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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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Autumn Nations Cup 2020 – Everything You Need to Know

If you’ve been following our blogs you may remember that Charlie PM had a stab at predicting the final table of 2020 Six Nations. Although his predictions were proven wrong, we couldn’t resist giving Charlie a chance at redemption by asking our current reigning Forward of the Year to share his thoughts about the Autumn Nations Cup. So, without further delay sit yourself down and get ready to see what he thinks will happen…

Hello, dear members and followers. In February this year, I had a stab at predicting the final table of the 2020 Six Nations. Although they were looking surprisingly accurate for the first 3 weeks, inevitably I was a way off; only getting Italy in last place correct (top marks for that shout) following its belated conclusion last weekend.

So when asked to do a similar article for the Autumn Nations Cup, I was equally excited to be proven drastically wrong again. However, as it is a new tournament, I thought it best to do a quick run down of the teams, format and schedule of the event. I’ll also give some insight into the different teams, their current form and my predictions for how it will finish. Without further delay, here is my breakdown of the inaugural Autumn Nations Cup.

As it is a new tournament, I thought it best to do a quick run down of the teams, format and schedule of the event. I’ll also give some insight into the different teams, their current form and my predictions for how it will finish. Without further delay, here is my breakdown of the inaugural Autumn Nations Cup.

What is it and why is it happening?

 In the regular rugby calendar, the period of November and December is when the Southern Hemisphere nations (including New Zealand, Australia and South Africa) tour the Northern Hemisphere countries and play the Six Nations sides. Due to enforced travel restrictions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, these fixtures have been cancelled this year. Therefore, World Rugby have implemented a one off tournament between the Six Nations teams and two additional countries as a replacement.

Who is playing and what is the structure?

 The tournament will consist of eight teams. The regular Six Nations sides: England, France, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Italy, in addition to Fiji and Georgia. Japan were originally intended to be involved, but their strict regulations rendered them unable to travel; as a result Georgia took their place.

The competing nations will be divided into two pools. The groups are as follows:

The competition will take place over four weeks. In the first three weeks, the teams in each group will play each other once. Then, there will be one week of ‘finals’, where the first-placed team in Group A will play the first-placed team in Group B, the second-placed team in Group A will play the second-placed team in Group B, and so on. As the last week concludes, the final table will be decided and the winners announced.

That should just about cover the nitty gritty of how the competition will function. I’ll now look at each team competing and discuss their recent form, strengths and weaknesses and keys to success, starting with Group A.

As newly crowned Six Nations Champions, England will be looking to cement their elite status with a strong showing in the Nations Cup. Just over a year on from their devastating World Cup Final loss, on paper they look to be carrying on firmly in the right direction. However, there is context to be applied to their success.

Firstly, an opening performance in Paris that saw them obliterated by a resurgent French side. They had talked big before the game, and it came back to haunt them, the score line not reflecting the one sided occasion. Additionally, in the last weekend of the tournament, they were poor against an improving Italy side and showed that a small amount of sh*thousery can be enough to get them rattled. However, in both games they managed to scrape some success in the final quarter; gaining a losing bonus against France and building a solid score line against Italy that ultimately won them the Championship. This habit of winning whilst under-performing is often indicative of serial winners, which is what Eddie Jones’ men will hope to become over the next World Cup cycle.

Keys to success:

England are at their best when they are dominating the gain line. In some games they have outnumbered their opponents’ dominant tackle count nearly 5:1, and this physicality will be key to succeeding in what is a very tough group.

Players to watch:

Jack Willis – A turnover specialist coming off the back of a sensational domestic season, blindside flanker Willis will be hoping for an opportunity to add his immense firepower to England’s back row.

Jonny Hill – The big second row was instrumental in securing Exeter’s domestic and European double this season. Having made his debut against Italy, he will be hoping to add more big performances in an England jersey, and justify his selection over more experienced counterparts Joe Launchbury and Charlie Ewells.

Ben Youngs – The veteran scrum half has never played better in an England shirt. Becoming only the second player to earn 100 caps for England after the legendary Jason Leonard, Youngs seems to be back to his probing, sniping best. Combined with his flawless tactical kicking, he is a vital part of England’s machine and will be, once again, a huge part of their tournament.

Moving alphabetically, we come to late additions Georgia. Georgia have been slowly but steadily moving up the ranks of international rugby; from minnows to a solid Tier 2 nation capable of giving top sides a decent game and dominating competition around them. However, they have been somewhat unfortunate in their group allocation. Coming up against three high ranking Tier 1 nations is less of a hurdle and more of a mountain range to overcome in the pursuit of victory. Realistically, they will not be expected to win any of their three pool games, and that will not be the parameter of their success. However, that does not mean they have nothing to play for.

It has currently been several years since Italy have won a Six Nations game, and their inclusion in the tournament has become gradually more disputed. One team often mentioned in talks of replacing them is Georgia, as they have soundly beaten all other European competition below this standard. For those talks to gain some merit, the Georgians have an incredible opportunity to put in some strong performances against the top sides, and will be really targeting that ‘finals’ week to potentially pull out a victory against the bottom side from Group B. They have some memorable World Cup games under their belt, but a recent thumping by Scotland exposed their ability deficit at an elite level. They have potential, but I doubt many people are expecting an upset.

