Six players to watch this Six Nations

With Wales and Italy kicking off the Six Nations this afternoon, here is a look at the six players from each nation to look out for in the upcoming tournament.

Wales – Louis Rees-Zammit

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With only a handful of first team Gloucester appearances to his name, Louis Rees-Zammit has lit up the rugby pitch this season. Does ‘Rees-Lightening’ ring any bells? The 18 year old will turn 19 just days before the second tournament fixture and is expected to make an appearance within the competition. Rees-Zammit has scored half a century of points for Gloucester and has scored at least one try on every first team starting appearance via one – an impressive statistic for any player.

His fast pace and ability to accelerate quickly with ball in hand is a skill that Wales will look to feature for their games, helping them open up their attacking rugby. Although Rees-Zammit isn’t expected to start in many games, nor feature too heavily when selected, he could be the vital player that Wales will need to inject some pace into their fixtures.

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France – Demba Bamba

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Another young player set to feature heavily this Six Nations, is Demba Bamba. The 21 year old prop missed out on the majority of France’s World Cup games due to sustaining a thigh injury and will be wanting to make a good impression during the upcoming tournament.

Bamba was one of the three players promoted into the senior squad from their 2018 U20 world champion side for the 2019 World Cup period. The powerful tighthead prop’s ability to make valuable meters with ball in hand is one of the reasons he has been on the French national sides radar for many seasons. He is a player that could have a long international career ahead of him and make a serious impact into the way that France play.

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Italy – Jake Polledri

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Now a fully fledged international, Polledri has made a huge impact on the international stage for Italy. The young Italian, who plays for Gloucester is marketed as one of the best ball carriers in the Northern Hemisphere. Stepping through the defence and powering through gaps is something that comes natural to Polledri’s game and will be an asset to Italy during the Six Nations.

The flanker broke records during the 2019 World Cup, beating 14 defenders against Canada in their pool fixture. This is the highest number of defenders beaten in a single game since the tournament began in 1987. Expect to see big things from the developing flanker this Six Nations.

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Scotland – Huw Jones

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The 26 year old centre was extremely unlucky to be omitted from the Scotland World Cup squad last year. Jones has been influential in Scotland’s staggered success in recent years, in his first two international seasons, he scored ten tries in just a season and a half including featuring heavily in the Scots Calcutta Cup victory in 2018.

Now having more game time with Glasgow, the centre is set to have an impressive tournament this spring. With 23 caps to his name and 50 points scored for his country he is an extremely talented centre who has the ability to cover the back three, which could become very beneficial to Scotland if injuries occur.

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England – Will Stuart

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The Bath prop has had an extremely good first season with Bath after moving from Wasps last season. Having worked his way up the academy ladder, Stuart has made an impressive impact on the Gallagher Premiership since he made his senior contract a few seasons ago.

The tight-head is a hugely talented prospect for both club and country. His strong ball carrying skills and ability to break down the first line of defence is something that England will surely look to capitalise on for not only this tournament but for many to come. He could definitely be a valuable asset to England’s long term plans.

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Ireland – Billy Burns

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One might recognise Burns to be more situated to England given the amount of time he spent in the Gallagher Premiership before flying over to Ulster in 2018. The Englishman qualifies to represent Ireland through a paternal grandparent. He is one of eight uncapped players called up into the camp by new head coach, Andy Farrell.

Burns could offer a new dimension to Ireland’s playing game through his creative in play decisions and ability to carry the ball to the defenders and take the occasional risk in the hope it pays off. His quick thinking and clever playing has already benefited Ulster and could give Ireland the edge they need in the tournament following a disappointing World Cup campaign.

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Talking points from Gloucester’s defeat to Bristol Bears

Gloucester suffered a 34-16 defeat to Bristol Bears on Saturday afternoon after multiple penalties cost them a game in which Bristol ran away with the victory. Gloucester now have a two week rest before facing current top of the league Exeter on the evening of Valentines day. So what do Gloucester need to do to get their cupid’s arrow back?

Good resetting defence, but little cover out wide

Although their penalty count was high, Gloucester’s defence reset itself well when Bristol were attacking. The Cherry and Whites quick resetting defence saved them on multiple occasions when Bristol were looking really strong in attack, especially in the second half. Bristol used Nathan Hughes on the wing as a strong ball carrier for the majority of the game, something that Gloucester found hard to cover. Louis Rees-Zammit and Tom Marshall tried to cover their respective wings but there was a lot of space out wide for Bristol to exploit. Gloucester needed to put in a tremendous shift defensively, given that Bristol had over 60% possession and territory. They did well in the first half, ensuring that they prevented Bristol from getting over the try line, but the Cherry and Whites started to tire in the second 40, which was reflected in the way that they defended in the red zone. 

Ill-discipline still costing Gloucester 

This has been a problem for Gloucester all season with many games being lost on the penalty count. In the first half, Gloucester conceded seven penalties, compared to Bristol’s three. Simple penalties were given away throughout the match for discipline offences that should have been mandatory for Gloucester. Arguably, some of referee Karl Dickson’s decisions didn’t favour Gloucester and they were unlucky on a few occasions. Both penalty counts were high, with Bristol conceding eight penalties to Gloucester’s ten. The penalty count has constantly been an area this season that Gloucester have struggled with and have failed to have a consistent period of games with a particularly low penalty count against them. Today, was harder than previous fixtures for Gloucester given the lack of ball they possessed, but their ill-discipline is something that they must work on during the break of fixtures. 

