s it! I hope those who are still reading this enjoyed themselves, if you disagree feel free to let me know your thoughts. I’ll be back with another blog on Friday featuring my ones to watch XV. Until then, stay safe out there everyone!

Charlie

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10 BINGE-WORTHY BOXSETS TO STREAM DURING LOCKDOWN

With us back in lockdown for the third time, it’s important that we do what we can to be a little kinder to ourselves.  The Vulcans are doing plenty to keep their fitness up until we can return to training thanks to the help of online HIIT sessions courtesy of Analise Moran from Moran Personal Training and taking part in our weekly Strava challenge which saw the team bank over 487 miles between them. However, it’s just as important to look after ourselves mentally as well  and the best way to do this is to recover from exercise and the stresses of everyday life by taking time for yourself doing something you enjoy.

That said, everyone has their own unique way of recharging their batteries when it comes down to it. For example, some like to meditate, some enjoy music and some like to turn their hand to something creative. However, if you’re like one of the 11.5 million households up and down the UK who subscribe to Netflix, you might have shared a status with the Facebook hivemind asking for recommendations on what to watch next. So, with this in mind, your friendly Sheffield Vulcans have got together to recommend 10 Binge-Worthy Box Sets to Stream During Lockdown to prevent you from wasting your precious time browsing the endless libraries of streaming platforms.

Our first recommendation comes from Liam Goodwin who has been binging THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY on Netflix. For those who don’t know The Umbrella Academy is an American superhero series based on the comic book of the same name. It revolves around a dysfunctional family of adopted sibling superheroes who reunite to solve the mystery of their father’s death and the threat of an impending apocalypse. The cast includes Elliot Page, Tom Hopper, David Castañeda, Emmy Raver-Lampman, Robert Sheehan, Mary J. Blige, and more! So far there has been two seasons of the show which have received positive reviews from critics and a third season is on the way.

Liam recommends this show because it’s similar to X-Men but more violent. Also, it has a talking monkey and great soundtrack to boot! What more could you want?

Up next is STAR TREK DISCOVERY which comes from Andrew Gibson. The show is set a decade before the original Star Trek series and follows the crew of the USS Discovery as they discover new worlds and lifeforms as one Starfleet officer learns to understand all things alien. The show stars Sonequa Martin-Green, Doug Jones, Anthony Rapp, Jason Isaacs and more. Taking advantage of modern filming techniques and visual effects, the series has received several awards and positive reviews from critics. If this sounds like your sort of show then you’ll be able to find three seasons on Netflix.

Andrew recommends the show because of how inclusive the show is. This modern spin on Star Trek focuses on diversity whilst taking audiences on amazing sci-fi adventures.

Our Next pick comes from Michael Hudson who is a massive fan of MODERN FAMILY. An American family sitcom, Modern Family that follows the lives of three diverse family set-ups in suburban Los Angeles. Presented in a mockumentary style, with the characters frequently speaking directly to the camera in confessional interview segments, Modern Family has received many awards and has been praised for the way it represents modern-day families and the situations that we all encounter in real life with a comical twist. Eight series of Modern Family can be found on Netflix.

Michael recommends the show because its funny, diverse, and heart-warming. Through 11 seasons you get to see the family grown and change with hilarious scenarios both relatable and over the top. With marriages, deaths, births, breakups, career changes, and the struggle of being an unemployed millennial, there is a story for everyone.

Our fourth pick comes from Gideon Hughes who recommends BROAD CITY. Starting off as a web series based on their real-life friendship, BROAD CITY was created and stars Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson as two friends who attempt to “make it” in New York. The show has many surprising cameos and a very kooky sense of humour which is quick to resonate with audiences. After all, there’s a reason why the show received critical acclaim throughout its run. The show ran for five seasons which are all available to stream right now on Amazon Prime.

Gideon recommends the show because he finds it hilarious because of how original it is. The storylines freewheel a bit which is similar to It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. Best of all, the show has no filter!