Keys to success:

One area the Georgians are renowned for is their scrummaging. This scrum will have to be operating at top capacity for them to try and find an angle to put pressure on their opposition. Combined with aggression and physicality, this could prove frustrating and disheartening for their opponents and they must maximise their output in these areas.

Players to watch:

Mikheil Nariashvili – The loose head prop is a regular player for Montpellier in France’s top division, and his experience and technique will help stabilise the Georgian set piece and pressurise his opposite number in the scrum.

Beka Gorgadze – Not to be confused with his positional counterpart and Georgian rugby legend Mamuka Gorgodze, Beka Gorgadze has some way to go before scaling the same heights. However, he is a strong, ball-carrying Number 8 who plays his rugby for Boudreaux and could be a talismanic figure for Georgia in their pursuit ofpenetrating the gain line.

Ireland will probably reflect on their Six Nations campaign as a little disappointing but overall a positive step. After a big impact as their defensive coach, Andy Farrell has taken over the national side after one of the country’s most successful head coaches, Joe Schmidt, departed following last year’s World Cup. His side started the Six Nations incredibly strongly, with powerful and entertaining wins against two good sides in Scotland and Wales. However, they fell short against England and France, and there were some consistencies in their losses.

Whilst boasting a good depth of forwards at their disposal, Ireland showed that they can be dominated by physical, abrasive packs, and struggle to find ways into the game if they lose that battle up front. This was epitomised against England; the likes of Mario Itoje and Sam Underhill flew into every tackle, breakdown and carry and did not allow Ireland to get their game going. If they can overcome this hurdle and give a platform to their scintillating back line, I see them being strong contenders in the tournament.

Keys to success:

As mentioned, they will need to win the battle up front in order to facilitate possession. But how they use that possession will be determined by half backs Connor Murray and Johnny Sexton. If their tactical kicking and ball distribution is of the standard it was when they beat the All Blacks, then they should give space and opportunity to their back three players.

Players to watch:

Tadgh Furlong – The return of the big tight head will be a huge boost to the Irish pack. Arguably the best player in his position worldwide, his destructive scrummaging and rampant carrying will be crucial in enforcing his team’s will over opposition.

James Lowe – Finally qualifying for the national side after moving from New Zealand three years ago, James Lowe is already on his way to being world class in a Leinster jersey, and I anticipate his transition to international rugby to be smooth. A well-rounded winger with no real weakness, look for him under the high ball and slicing through defensive lines.

Gary Ringrose – Another returning star, his distribution and class in midfield provides the fluidity of Ireland’s back line when it is functioning at its best. A Lions contender with a balanced game, he is an influential player in Ireland’s midfield who could make the difference upon his return.

Wayne Pivac hasn’t found early life as Wales’ head coach to be all that easy. Whilst it was going to be impossible to immediately emulate the ridiculous success of predecessor Warren Gatland, losing all but one Six Nations games (their only win coming against Italy) and finishing fifth in the final table is about as bad a start as Pivac could have hoped for.

Whilst there is plenty of context to be applied – an ageing core of star players and stronger-than-usual-competition – there is no getting away from the fact that he inherited a Grand Slam winning side who narrowly missed out on a World Cup Final and took their fortunes immediately downhill. However, there is some optimism to be had from the tournament. The games were all lost by narrow margins, the largest being 10 points against Ireland and 3 points against England the smallest. Furthermore, in these games they were often evenly matched as far as stats are concerned, only really out-performed by England in dominant tackles, something which other sides also experienced. Their set-piece generally functioned well and they were able to score some fantastic tries. Therefore, it is small tweaks and improvements that are required to bring them back to the summit of international rugby, and I see this happening as Pivac is given more time to implement his tactics. That being said, I’m not confident about their ability to compete for the title in this competition.

Keys to success

Discipline was a huge factor in Wales’ most recent loss to Scotland, with an unforgivable penalty count for test-level rugby. Therefore, accuracy around the breakdown will be fundamental to their success, with a big impetus on their back row to show restraint and class.

Players to watch:

Josh Adams – It goes without saying at this point, but keep your eyes on Josh Adams. A five-point machine; Adams is a quick, strong winger with lethal finishing instincts. Give him half a chance and you’ll most likely be trudging back under your own posts.

Nick Tompkins – A surprising exclusion from Wales’ final Six Nations game, I think Nick Tompkins is starting look look every bit like an international centre. Incredibly athletic and powerful, he is comfortable in both the 12 and 13 jerseys and appears to be the natural long-term successor to Jonathan Davies. Hopefully he gets more game time.

Alun Wyn Jones – The most capped international rugby player of all time. It was heartbreaking to watch this legend of the sport receive his honour in front of an empty stadium, but it did little to stifle his performance. Elevating his teammates whenever he plays, he is an experienced leader who can still influence test matches at 35. With the likes of Maro Itoje and James Ryan throwing in their names for starting Lions second row, Alun Wyn will be keen to nail on his place as tourist and, potentially, captain next summer in South Africa by putting in more characteristically huge performances.

