It’s all change for Sheffield RUFC’s first XV. Despite maintaining the core of last year’s successful side, the rugby team has a new look to the line-up.
Several key players have retired, and have been replaced by young talent - either players back from other clubs and universities, or new recruits from the local area.
These include Jonny France, Andy Hodgson and David Bradford who have all played their part in helping the Abbeydale-based side push up to second in the North One East Division, after winning four of their first six games with five-point wins.
Last Saturday, Sheffield suffered a 24-22 defeat at the hands of Wheatley Hills but Jimmy Pearson, the first XV Captain, believes the result was a minor blip and is confident the young side can bounce back against mid-table Bradford and Bingley at home this week.
“Apart from a couple of old boys we have a very exciting young team and with so many changes over the summer I think we’ve had a good start to the season,” he said.
“We need to put another run of wins together and keep the pressure on at the top of the league. Against Wheatley Hills last week, especially in the second half, we didn’t play to our potential. We are scoring some brilliant tries but we need to tighten up our defence - this is something we can rectify, though.”
He added: “Bradford and Bingley will be tough as you can never underestimate any side in this league.
“But we are very focused and we have the players that can really do damage to their scoreboard.”
The ladies side have also had a successful start to the campaign, beating Manchester at home and trouncing Hull Ladies 88-0 away last week.
Led by captain Charlotte Evans, the women’s team are hoping to go one better than last year - after winning their league, but narrowly missing out on promotion in a play-off game.
“Losing that vital game last year was massively disappointing,” Evans said.
“But we are thrilled with the start we have made this year, and will hopefully be pushing for promotion again.”
Meanwhile, Sheffield Tigers suffered a knock-back in their push for promotion last Saturday with a 21-13 defeat at the hands of second placed Firwood Waterloo in the National three North Division.
The Tigers Head Coach Thiu Barnard was disappointed with the side’s performance as they slipped to sixth in the league, and has urged players to show more passion in this weekend’s away game against 12th-placed Wirral.
“Technically we weren’t very good on Saturday and lacked the ambition to win the game,” he said.
“We made Waterloo’s life easy by turning over most of our possession far too easily.
“We missed far too many tackles and gave them easy exits from their own half. Our lineouts weren’t good and winning 45 per cent just simply isn’t good enough!
“We need to get the hunger back and stick to structures and game plan this weekend. Defensively we need to make our tackles and win the collision .
“We are by far a better team and we know we have to improve again to compete with the top teams in the league.
“And I’m expecting a massive performance from the team to put things right by giving Wirral a hiding.”