Next up comes in the form of DERRY GIRLS which has been recommended by Michael Callaghan. The show is a British sitcom set in Derry, Norther Ireland, in the 1990s. The show follows Erin, her cousin Orla, their friends Clare and Michelle, and Michelle’s English cousin James as they navigate their teen years. The first series premiered on Channel 4 and has been hailed as the channel’s most successful comedy since Father Ted. If you fancy checking the show out you can find both seasons available to stream on All 4 right now.

Michael recommends the show because he finds it hilarious and very rewatchable. It also provides a slice of home for him when he feels homesick.

Our sixth pick comes from Matthew Littler who recommends BIG MOUTH. An adult animated coming-of-age sitcom from the creators of Family Guy, Big Mouth is a series that follows a group of teens as they navigate their way through puberty with struggles like masturbation and sexual arousal. Throw in over-sexualised should angels in the form of hormone monsters and what you have is an animation show that has continued to wow and shock audiences all over the world thanks to its sharp crude humour. If you fancy giving the show a spin there are four series available to watch on Netflix.

Matt recommends the show because he loves how fun it is to watch and it’s something that everyone can relate to… at least a little bit.

Fancy something a little spooky? Look no further than our seventh pick BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER recommended by Tom Stephens. Buffy is a supernatural drama series based on the 1992 film of the same name and follows Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar), the latest in a line of young women know as “Slayers”. Across its seven series, Buffy is joined by her friends to fight vampires, demons and other forces of darkness as she embraces her destiny and saves the world. The series received critical and popular acclaim throughout its run and has led to hundreds of tie-in products, including novels, comics and video games. If you would like to check out the show you can watch all seven series on Amazon Prime.

Tom recommends Buffy the Vampire Slayer because it’s an absolute classic jam packed with nostalgia and hilarity.

Next up Michael Rennison recommends the British black comedy series FLEABAG. Written and starring Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Fleabag sees Waller-Bridge appear as the title character, a free-spirited and sexually active but confused woman living in London. In the show the protagonist frequently breaks the fourth wall to provide exposition, internal monologues, and a running commentary to the audience. The show has received widespread acclaim and rightfully so because it’s amazing. The show only has two seasons and is currently available to steam on iPlayer.

Michael recommends the show because it’s absolutely hilarious.

Our next recommendation comes from Chris Moore who loves a bit of SEX EDUCATION. The show follows Asa Butterfield as a teenage boy living with his sex therapist mum (Gillian Anderson) who sets up an underground sex therapy clinic at his school with the help of his classmate. Once the show debuted on Netflix it was reported that over 40 million viewers steamed the show within its first month of release and has been hailed as “bawdy, heartfelt, and surprisingly wise.” With plenty of laugh out loud moments there’s so much to enjoy about Sex Education. If you fancy giving the show a go then head over to Netflix where you can enjoy two seasons right now.

Chris recommends the show because it’s wicked fun, has great characters and addresses some big societal issues head-on. It also strikes a perfect balance of making things matter of fact, without trivialising them either.

Our last recommendation comes from Jon Dickinson who is a big fan of INSIDE NO. 9, a black comedy anthology series written by Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton. Each 30-minute episode is a self-contained story with new characters and a new setting. The stories are linked only by the number 9 in some way and a brass hare statue that is in the background of all statues.  Themes and tone vary from episode to episode, but all have elements of comedy, horror and perverse humour, in addition to a plot twist. So far there have been five series of Inside No. 9 and they’re all available on iPlayer.

Jon recommends the show because it offers so much variety. If you like it spooky check out The Harrowing from Series 1 or Dead Line from Series 4. If you like it funny try check out Zanzibar from Series 4 or Sardines from Series 1. If you like to be moved emotionally check out The 12 Days of Christine from Series 2 or Bernie Clifton’s Dressing Room from series 4. It doesn’t matter what you’re into, there will be an episode of Inside No. 9 for you!

Honourable mentions: SHITT’S CREEK(Netflix), RUPAUL’S DRAG RACE (Netflix), WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS (iPlayer), TASKMASTER (All 4), PARKS AND RECREATION (Amazon Prime), END OF THE F***ING WORLD (Netflix), CATASTROPHE (Amazon Prime), THE GOOD PLACE (Netflix), SANTA CLARITA DIET (Netflix), MADAM SECRETARY (Amazon Prime), THE OFFICE US (Netflix), MARVELOUS MRS MAISEL (Amazon Prime), AFTER LIFE (Netflix), GHOSTS (iPlayer), WANDAVISION (Disney+) and THE LAST DANCE (Netflix).