Prediction for final Group A table:

  1. England
  2. Ireland
  3. Wales
  4. Georgia 

Fiji were the other original addition to this expanded tournament. Aside from Japan, no other national team has made more steps towards transitioning from second to first tier level rugby as Fiji in recent years. Their Rugby Sevens team won the country’s first Olympic Gold Medal in 2016 and that momentum seems to have precipitated into the 15s code.

However, they will always have significant challenges facing them and their progress. They are serial over-achievers; for a country with a population hardly bigger than Sheffield they have done incredibly well to even compete at this level. Their best players are often scouted and recruited by other, larger rugby nations (New Zealand being the main offender), limiting their already small player base. Additionally, most of their players are cross-code athletes, meaning they play mostly in the sevens or league format of the game, not union 15s. Financially, their unions are also incredibly under-funded and touring can often be counter-beneficial for them.

Yet, despite all this, they remain an incredibly talented, ludicrously fun team to watch and often win over the hearts of the neutrals. With pace, power, flair, spontaneity and a roster of players who are all capable of playing in almost every position; they have the potential to cause problems for any and every team they encounter. If you are the opposition, beware the Fijians in open play. If you are a spectator, sit back and enjoy some bat sh*t crazy rugby.

Keys to success:

Fiji’s best chance is to play their own game, not try and match their opposition’s tactics. Modern rugby is intricate and tactical; accurate box kicking and well-drilled defensive sets being defining features of most successful teams. Fiji are at their most dangerous in broken, unstructured play, where they can utilise the speed, strength and skill of their freak-of-nature back line runners. Counter-attack and be creative: it might not always be victorious but my word is it fun.

Players to watch:

Semi Radradra – Bristol’s all-action centre/winger/terminator is a bona fide rugby superstar. Electric feet, Lomu-esque power, mad offloads… the hyperboles don’t run out for this guy. A potential game-changer: you won’t miss him.

Dominiko Waqaniburotu – The greatest name in rugby and one of its greatest captains. This guy does everything; smash breakdowns, chop tackles, break defensive lines and give filthy passes all over the park. A warrior of the Fijian side and a galvanising figure – look out for his work rate and energy.

Leone Nakarawa – A veteran second row with all the ability you could ask for. Athletic, intelligent, a good leader and a great servant to Fijian rugby. He’ll be right along side Waqaniboruto providing aggression and skill to a stupidly mobile pack.

I predicted France to win the Six Nations, and they came bloody close. Almost unrecognisable from the underperforming sides of recent years; head coach Fabian Galthie and defence guru Shaun Edwards should be commended for rejuvenating the side and giving them the tools to start realising some of their enormous potential.

This has, of course, been assisted by the simultaneous rise of two world class half-backs in Antonne Dupont and Romain Ntamack. Player of the tournament Dupont has already elevated himself to be on par with the greatest scrum-halves in the world, if not sitting at the top, whist Ntamack is such a classy operator he barely seems to sweat. If France continue to build their team around this duo, they will quickly rise to the peak of world rugby again in no time.

However, I am not predicting them to win the tournament. They have a desirable pool that they’ll be favourites to top, but I see there being external factors which could affect them. Whilst the home nations teams have Lions selection to think about and the other smaller nations have huge points to prove, France are going into this competition with relatively little to gain or lose. Coupled with the fact the notoriously gruelling French league has already restarted, their players could potentially not live up to expectations following a strong finish to the Six Nations. That being said, they are more than capable of winning it and I wouldn’t be the slightest bit surprised if I am proven wrong.

Keys to success:

France’s problem for over a decade now has been the full 80 minutes. When they are fresh and firing, they can be unstoppable. However, they have developed a nasty habit of letting teams back into the game in the late stages, either through tiredness or ill-discipline. Their World Cup Quarter Final against Wales or Six Nations opening round against England are perfect examples of this. It is becoming less significant under Galthie, but needs to remain that way if they are to truly become world-level competitors.

Players to watch:

Virimi Vakatawa – I have already spoken enough about Dupont and Ntamack, so let’s focus on their marauding centre instead. An enormous 13 with quick feet and great hands, he is proving to be a nightmare for defences at European and International level. Look out for Ntamack’s chips behind, Vakatawa will likely be on the end of them.

Bernard Le Roux – Possibly one for the purists, but if you want to see what a quintessential, old-school, nasty second row looks like; look no further than Bernard Le Roux. He is strong in the line out, unbelievably physical in the tackle and a nuisance at the breakdown. He is also adept at antagonising and frustrating the opposition, and his mastery of rugby’s dark arts make him an invaluable asset to the team.

Charles Ollivon – His back row partner, Gregory Aldritt, might receive more of the plaudits, but I want to put the spotlight on the French captain. I’m ashamed that I knew little about him when he took the armband from veteran Guilredo, but he has made a serious impression since. A tidy and capable player in all aspects of the game, but it is his pace and intelligence to support line breaks as frequently as he does that make him stand out to me, particularly considering his 6ft5 frame. You might not immediately notice him, but if you keep your eye out then you begin to realise the impact he is having.

Italy have some big points to prove in this competition. As previously mentioned, their last win in a Six Nations game came some years ago and they didn’t look like coming much closer to it this year either. However, I believe the calls for their removal harsh and undeserved.

