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VULCANS COLLAB WITH CROSSPOOL ALE MAKERS SOCIETY

IF YOU LIKE HIGH QUALITY HAND-CRAFTED BREWS AND IPAS THEN WE’VE GOT A TREAT FOR YOU…

Our 4th Birthday is just two weeks away and to celebrate we are thrilled to announce a special collaboration with the amazing folks over at Crosspool Ale Makers Society to launch our very own Vulcan branded Lager and IPA.

FORGED BY FIRE is our 4% Vulcan Lager. It is available in 440ml cans available in single cans, 6, 12 or 24 packs.

The Sheffield Vulcans RUFC were formed in August 2017 as part of IGR (International Gay Rugby) and their Spirit of Rugby Campaign to provide an all-inclusive space to give LGBTQIA+ community to come together to give a Rugby a try.

As Vulcans, our team name is actually inspired by Vulcan, the God of Fire in Roman mythology. But what does the God of Fire have to do with Sheffield? Well, if you look up at the Sheffield Town Hall, you’ll see a statue of him standing with his arm aloft, holding a blacksmith’s hammer which is an obvious nod to Sheffield’s steel industry.

 

Gluten Free (<20ppm) and suitable for Vegans, ‘Forged by Fire’ is a celebration of the day the Vulcans was born and you can join us by raising a can to celebrate the many years to come!

Contains: Water, barley, flaked maize, hops, yeast.

MADE OF STEEL is our 5% Vulcan IPA. It is available in 440ml cans available in single cans, 6, 12 or 24 packs.

Sheffield is often referred to as the ‘Steel City’ as a result of it’s international reputation for steel producing in the 19th Century and its population boomed during the Industrial Revolutions. As trailblazers, innovations developed in Sheffield include stainless steel and played a key role in the War effort.

Steel is a an alloy made up of iron and is know for its strength and fracture resistance. Being a strong team always, us Vulcans pride ourselves on being Made of Steel. We are strong. We support one another. We will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder as we go to war with every opponent we face.

 

Gluten Free (<20ppm) and suitable for Vegans, ‘Made of Steel’ is a celebration of our support and strength. Support for one another and strength as a team as we move into the next exciting chapter as one team.

Contains: Water, barley, oats, hops, yeast.

What makes our Beer and IPA different from the rest?

Well, they both taste amazing – there’s no denying that! However, buying our lager and IPA also means that you’ll be doing three very important things:

  1. You’ll be supporting the Sheffield Vulcans, Sheffield’s first ever fully inclusive Rugby Union team.
  2. You’ll be supporting Crosspool Ale Makers Society, one of our favourite independent businesses.
  3. You’ll be helping us to raise money for a charity that we care a lot about, Shelter.

Shelter is a registered charity that campaigns to end homelessness and bad housing in Great Britain. It gives advice, information and advocacy to people in need, and tackles the root causes of bad housing by lobbying government and local authorities for new laws and policies to improve the lives of homeless and badly housed people.

For more information about Shelter and what they do click here.

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CAPTAIN’S REPORT: YAS RUGBY V SHEFFIELD VULCANS (09/06/21)

On Wednesday 9th June, the Vulcans returned to play our first match of 2021. YAS certainly challenged our defense and the end result was 76-5 to the Yorkshire Ambulance Service. However, it’s not all bad news. The team performed incredibly well and remained strong throughout the game.

So, without further delay, here’s a few words direct from our captain, Mark Morgan:

“This Wednesday we made the long awaited and much anticipated return to the field against YAS RUFC in a fundraising game.

After months and months of hard work and slog it was a joy to have this fixture to look forward to, and it was easy to see the excitement build in the group running up to the game.  The training in the weeks prior to the game has been great and i can’t thank the coaching team enough for all their time and effort!

Any apprehension from not playing in so long soon left when Michael Hudson went down with what appeared to be a serious injury,  it was just like old times, nothing changes! (don’t worry he was fine,  that never changes either).

The game was split into 4 periods of 20 minutes which allowed us to rotate players on and off. We held our own throughout the match and in the initial 20 minutes I believe we had the upper hand. Fitness,  organisation and experience came into play as the game went on and was the biggest difference between the 2 teams in my opinion.  The best thing about that,  all those things are easily rectified on the training pitch!

In what was an incredibly physical encounter I’d like to highlight that the team stood up to opposition and did not take a step back at any point. I can’t think of many missed tackles or shirking of responsibilities. Everyone helped their mate get the job done out there. True Vulcan spirit!

Shout out goes to people such as Ben, Shibby and Andrew, among others,  who although haven’t the most experience in contact rugby threw everything they had at much bigger opponents last night. Owen and Steve as well who put in epic shifts throughout helping everyone.

We had an incredible amount of players looking to engage in the match and expand on their experience which is great to see. Not only that but the support we received from the side-lines was incredible and I speak for all the guys when I say we were so grateful,  it really does help us push that little harder.

It was easy to see that YAS are an experienced and well drilled team from the outset. With our squad made up of varying levels of experience it would have been easy for us to wilt a little under the pressure, but to a man each and every member of the squad dealt to whatever came their way.

Without a moment’s hesitation I can say I was proud to be playing alongside each Vulcan on the night.

If we carry on putting in the hard yards on the training ground there is no doubt this team can go a long way! I look forward to leading the team to those heights!”

We’d like to thank Mark for his match report and we’d also like to thank our coaches Andrea Dobson and Kate Williams for their support during the game.

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Social Media Blackout

The Sheffield Vulcans is joining other sports bodies, clubs and companies in a social media boycott this weekend as part of a drive to tackle online hate.