There you have our 10 Binge-Worthy Box Sets to Stream During Lockdown. If you would like to share your recommendations with us let us know on social media by using the hashtag #VulcanVoice. Thanks for reading.

 

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VOICE OF A NEW PLAYER: MEET JONATHAN WILCOCKSON

Let us take this opportunity to introduce another one of our new recruits… Jonathan Wilcockson! He joined the team back in the Summer and firmly believes that life should be about participating; not just spectating. That’s why he’s never thought twice about giving something a go. This is his story…

Jonathan is no stranger to Rugby, he used to play the game in school and rediscovered his love for the sport after the Sheffield Eagles advertised a £5 ticket offer a few years ago on a very cold January, “I was surprised how much more exciting being a spectator at a live sport event was, compared to watching such on TV – even the extremely dynamic and physical game that rugby is.  Since then I have been rather hooked – purchasing a season ticket for the first time in my life and even going to see rugby (league and union) games played by other teams when on holidays. ”

By the time the pandemic hit early 2020, Jonathan decided to embrace his mantra (life should be about participating; not just spectating) and use the time as a driver for him to find a new leisure activity to integrate some exercise into his typical week. It was this, his passion for the sport and his knowledge of the Vulcans from attending previous Vulcans games as a spectator which brought him to our pitch as a member of our most recent recruitment drive.

Now in his 40s (yeah – we don’t believe him either), Jonathan’s desire to improve his health has seen him get stuck in during training sessions and he’s never let his age stop him from contributing to the team. We love having on the team because he has no fear in taking down his opponents making and taking incredible tackles when in training sessions.

When asked about what he likes about being a Vulcan he said, “I like the opportunity to have fun playing rugby and getting out in the (at times VERY) fresh air up at Dore Moor – plus the virtual and until, increasing restrictions and lockdown, in person networking and socialising with others from Sheffield and surrounding areas. ”

This is just the start of Jonathan’s story and we’re excited to see him make his game debut when the world is safe to do so. In the meantime, if you’re looking to take on a new challenge or want to give the Vulcans a try at a future training session, listen to what Mr. Wilcockson has to say, “I think people regret things they do not try far more than things they do: if you are even half contemplating whether it is for you, just come along and give it a go.  The first 4 sessions are free, so there is nothing to lose but a few hours on a midweek evening plus your curiosity – and you’re unlikely not to enjoy it.”

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Join Us And Become a Virtual Santa This Christmas!

There’s no denying that this year has been difficult for everyone, but in particular, for those in unsuitable and unstable housing conditions. The sad truth is, some families won’t have anything to open on Christmas morning and that’s why the Sheffield Vulcans are skipping our annual Christmas festivities in favour of supporting Shelter’s Virtual Santa Campaign.

This year the Vulcans will become Virtual Santas and instead of purchasing our usual Secret Santa gifts for one another, we are taking that money and purchasing gift cards for families who use Shelter’s services in order to spread some festive cheer. We love this incentive and that’s why we’d like to encourage our loyal supporters to do the same (if they can).

With your help we can support Shelter to provide local Sheffield-based families facing homelessness or bad housing with a brighter Christmas. So, if you would like to join us in supporting Shelter, please purchae a digital voucher from one of the following:

  • Any major UK supermarket e.g. Sainsbury’s Tesco, Aldi etc.
  • Primark
  • Love2Shop
  • The Early Learning Centre
  • One4All
  • Waterstones
  • Argos
  • Smyths
  • Amazon Smiles

Once you have made your purchase please email your voucher to sheffield_hub@shelter.org.uk and make sure you include the following information in your email:

  • Your location
  • Your email address
  • Your message
  • Details of who has encouraged you to give a voucher (Sheffield Vulcans RUFC)
  • Your connection to Shelter (If Any)

After the Sheffield Shelter HUB have received your voucher, they will distribute them based on their knowledge of service users. The vouchers will be sent out to appropriate people who will then purchase their own gifts for Christmas day.