The wealth of their union and the size of their professional player base dictates that they will always struggle to compete at the top of international rugby. However, they have earned their place there, as no other second tier nation has come close to competing at their level consistently, with the exception of Japan recently. Italy recently gave great games to the two best teams in the Six Nations; in comparison, Georgia got smashed by Scotland and looked dreadful. Italy will be looking at their pool clash with Fiji and a potential last weekend meeting with Georgia to make a big statement and put some doubts to bed over their status as a rugby nation.

Keys to success:

Italy did a fantastic job of winding England up recently, showing an old-fashioned performance of niggle and antagonisation. If they bring this level of passion and aggression into every game, especially in the pack, it could give them a platform to build against a variety of opponents.

Players to watch:

Jake Polledri – England missed a trick with this lad. As his try last weekend demonstrated, he is an athletic, direct powerful runner with a good skill set for a big man. He is fast becoming Italy’s best player and looks to be filling the large whole left by the legendary number 8, Sergio Parisse.

Paolo Garbisi – At only 20 years of age, Paolo Garbisi is pulling the strings of this Italy side with confidence that exceeds his years. An exciting 10 with an eye for the try-line, he is dynamic and fluid in his play style; capable of facilitating his teammates as much as he is playing himself in. A maverick playmaker, always worth a watch.

Scotland will be very happy with their Six Nations outing this year. After an abysmal World Cup and similar form at the start of the tournament, they capped it off with memorable wins over France and Wales. They have a strong pack with some players who have come out of nowhere to be challenge at elite level, and their back line is capable of some genuinely brilliant rugby at times. What are their chances in the tournament?

Overall, surprisingly strong. They have been drawn in what is undeniably a weaker group than their other home nations counterparts, and this gives their players an opportunity to showcase to Warren Gatland why they deserve to become th unfashionable Scottish players on next year’s Lions tour. The fitness of Finn Russell and Adam Hastings is a big concern, however they will be feeling optimistic about their chances. Considering their opposition and how their last result against France concluded, I have to admit I am optimistic about their chances too.

Keys to success:

Quick, clean ball will be vital to their chances of success. Their backs love to play at a fast, high tempo and securing fast ball from the breakdown is imperative in ensuring this. Their outstanding back row will have to show their worth once again.

Players to watch:

Hamish Watson – ‘The Human Pinball’ as referred to by Squidge Rugby, Watson is an explosive ball carrier and breakdown irritant. A thorn in the sides of oppositions, Scotland often look a different team with him in the lineup.

Jamie Ritchie – Watson’s flank partner can bask in the equal share of praise on Scotland’s back row. Whilst not as dynamic with ball in hand, he is a defensive genius with a range of tackle and breakdown techniques to boast of. A lethal partnership that no team will enjoy facing.

Ali Price – The live wire scrum half can go up and down in form, but his performance against Wales showed why he deserves his spot in Scotland’s side. He keeps his side ticking over and looks for scoring opportunities regularly, an important cog in the Scottish machine.

Predicted final Group B table:  

  1. France
  2. Scotland
  3. Italy
  4. Fiji

Final round predictions based on hypothetical group finishes:

I hope you are still following this! If my hypothetical groups do end up finishing this way, it will mean that in the ‘finals’ week: England will play France, Ireland will play Scotland, Wales will play Italy and Fiji will play Georgia. Based on these games, here are my final week predictions:

1st place final: England vs France (England win).

2nd place final: Ireland vs Scotland (Ireland win).

3rd place final: Wales vs Italy (Wales win).

4th place final: Georgia vs Fiji (Fiji win).

 Therefore, my final table would look like this:

  1. England
  2. France
  3. Ireland
  4. Scotland
  5. Wales
  6. Italy
  7. Fiji
  8. Georgia

I hope some of you are still reading to this point. Hopefully a few of the predictions might have some accuracy this time, if not at least we had some fun on the way.

Take care,

Charlie.

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What the Sheffield Vulcans Have Done For Me

Over the last two weeks we have been sharing the personal stories of several Vulcans and today we are sharing something equally as special. Tom Stephens joined the Sheffield Vulcans in August 2019 and since then he has deep-rooted himself in the team to exist as one of our most valued players. Off the pitch has forged life-long friendships and has used his time to combat his personal demons. This is Tom’s story:

I’m not one for writing much, but after almost one year with the Vulcans I’d like to take some time to reflect on where I started and everything the club has done for me since.

After a series of collapses, seizures, second degree burns, and a multitude of other medical anomalies, I had spent 3 years of university unable to sit any exams and feeling like I wasn’t going anywhere. I made the hard decision to take a year out of uni and move back home in hopes that a change of scenery might alleviate the rut I’d found myself in. It worked to some degree; I no longer thought of myself stuck at the end of those long 3 years. However, I was now isolated away from the friends I’d lived around for 6 years, feeling like I’d somehow given up or failed. I withdrew into myself, preparing for a year of simply waiting for it to be over. I barely left the house and was sleeping into the afternoon most days. I was in an unhealthy place, both physically and emotionally.