The move, which is supported by our members and supporters as well as many other sports clubs up and down the country, will see our social media accounts fall silent from 3pm tomorrow (Friday 30 April) until just before midnight on Monday (3 May).

We also call on our fellow IGR clubs to consider following suit in showing support.

As an IGR team we pride ourselves on providing a warm and welcoming environment for anyone interested in playing Rugby Union. Our commitment to inclusion and diversity is of paramount importance and we firmly believe that all social media platforms should be safe and welcoming spaces for all.

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GUINNESS SIX NATIONS ONES TO WATCH XV

In his Autumn Nations Predictions blog last year, Charlie picked his players to watch from each team in the Nations Cup. After receiving good feedback, and hot on the heels of his recent Guinness Six Nations 2021 Predictions blog, we are thrilled to welcome Charlie back to share more wisdom.

Hi Everyone. My players to watch for each team in the Nations Cup got some good feedback, so I thought I’d include a similar feature for this article in a starting XV format. These players are not the big names we expect to have strong performances, but some slightly lower profile members who I think could really make a mark this tournament.

Without further ado, here are my picks:

With the loss of Mako Vunipola to injury and Joe Marler for family reasons, Baby Rhino becomes England’s only senior loose head in the squad. His power and athleticism is frightening and his highlights reel impressive, but making a 20-minute impact off the bench is very different to leading the line through a tournament. If he can step up to the mark, I see him quickly taking on Tendai Mtawira’s mantle of best loose head in the world.

A veteran test player, the sheriff has been out for some time with injuries. Wales’ set piece has struggled hugely in his absence, and his return in February could shift the balance of their fortunes with his leadership and experience.

Ferguson has significantly improved as a player in nearly every area of his game. His scrummaging is powerful, he carries well in the loose and is even prone to the odd comedy try. Along with his partner Sutherland, he is becoming pivotal to a weapon Scotland have long been seeking in the tight.

Henderson could be the missing link for Ireland. While his Leinster counterpart James Ryan (deservedly) claims more plaudits, his success has come at the omission of Henderson due to their playing similarities. However, I believe the pair could be integral to matching the physicality of England and France this tournament. Look out for him smashing rucks, tackles and carries alike for 80 minutes.

After announcing himself to the international rugby scene in the early 2010s, poor form and injuries have gradually phased big Richie Gray out of the Scotland team, with his brother Jonny becoming one of their most important players. However he is back to his galavanting self in the Pro14, and I would love to see him recapture the international form that saw him picked for the 2013 British and Irish Lions Tour.

This guy’s got a big future. He was part of the second-string French side that nearly dismantled England last December and is waiting for his opportunity to establish himself as a regular starter. Intelligent, strong, athletic, there’s not much this guy can’t do and this is being shown increasingly for club and country. As a natural open side, he will struggle to displace Ollivon, but I can still see him slotting in alongside the skipper and Aldritt to form a formidable back row this year.

With the injuries to star player Jake Polledri and the dependable Braam Steyn, Sebastian Negri will be tasked with bolstering the Italian back row this tournament. A native Zimbabwean, he has followed in the footsteps of compatriot David Pocock to represent his resident nation in international rugby. A hard tackler and break down menace, Negri’s performances could prove vital to Italy’s success this tournament.

Sam Simmonds has been the best number 8 in Europe for over a year and…. Wait he’s not in the squad? Not even the f**king SHADOW SQUAD??

Navidi has been sorely missed by the Welsh team. His industrious carrying and relentless tackling make him a thorn in the side of any opposition. His work rate and physical presence will provide firepower to a team who have looked sub-par up front this last year.

Since the retirement of Greig Laidlaw following the 2019 World Cup, Ali Price has been Townsend’s first choice scrum half. Whilst always a live wire, Price has added a maturity to his game at Glasgow that is seeping into his international form. The service he provides Russell will dictate Scotland’s tempo this tournament and I see him stepping up to the challenge.

Whilst hardly an unknown player, I feel that George Ford was not awarded the praise he deserved in 2020. Owen Farrell will always dominate the headlines, but Ford was one of England’s best players with his game management and pass variety providing the platform for the team to operate on. A big factor in England’s success, watch out for his quiet brilliance.

Wheels. This kid has them. After burning Premiership defences for fun with Gloucester, Rees-Zammit has made the step up to test rugby with relative ease. He has not shown his full abilities yet, and I’m itching to see a chance for him to really stretch his legs this time.

I’ve always been a big fan of this guy and I really hope he can rediscover his form from a couple of years prior. Often referred to as a simple crash ball twelve, Aki combines his Samoan power with better hands, pace and feet than people give him credit for. A strong ball player and stronger defender, Ireland look assured in midfield with his presence.

After turning down white for blue, Bath centre Cam Redpath could be set to make his Scotland debut this tournament. A well-rounded centre with good skills to accompany his athleticism, Redpath could prove a serious asset to Townsend’s ambitious back line.

Eligible for both England and Italy, Eddie Jones has not missed the opportunity to snaffle up in-form Odogwu for his first cap. While he is unlikely to displace tried and tested starters Jonny May or Anthony Watson, his scintillating Premiership form indicates we could be in for some very entertaining cameos off the bench.

This guy is silk. He’s quick, composed, has great positional sense and an absolute canon of a right boot. Making his debut last year, he marked it with an 85m clearance kick and a win over the English, and has just kept on improving. Expect another strong outing from the tidy youngster.

There you have it. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this. If you disagree feel free to let me know your thoughts.

Charlie

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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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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.