For more information about who Shelter are click here. Merry Christmas, Everyone!

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VOICE OF A NEW PLAYER: MEET GIDEON HUGHES

Gideon Hughes is another one of our new recruits.  He moved to Sheffield to start a new job earlier this year and made it his mission to meet new people and make new friends in the Steel City. It wasn’t long before he discovered the Vulcans on Social Media and his IGR journey began. This is his story…

When I moved to Sheffield earlier this year, I wanted to expand my social circle. So when I was settled in my new job and my new home, the next task was to meet new people and make new friends. Never one to shy away from challenges that are outside of my comfort zone, I came across the Vulcans on social media.

I must admit, I had very little experience playing rugby but I was excited to see that the Vulcans would accept anyone interested in playing the sport irrespective of their playing experience. I love to work out and regularly run in the local park to keep my fitness levels up and I knew Rugby would be a fun way to exercise and meet new people.

Thinking back to that very first training session, the first few minutes were daunting. I didn’t know what to expect, but everyone was very accepting of new players and I wasn’t alone in starting rugby for the first time. The training was great for complete newbies like me, there was no judgement and it was definitely good exercise. I also loved that everyone went for a drink afterwards so you could get to know people off the pitch.

I knew I would definitely enjoy the social aspect of playing for a team and I was right. Not long after joining the Vulcan’s Birthday BBQ took place up at our home at Sheffield Tigers RUFC.  As the first proper social I went to, I loved every minute of the BBQ. It was the perfect opportunity getting to know people and the atmosphere. We had a socially distanced disco in the evening and the song choices at the end were very gay… and I was living for it!

On the pitch, I haven’t played a proper game yet because of the Coronavirus but I have been enjoying all the touch rugby games we get to play in training sessions every week. I’ve learnt so much about the game since the Summer and it makes me happy when I make any progress with my technique, even small things like learning how to present the ball.

That brings us up to date. Although I have not had the chance to play in a game, I’m really loving our training sessions. The Vulcans are a fantastic bunch of guys and I have been made to feel welcome from day 1. I’m so pleased I made the decision to join, I’ve had the opportunity to get to know my teammates and made some incredible friends in the process.

I’ll never regret my decision to join the Vulcans, they accepted me for being me and had the patience to show me the basics and develop my understanding of the sport of Rugby. If you’re out there and have an interest in joining the team, do it. I came with very little playing experience and so far I’ve found a new and exciting way to keep fit whilst meeting new people and making many friends.

We’d like to thank Gideon for taking the time to share his story with us. We’re thrilled to have him on the team and we can’t wait to get him on the pitch for his first game when time allows it. 

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Voice of a New Player: Meet Owen Harris-Evans

Owen Harris-Evans recently joined the Vulcans after a five year gap after having played Rugby all the way through school. After itching to return to the sport Owen discovered the Sheffield Vulcans on Instagram and hasn’t looked back since. This is his story…

I have played Rugby for most of my life and after about five years away from the sport I was missing it. Having thought for a long time about my eventual return, I begun to browse social media to see what local clubs were available in Sheffield. After a bit of research I discovered The Sheffield Vulcans and based on what I discovered from their social media accounts, I knew the team would accept me for me and allow me to make a positive contribution to the club.

My first training session went really great. As soon as I arrived up at Sheffield Tigers RUFC, I immediately felt welcome by everyone. It was nice to see people from all levels of skill playing together and encouraging each other and I knew from that second… I made the right choice. You see, I really believe in inclusivity and want everyone to enjoy the sport as much as I do without fear of being excluded or disrespected.

Even though I felt rusty in that first training session, I felt one of the team immediately. The Vulcans have a massive diversity of people of all ages, shapes and sizes who come and play and I was very impressed by just how inclusive and friendly IGR teams are. Although I have not had chance to play an official game yet because of what’s going on with the pandemic, I have been involved with several touch games during practice.