A month or so before Sheffield Pride I heard about a local inclusive rugby club which trained close to me. I’d had a passion for rugby when I was younger but had lost touch with it in the years since secondary school. Finding a need for both physical exercise and something to get me out of the house, I wanted to give it a try, but fear stopped me walking 10 minutes down the road and throw a ball around. A stupid fear that I’d be terrible, and people would laugh at me. A stupid fear that my lack of fitness would make me stand out for all the wrong reasons. I thought that even though the Vulcans were branded as ‘inclusive’, somehow that wouldn’t apply to me. A lot of stupid reasons when I think about it now, but back then they all seemed very real. When Sheffield Pride finally came around, I headed down to Endcliffe park with the intention of stopping by the Vulcans stall just to have a quick look and see what I was missing. That’s when I noticed the Vulcans were throwing a party that night. Whilst I may have been self-conscious about my sports prowess, my ability to drink has never been in doubt and so I went out. That night was exactly what I needed to snap me out of my fears. Instead of me standing in a corner awkwardly dancing, several of the Vulcans made a clear point to chat to me and bring me into other conversations. I didn’t feel like the new guy that people felt obliged to speak to, I felt like I was with people who wanted to get to know me. I decided that the Vulcans might be a place for me after all.

3 days after Sheffield Pride and the amazing after party, I attended my first training session. It was miserable weather, I was exhausted and sweaty, and I didn’t care about any of that. I had fun. I proved to be just as out of shape as I thought I was and had forgotten most of what I knew about how to play, though there was no judgement from anyone there. Getting out of the house for an hour of rugby gave me back some of the energy I’d lost in the last 3 years. It wasn’t some miracle cure for everything I was thinking and feeling, but I knew I needed to go back for the next session. Training quickly became my favourite part of the week partially for the rugby, more for the wonderful people I was getting to know. I joined at the same time as a few other players, and having some fellow newbies definitely made me feel better about how I compared to everyone else, but It soon became apparent that this wasn’t a club where being new meant you were on the outside. Within a few weeks I realised that my teammates were going to become my friends whether I wanted it or not. The worst year of my life was beginning to turn around.

As I began settling into the team properly and played my first game as a Vulcan, my worries over being accepted had completely gone. What I was scared about now was not being good enough and letting everyone down. Before this year, I would have let that fear sit with me while doing nothing to change the situation. Instead, I listened to the voices of the people around me. When you’re surrounded by so many incredible friends and role models, it’s hard not to take in what they say to you. I worked hard at improving not just my physical fitness, but the way I viewed exercise in general. I started to see my fitness as a measure of both my physical well-being and how much I cared about myself. In order to improve my ability on the pitch and impress the people I care about; I’d have to start treating myself better. It sounds like a terrible cliché to say that this rugby team changed my life, so instead I’ll say that joining the Vulcans changed the way I looked at myself and the value I put on things. For several months I continued to improve myself and make sure I earned the spot on the team that meant so much to me. Unfortunately, things started to decline for me very quickly when lockdown began.

Going from seeing my friends at least once a week to suddenly not seeing them for months hit me hard. I began to slide into my old unhealthy habits almost immediately. I retreated back into myself, barely talking to the people I considered my close friends and leaving the house only to go to work. The sudden halt of routine exercise and lack of motivation to work led to a rather rapid weight gain which only further demoralised me. I was back in a slump that had no clear end in sight, the exact circumstances I had taken a year out to escape from. This would not last for too long thankfully, as the friends I’d made in the Vulcans weren’t going to just let me feel sorry for myself. In particular, I want to give massive credit to Tiago and Lefty, for sending me so many messages and terrible Instagram memes that it was truly impossible to ignore them. Starting by getting me to just reply to messages and not cut people off, my teammates were dragging me out of the slump. The initiation of a weekly zoom quiz and subsequent after-dark hangout helped to somewhat restore the social interactions I desperately missed. Introduction of a weekly Strava leaderboard for the team gave me the incentive to start exercising, building back up from just walking to running again. Piece by piece, the joy and well-being I had lost was coming back, and every part of it was thanks to the Vulcans. Pushing myself with a flood of support around me, I started running greater distances than I’d run before, and topped the Strava leaderboard multiple times, a small achievement that means a lot to me. With the restart of small group training sessions and more in-person interactions, there has been a significant boost in the progress I’ve made, and things look increasingly positive going forward.

Looking toward the future, my relationship with the team is going to be changing. I’ll be returning to the University of Birmingham in September, and as such will be leaving the Vulcans. However, I know for a fact that I won’t be leaving the friendships I’ve made here behind me. I’ll be keeping in touch with many of my teammates and I’ll be visiting every chance I get. One year ago, I was making plans on how to make it through my year away from uni, now I’m looking forward to completing my degree next year so I can make a full return to the Vulcans. This inclusive rugby club taught me a lot about how to play rugby, but it taught me far more about what’s truly important and for that I will always be grateful.Sheffield Vulcans 2019

We’d like to take this opportunity to thank Tom for everything he’s brought and continues to bring to the Vulcans. Tom might be leaving Sheffield for the delights of Birmingham to complete his studies, but we don’t need to tell him that his spot on the Vulcans will be waiting on his return.

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Why I love being a Sheffield Vulcan: Chris’s story

With us unable to train at home up at Sheffield Tigers RUFC as a single unit, the Sheffield Vulcans haven’t let the lockdown dampen our team spirit. We’re still working on our fitness by running drills in pods of six around the steel city making sure we’re ready for the upcoming season. So, as we continue training under RFU guidelines, we want to share with you why we love being a member of the Sheffield Vulcans.

That’s why we’ve reached out to a few of our players and asked them to share their story with you about their personal experiences of being a member of the Sheffield Vulcans. We asked them about how they came to know about the club, why they joined the team and what advice they have for individuals interested in playing rugby.

This is Chris Moore’s story…

Chris MooreBrief history lesson – I played from school age until U21s and a few senior games at Durham City Rugby Club, before cutting short my playing days following a couple of bad injuries in quick succession, combined with a move down south to the wonderful city of Sheffield.

Fast forward 20-odd years and I suddenly, weirdly, start getting the itch to play again, around about the time of my 41st birthday. I had gone from having limited interest in the sport, to desperately wanting to be back out there, making those hits and testing myself. I can’t explain why.

That said, with the benefit of hindsight, I’ve found myself wondering just why it was that I let rugby drift out of my life like that? I’d gone from playing 2 or 3 times a week for 15 years or whatever it was, to barely engaging with something that had previously meant so much to me.

It’s crossed my mind that it might be because I lost my dad in my early 20’s, not that long after I moved down here. Rugby was our thing. We used to go to watch Newcastle Falcons together when we had this young 16-year-old kid called Jonny Wilkinson on the bench, who apparently was going to make it big, according to whispers around Kingston Park.

So, it has occurred to me recently that it might have been because of that missing element. That gap in proceedings. We couldn’t watch games together or discuss them on the phone anymore. I think I’d just fallen out of love with the game and it wasn’t even a conscious decision I was aware of at the time. That’s just one possible theory, anyway.

Not that it was just my dad who was bang into it. My mam once ran onto the pitch to rescue one of my team mates, who she spotted getting kneed in the face at the bottom of a ruck.

“He’s not even your son!” they shouted.

“They’re ALL my boys” she replied, as the ref showed her the red card. She got a special award at the end of season for that – the first and only spectator to get sent off!

Anyway, the Vulcans. Thanks to the dubious wonders of facebook’s targeted advertising, I’d seen an advert for a rugby team that accepted you regardless of age, experience, ability, fitness levels, or orientation. Perfect!

I got in touch and went along, but it was WAY different to what I was used to. I found a bunch of guys in Endcliffe Park, knocking about under a temporary flood light. I mean, great lads and I really enjoyed it, but it was not the normal club set up I was accustomed to. I’ll come back to that later though.

Somewhere between making the initial enquiry and turning up to training, it occurred to me that this was a “gay” rugby club. I mean, it’s not, we’re an inclusive team open to everyone, so I got that bit wrong for a start.

Chris MooreBut it had never even crossed my mind, to be honest, even though the advert did indeed mention orientation. I’d followed Vulcans on Instagram and kept seeing #IGR – I wondered what the hell is IGR?

Oh, it’s International Gay Rugby.

I have to be honest and say there were questions.

“What will my friends think?”

“Will it be proper rugby?”

“Will I fit in, or even be welcome?”

Well that all turned out to be a load of bollocks. I took the plunge and soon realised this was the best decision I’ve ever made. Sheffield Vulcans changed my life.

So, let’s get this cleared up. If you’re a straight guy worrying about joining an inclusive IGR team, then worry not. I belong to a club that plays rugby for the love of the sport. No initiation ceremonies or ‘hazing’, none of that toxic masculinity that can unfortunately be prevalent in a lot of ‘mainstream’ or university clubs. It’s rugby without all the stereotypical nonsense that can unfortunately give rugby players a bad name.

We’re just here to grow and improve together. We are brothers. Actually, we’re sisters too. We’re whatever. It doesn’t matter. Sheffield Vulcans has made me a better person; not that it’s changed my beliefs as such, but it’s given me a better understanding of the world and the array of humans that inhabit it.

And as for the rugby itself, let me tell you “gay rugby”, to borrow a phrase from a certain local magazine editor, is still bloody brutal when you cross that white line. It still hurts. It still feels just as good though. It’s no different, actually. And it doesn’t matter how old you get, you still kinda enjoy collecting cool scars and comparing bruises.

Looking back on those early days in the park, despite my reservations about the set-up, it was clear to me that there was a lot of potential there. There were new players who’d barely touched a rugby ball before, who I could tell had it in them to be very handy on the pitch. This could be a great team. There was a collective energy and enthusiasm that told me there was more to come from this lot, but the lack of facilities was frustrating.

Having said that, the club didn’t even exist until a few years ago, so I’ve nothing but respect and admiration for those founding members who’d got it off the ground, with kits, sponsors and so on. To build a rugby club from scratch is some achievement and we should never take that for granted; we’re forever in their debt. But there was an increasing groundswell of opinion amongst more experienced members that we could push on to be bigger and better.

And that’s where Sheffield Tigers come into the picture. Without boring you with the details, Sheffield’s premiere rugby club has taken us under their wing (paw?) and forged a partnership with the Vulcans to see us ground-share with them up at Dore Moor.

It’s early days yet, annoyingly put on pause by COVID-19 recently, but already the huge improvement in facilities has led to both tangible results on the pitch, as well a positive mood-shift with the group towards feeling like this really is the start of us reaching our full potential. We ARE a proper club and we belong here. We’ve earnt it.