That said, I know the team is looking forward to the day when we can return to full contact but we are all dedicated to keeping our training sessions as covid-secure as possible. I’ll tell you what though, It’s great to see everyone getting stuck in even though it’s mainly focused on fitness and touch. At the end of the day, it’s nice just to be back on a pitch with a rugby ball.

One last thought, If you are considering trying Rugby, please get involved. It is great for not only your physical health but your mental health too. Come join the Vulcans. You will find a great community of people working together to further the game for everyone.

We’d like to thank Owen for his time to share his story. He has demonstrated an incredible level of skill in the game and we’re glad to have him as a member of the Sheffield Vulcans and we’re excited to see what his future holds.

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Captain’s Log – Reflecting on the Vulcans 19/20 Performance

Ahead of our upcoming Birthday Social taking place at Sheffield Tigers RUFC on Saturday 22nd August our Captain, Innes MacLeod, has taken a moment to reflect on what has happened since he released his start of the season blog.

I wrote a blog at the start of the season where I set out our hopes for the year ahead. My focus was on looking at the small victories. We are a young club and, though we are ambitious, we know that growing to be the successful team we know we can be is no small task. It requires work and dedication. When I wrote that blog I was looking back to the previous season which was undoubtedly a season of small victories. We had grown in numbers, improved in skill and were building confidence but that didn’t always translate to success on the pitch. It seemed appropriate to focus and be proud on what we had achieved and to build on those small victories.

What I didn’t expect was what this season would bring. Though it was tragically cut short the previous year was the Vulcans most successful ever. We went from a solitary win the year before to winning the majority of our games. We won our first away game and broke too many club scoring records to count. The leap we made was astronomical. At the beginning of this season we were a development team by the end of it we were something more.

This wasn’t just a year of wins on the field but success off of it as well. The Halloween and Pride parties we hosted were our biggest ever social events and were an absolute blast. Our membership has continued to grow strongly. Most importantly we have gone from training on a public park to having the excellent facilities of the Sheffield Tigers, a relationship we hope to grow in the coming year.

To look back at the blog I wrote I see now I was maybe more cautious than I had a right to be. If I had looked around me I would have seen the foundation of the season to come. From our committee who have worked to continue our growing strength, our coaches whose patience helped us develop, to our players and members who give so much to this club. It’s the people that make a team and we have some pretty great people around.

The coming year will present significant challenges. It’s unclear when we can play the sport we love again. I look around at this team though and know that we have it in us to take on the challenges that lie ahead. My next blog won’t be so cautious.

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Sheffield Vulcans Recommend: Pre-Training Meals

As Sheffield’s first LGBTQ inclusive Rugby team we pride ourselves on being a squad made up of athletes who come from a wide range of ability, fitness and experience. Always looking for ways to improve our performance our team of coaches heartily encourage our members to maintain a healthy work/life balance.

However, in today’s new world forged by Covid-19, it is often difficult to keep on the straight and narrow when it comes to nutrition. Sure, lockdown rules have been relaxed and we can do as much exercise as we want out doors but it also means that temptation of grabbing something quick and easy is even more present now the golden arches have opened their drive through and delivery services.

We’re not worried too much though because tonight marks the restart of our training sessions. That’s right, keeping in-line with the recommended government guidelines our team has been split into squads of six who will work together to complete HIIT sessions developed to help improve our fitness during pre-season ready for when the season begins (whenever that may be).

With training starting again the team have been thinking about how we each treat our bodies. We’ve already been encouraging one another to remain active during lockdown thanks to our weekly Strava challenge but it’s just as important to take note of our nutrition as well. Good nutrition is vital for exercise and performance and can help recover faster after each workout. It’s equally as important to think about the timing of your pre-workout meal too. That’s why it comes highly recommended to try and eat a complete meal containing carbs, protein and fat at least 2 hours before you exercise as this will help prevent any stomach discomfort during exercise.

Ahead of tonight’s training we turned to our committee to see what their go to pre-training meal and here is are a few of their recommendations:

If your training starts within 3 hours:

Our club President Michael Hudson recommends something quick and easy to prepare. That’s why he swears by enjoying a meal of chicken and rice/pasta a few hours before training. Protein, carbs… simple!

As an alternative suggestion, our very own Matt Clark recommends fajitas made with lean protein, brown rice and roasted vegetables.

If your training starts within 2 hours:

Our Social Secretary Tibble Smith knows how to keep it light and recommends enjoying some toast with butter (and jam if he’s feeling a little naughty).

As an alternative suggestion, you could enjoy a bowl of whole-grain cereal and milk.

If training starts within an hour:

Our club Chair Glenn Allen and our very own Jude Berry recommend enjoying a piece of fruit, such as a banana or an apple.

As an alternative suggestion you could enjoy a nutrition bar with protein and wholesome ingredients.

That concludes our recommendations for pre-training fuel and we hope you found it useful. Remember at the end of the day improving your pre-training nutrition can go a long way in helping you perform better and recover faster as an athlete. But before you go, remember that your body also needs water to function so it is important that you maintain good hydration habits as well.

Thanks for reading.

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Sheffield Vulcans Recommend: Podcasts Vol. 1

The Sheffield Vulcans have been taking part in a weekly Strava challenge that has seen the team working together to reach a set distance. For the last three week’s we’ve constantly smashed every target set and we’re on track for beating it for the fourth week in a row.

Inspired by the appearance of our very own Michael Hudson on episode 2 of the Ruck My Life Podcast, a podcast dedicated to exploring what life is like for the LGBTQ+ community in sport, we reached out to the team to see what podcasts they’ve been listening to whilst taking part in our Strava challenge.

Kicking off our list of recommendations is the House of Rugby, a podcast that takes its listeners right to the heart action with big name interviews and delving into the big issues in the game. Presented by Alex Payne and James Haskell, House of Rugby is a casual yet informative podcast released every Wednesday to provide listeners with a breakdown of the news in rugby union.
Rec by Charlie Prior-Mills & Chris Moore

Do you like Music? Do you like taking part in Quizzes? If you answered yes to both then you should check out the PopMaster podcast. Presented by BBC 2’s Ken Bruce, PopMaster invites listeners to take part in his tricky music quiz. There are over 27 episodes for you to check out which provides hours of fun for listeners to enjoy!
Rec by Glenn Allen

If you love to laugh then Shagged. Married. Annoyed. is for you. Chris Ramsey and his wife going through letters from the public and discuss how things are in the world. Very relatable and extremely hilarious, there are over 65 episodes to check out. So, if you’re looking for something to put a smile on your face during lockdown this show will provide plenty of laugh out loud moments!
Rec by Andrew Gibson

Three friends read the erotic fiction written by one of their dads who knows almost nothing about sex, anatomy, or storytelling in the smash hit podcast My Dad Wrote a Porno. Certainly one of those you have to hear it to believe it experiences, My Dad… is praised highly by multiple Vulcans as one of the best podcasts they’ve ever listened to!
Rec by Joel Walker & Matthew Buckingham

Next up is Athletico Mince, a British comedy podcast hosted by Bob Mortimer and Andy Dawson. The football podcast that no one wanted features discussions about football and whether being gentle in the Premier League makes one a better manager. It’s not for everyone but if you’re into your football and you’re a comedy fan then this is the mash up for you.
Rec by Chris Moore

Fancy a dive into the world of conspiracy theories? Those Conspiracy Guys is an Irish comedy podcast that discusses pretty much everything from paranormal happenings and true crime right through to aliens and werewolves. No topic is too delicate or outlandish, the team go above and beyond to provide listeners with plenty of waffle as the show dissects the misinformation out in the world.
Rec by Archive Irving

Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness podcast sees the bubbly and fast paced thought process of JVN take listeners on a rollercoaster for 45 minutes as he asks questions of all varieties to experts across the world. Get better understanding of complex issues, learn things you never knew, and learn more about the work of celebrities and activists from across the globe. There’s something for everyone and you’re guaranteed to learn something new whilst doing it.
Rec by Michael Hudson