We’ve just had our most successful season ever, undefeated at home with some big numbers on the scoreboard, plus an ever-so-tense first away win in London. We were confident enough to enter ourselves into the top tier of a recent tournament, pitting ourselves against the big guns in IGR, despite technically still being a ‘development team’. We could have gone into the lower tier and had a genuine shot at some silverware, but nah. Fortune favours the brave!

Sheffield Vulcans is team that is going somewhere and I’m very excited about what the future holds. I’ve got a lot to be grateful for and hope I can serve the club well, by putting back into the team as much as it’s given me.

Chris’s advice for individuals wanting to play rugby:

If you’re thinking of trying something new, or like me want to rekindle an old flame, then we’d absolutely love to welcome you along for the ride. Just bring snacks, yeah?

We’d like to thank Chris for sharing his story.

If you want to know more about the Sheffield Vulcans or you are interested in joining us at our next available training session you can join our Facebook group here or you can click here to register as a Vulcan.

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Why I love being a Sheffield Vulcan: Jon’s Story

With us unable to train at home up at Sheffield Tigers RUFC as a single unit, the Sheffield Vulcans haven’t let the lockdown dampen our team spirit. We’re still working on our fitness by running drills in pods of six around the steel city making sure we’re ready for the upcoming season. So, as we continue training under RFU guidelines, we want to share with you why we love being a member of the Sheffield Vulcans.

That’s why we’ve reached out to a few of our players and asked them to share their story with you about their personal experiences of being a member of the Sheffield Vulcans. We asked them about how they came to know about the club, why they joined the team and what advice they have for individuals interested in playing rugby.

This is Jon Dickinson’s story…

Jon DickinsonI’ve never been one for sports but after clocking in at almost thirty stone at my heaviest, I have been on a fitness journey over the last two years in pursuit of mental and physical well-being. It began when my GP decided to check my HbA1c levels after experiencing a number of symptoms such as low energy levels and an increased thirst. So If you know what that means you can probably guess where this is going…

After being called back to receive my results it was confirmed that my blood glucose level was dangerously high. Although it wasn’t enough to be considered Diabetic, I was diagnosed as Pre-Diabetic and at a high risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes. I was basically told that if I didn’t immediately change the path I was on then things will only get worse and that’s when my GP went into a tirade of what could happen to my body. It was at that moment that the fear of god was put into me and from that day that I vowed to make a change. A change that would set me on to a new and exciting adventure.

So, with the days of spending hours on end watching films behind me, I used NHS resources to build a healthier relationship with food and forced myself to become more active by walking long distances twice a week. I even booked a holiday to Florida to keep me focused on losing weight because I knew the fear of doing the walk of shame after not being able to fit on the rides would be enough to keep my urges to binge in check. That said, it’s easier said than done but I was determined to do everything within my power to reverse the diagnosis and after 9 months of continual hard work and dedication, I was successful.

Having improved my overall fitness, shifting six stone in weight and reversing my Pre-Diabetic diagnosis, I was looking for a new way to keep fit and that’s when I discovered the Vulcans. I saw a post on Facebook promoting the Sheffield Vulcan’s after pride party. Unaware of who the Vulcans were prior to that I checked out their page to discover they were a local inclusive rugby team and that a few members team were hosting a stall at Sheffield Pride. It was a shame that the event was completely rained out. As I was making my way to the park I full on decked it after slipping in the mud and I didn’t want that to be my first impression so to save myself embarrassment I returned home feeling incredibly red-faced.

That night I decided to attend the Vulcan’s After Pride party on my own. It was at that point that I saw an old work colleague of mine and she introduced me to her fiancé Michael Callaghan and he was the first Vulcan I spoke to. He introduced me to Craig Waterhouse and they took the time to listen and answer my questions. I explained my concerns on never playing any sports previously and was assured that as an IGR team the Vulcans were a very supportive team and they’d love to see me attend training and that started my journey.

I’ll always remember my first training session with the Vulcans. I knew that unless I applied myself 100% I was not going to commit so I invested in a full Rugby kit and set off to join the first welcome session at Endcliffe Park. It was at that moment that the heavens opened and it rained so hard that I actually thought training wouldn’t take place. Nonetheless I persevered to Endcliffe with the idea that if I didn’t like it, I didn’t have to go back. I was the first to arrive so I changed into my new rugby boots and waited patiently. One by one the team begun to arrive and that’s when I took my first steps onto the field.

I remember having enjoyed the first welcoming session. Sure, I felt out of my depth but there was no denying how much I was made to feel welcome. In fact, during that session, fellow Vulcans Chris Moore and Richard Mather took me under their wing and took time to explain what was happening play-by-play and it was because of this that I attended the second training session taking a couple of days later. My first week was rounded off with my first team social and my future with the Vulcans was set in stone.

I have come a long way thanks to my fellow Vulcan brothers. I’ve played several games and fallen in love with a sport that’s right for me. I have even been fortunate to be awarded Forward of the Match in my debut game against Hull Roundheads and I have recently joined the Sheffield Vulcan committee where I am responsible for the club’s social media platforms. So, if you had told me two years ago that this is where I was going to be today, I wouldn’t have believed you.