If you’re a fan of Ru Paul’s Drag Race then you’ll want to check out Race Chaser with Alaska and Willam. Entertaining and insightful, the show recaps every episode and dives deep to provide listeners with gossip about what was really going on behind the scenes. Covering every season of Drag Race, All-Stars and Drag Race UK, Race Chaser is the best podcast to listen to if you’re a fan of the show.
Rec by Daniel Jenkinson

If you’re a fan of horror then you should check out the Tales from Beyond the Pale podcast. Hosted and curated by filmmakers Larry Fessenden (Depraved) and Glenn McQuaid (I Sell the Dead), this award-winning series treats listeners to half-hour tales ranging from the gently macabre to the genuinely gruesome. With over 30 episodes currently available, this show is guaranteed to send icy chills down your spine… if you’re brave enough to listen.
Rec by Jon Dickinson

Andy Goode, Big Jim Hamilton & Andy Rowe have a real treat for Rugby fans in The Ruby Pod. From covering the latest news with plenty of laughs and opinions without taking themselves too seriously, The Rugby Pod is made for fans, by fans and exists as a fully interactive platform where listeners are invited to get in touch with funny stories, questions or opinions via social media.
Rec by Charlie Prior-Mills & Chris Moore

Let’s finish off this round of podcast recommendations by mentioning the excellent Ruck My Life podcast again. Presented by CJ who plays for the Village Spartans, Ruck My Life continues to grow as a very informative podcast featuring guest appearances from IGR players around the world to give an insight into their experiences as a LGBT player in a sports team. Please show it your support by checking it out.

All the shows listed above are available where all good podcasts are available.

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How We’re Maintaining Fitness During Lockdown

Since the lockdown began the Sheffield Vulcans have had plenty of downtime since the dreaded Covid-19 pandemic sunk its nails deep into the flesh of this planet. Not only were our Tuesday night training sessions suspended indefinitely, but the government only allowed us to leave our homes once a day initially, restricting the amount of exercise we could do outside of our homes.

Thankfully, this didn’t stop the Vulcans from working on our fitness. Every Tuesday for the past nine weeks we’ve been taking part in remote HIIT sessions delivered by the fantastic Analise Moran from Moran Personal Training. Taking to our bedrooms, kitchens, living rooms and gardens, we’ve been squatting, planking, and becoming sweaty messes with the goal of maintaining our fitness.

In addition to this our very own Liam Goodwin came up with a solution to keep the team engaged between HIIT sessions by using Strava, a popular fitness tracking app. Liam noticed that a few of the team were already on there tracking workouts during lockdown in an effort to remain active and sane. Other rugby and sports clubs had set themselves up on Strava and we thought it was a great idea, so got Sheffield Vulcans set-up and encouraged the team to get involved in weekly distance challenges.

The first week had a positive response with roughly half of the club signing up to take on 100km, which we had exceeded by Wednesday. As a result the target was doubled, and by the end of the week the team flew past the revised target with an incredible distance of 287km. This was mirrored by the results of the second week which saw the Vulcans smash the 300km target with 433km in total.

During this time Liam saw a growth in interest amongst the team thanks in part to the weekly leader board and results, adding friendly competition into the mix. Some eager beavers have been getting out multiple times a day with an eye on the top three spots, whilst others are happy doing their own thing pushing themselves individually. Being an inclusive team consisting of people of all ages and ability, we ensured the challenge allowed members to walk, run or cycle any distance they felt comfortable with. Furthermore, the challenge has provided the perfect opportunity for some of our Vulcans to spend time with one another (within government guidelines of course).

Recently, we’ve celebrated our third weekly result and managed to complete a collective distance of 602.31km, which is the equivalent of running from Plymouth to Middlesbrough. Each week the target grows, and we’ve now added an extra mini-challenge for all members to complete a minimum 10km distance across the week.

On reflection, we can’t thank Liam and Analise enough keeping us Vulcans engaged and motivated to keep our fitness up. The benefits of taking on these challenges have helped us to work together, motivate one another, and ultimately bring us closer together as a team even though we’re physically far apart. We know one day the lockdown will end and we will all return to Sheffield Tigers to continue our training ready for next season. Until then, the team will continue to support one another and smash our weekly targets.