Sheffield Vulcans 2019

Jon’s advice for individuals wanting to play rugby:

Playing Rugby Union has given me the confidence to believe in myself and value my own ability. Sure, it was scary to join a group of talented amateur rugby players but the benefits outweighed the fear in every category. Joining the Vulcans has not only improved my fitness levels but it has changed me forever. Without sounding too dramatic joining the Sheffield Vulcans has saved my life. So if you want my advice I urge anyone who has even the smallest interest in playing the sport to try it (pun intended). I did and have never looked back.

If you want to know more about the Sheffield Vulcans or you are interested in joining us at our next available training session you can join our Facebook group here or you can click here to register as a Vulcan.

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Why I love being a Sheffield Vulcan: Andrew’s Story

With us unable to train at home up at Sheffield Tigers RUFC as a single unit, the Sheffield Vulcans haven’t let the lockdown dampen our team spirit. We’re still working on our fitness by running drills in pods of six around the steel city making sure we’re ready for the upcoming season. So, as we continue training under RFU guidelines, we want to share with you why we love being a member of the Sheffield Vulcans.

That’s why we’ve reached out to a few of our players and asked them to share their story with you about their personal experiences of being a member of the Sheffield Vulcans. We asked them about how they came to know about the club, why they joined the team and what advice they have for individuals interested in playing rugby.

This is Andrew Gibson’s story…

Andrew Gibson

I  hadn’t ever considered that rugby could be a sport for me; I’m not in any way athletic and did not enjoy PE or sport when I was at school.  After discovering the Vulcans through social media, I popped along to a training session with a friend who was wanting to join and after spending a few weeks of watching from the edge of the field, I thought I could give it a go so I did. Talking to the Chairperson at the time, he persuaded me to give it a try (pun?), but I waited a few months until the end of July when the “Welcome Week” sessions were being run.

I was nervous to start, I felt like I was always falling over my own shadow all the time, but working with the team had a very surprising effect. Not only did it improve my physical abilities proving to myself I could do more than I suspected but it has improved my confidence as well as my mental health which is just as important to me.

Everyone on the team is extremely supportive, and they are now like an extended family. If you struggle with a skill, you can always approach one of the more experienced players and they will help you improve, breaking it down in a way that you understand.

Initially, I was only going to join for non-contact rugby, but as I have gone along I have found the confidence to play full games too. Joining the Vulcans has most definitely changed my life and my outlook on sports.

Recently, during the Covid-19 pandemic, the team have all rallied around each other, and aside from our online quiz nights, we are all there on the other end of the phone for each other, whether it be for a chat or to offer support, even to pop to the supermarket if we were isolating!

Andrew’s advice for individuals wanting to play rugby:

Don’t feel pressured into it if you’re new, take it at your own pace. That’s what the Vulcans did for me and that’s why I am still a member today.

We’d like to thank Andrew for his time and for sharing his story.

If you want to know more about the Sheffield Vulcans or you are interested in joining us at our next available training session you can join our Facebook group here or you can click here to register as a Vulcan.

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Why I love being a Sheffield Vulcan: Charlie’s Story

With us unable to train at home up at Sheffield Tigers RUFC as a single unit, the Sheffield Vulcans haven’t let the lockdown dampen our team spirit. We’re still working on our fitness by running drills in pods of six around the steel city making sure we’re ready for the upcoming season. So, as we continue training under RFU guidelines, we want to share with you why we love being a member of the Sheffield Vulcans.

That’s why we’ve reached out to a few of our players and asked them to share their story with you about their personal experiences of being a member of the Sheffield Vulcans. We asked them about how they came to know about the club, why they joined the team and what advice they have for individuals interested in playing rugby.

This is Charlie Winterburn’s story…

Charlie Winterburn

I first found out about the Vulcans on social media. After telling myself I’d go to a session for a few months I finally decided to go down to Endcliffe Park to give it a go back in October. It was one of the best decisions I’ve made in a long time.​ ​

I’d played rugby as a kid all the way up to coming to Sheffield to study archaeology (the Vulcans name took me an embarrassingly long time to get though!). Even though it took until my third year of uni to join and I hadn’t played for a few years, rugby had still been a part of my life. The glory and beauty of the Six Nations every winter; I remember taking non-rugby friends to the pub to watch Wales thrash England (as one of the only Welsh supporters in the pub) and it was amazing.​

I wanted to join a club that would be welcoming and supportive and finally decided to try the Vulcans out for myself. Growing up I played all over the park, but mostly in the front row. After a few years I was forced further away from the scrums and more towards the backs. At the Vulcans my lack of dedicated knowledge for a single position isn’t a limiting factor, although I physically can’t play in the forwards (well I could at 70kgs but it wouldn’t be easy!); the Vulcans are a team of many strengths and there’s no such thing as not being “good enough” only that you try your best.​

Charlie’s advice for individuals wanting to play rugby:

For anyone considering joining, no matter your ability, just do it, just reach out and you’ll be on the pitch in no time having a laugh.

We’d like to thank Charlie for his time and we won’t hold it against you for wearing a league shirt.

If you want to know more about the Sheffield Vulcans or you are interested in joining us at our next available training session you can join our Facebook group here or you can click here to register as a Vulcan.