Captain Lewis Ludlow share his thoughts on Bristol

The Cherry and Whites are starting to suffer without Cipriani 

The loss of Danny Cipriani is becoming ever more apparent in the way that Gloucester are playing. When they had the ball, their direction was limited and creative thinking was lacking. Cipriani, who is still out injured for at least another month could always offer Gloucester a creative flare to inject some pace into their attacking play. Although Gloucester’s possession was minimal and their in-play kicking was kept to a minimum. With Owen Williams set to be away on international duty with Wales for the Six Nations period, Gloucester turn to young fly-half Lloyd Evans. The 25-year-old has only made 25 first team performances since the 2013/14 season and still has a lot to learn if he is to take the place of Cipriani when he is injured and Owen Williams when he is on international duty. Last season Gloucester really struggled when Cipriani had an injury last season and they need to be careful not to fall back into the poor run of games they had without him last season. That said, given the little ball Gloucester managed to retain today, even Cipriani wouldn’t have helped them. 

Gloucester need to go back to basics will keep possession  

Gloucester must start to retain their possession if they are to start consistently winning matches and being a true competitor in the Premiership. Their possession today was 38% however, the time in which they had the ball was minimal. They have started to lack consistent forward play, where the forwards are making small meters and protecting the ball at all costs. Today, when Gloucester did have the ball, they found it hard to retain that possession due to many attacking penalties going against them. Looking at some of Gloucester’s best performances, they have all come from the pack working together and protecting the ball to open up some spaces for the backs to exploit the opposition’s crumbling defence. 

Gloucester Rugby player ratings v Bristol Bears

Gloucester fell against Bristol Bears this afternoon at Ashton Gate as they lost 34-16. It was a game that was littered with discipline issues and inconsistencies throughout.

Find out how I rated the Gloucester players in their defeat for Gloucestershire Live.

When Katy met Harry

I have finally had time to reflect and take in the experience of presenting my first, and hopefully not my last, ‘In conversation with.’ I could not have asked for a better first guest in, Mr Harry Redknapp.

It is times like these when I realise how fortunate I have been to have received such amazing opportunities throughout my time studying Sports Journalism at University of Gloucestershire. 

Myself, Harry, the other panellists and my lecturer before the show

If you regularly read my posts, then you are aware that football is nowhere near my speciality. So, when an email entered into my inbox looking for people to audition to interview Harry Redknapp I was, to say the least, slightly apprehensive. 

I decided to push myself to apply and hoped for the best. If it wasn’t for my lecturer reassuring me in my ability and that despite my football knowledge being limited I would still have a very good chance, I don’t think I would have applied. 

Next thing I know, I am reading every book ever written on Harry Redknapp, every article published and watching a magnitude of TV shows that the former Tottenham manager has appeared on. I got through the first stage of the process and then the auditions and finally, I had been selected with three other students to take part in the event. 

At this point, I was still under the impression that my lecturer was going to be presenting the event until he informed me, that I was now the presenter. I don’t think I have ever been so nervous or shocked.

The scripts were written and rehearsed, much to the delight of my housemates who had to listen to my opening paragraphs every night until the morning of November 6th arrived… 

There was definitely a buzz when I got to university, everyone involved was excited and high on adrenaline. We went through the sound and camera checks, as I hoped that my ear piece wouldn’t fall out mid question. To avoid the latter happing, some fabric tape from the first aid box became very useful!… Note to self, purchase your own ear piece before going into a presenting career!  

To eat or not to eat, that was the question. We had a lovely lunch prepared for us in the green room, but neither me or my fellow students could bring ourselves to eat a sandwich until Harry came into the room. We were too scared at the thought of being half way through a cheese sandwich when the reigning I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here champion came in. 

Final version of the scripts ready to go

Of course, we had nothing to worry about. Harry is, just like you see him on I’m a celebrity or at the side of the football pitch – lovely. “Ask me anything” he said when we were introduced to him as the four students about to quiz him about his life. 

Everyone was in their seats; the stage was set and all we needed was our guest. As I recited my introduction, I caught the eye of my housemates who, after hearing the script over 100 times were mouthing the words back to me. After a quick smile and deep breath, we got the show on the road.

“Ladies and gentlemen, Mr Harry Redknapp”. Just like that, Harry waltzed into the room and chatted to us for the next hour. What did I ever have to be nervous about? 

And we are live!

The whole experience was such a privilege. Whilst still at university finishing my Sports Journalism degree, I was able to interview one of the most recognised people in Britain. 

The team I had around me were brilliant, the Television Society who filmed the show were outstanding. It was wonderful to see a group of students across a variety of courses putting on such an impressive event.

The production and presenting team after the show

Throughout my time at university, my lecturers have always emphasised the importance of taking opportunities and making the most of them. 

Presenting ‘In conversation with Harry Redknapp’ helped me to understand that even if the sport is out of my comfort zone, I have the ability to push myself to do the most that I can to achieve the best in me.   

Watch ‘In Conversation with Harry Redknapp on Youtube’

Gloucester Rugby player ratings v Montpellier

Louis Rees-Zammit pressed his claims further for a Wales call-up ahead of the Six Nations with his display in Gloucester’s win over Montpellier.

However, there were many individual performances that caught the eye in an impressive team performance at Kingsholm.

Here’s how I rated every Gloucester player from the win for Gloucestershire Live.

Gloucester Rugby player ratings v Bath rugby

Gloucester started the new year with a 29-15 win over Bath in the Premiership.

Jason Woodward scored the only try of the first half, converted by Danny Cipriani, with Freddie Clarke, Gerbrandt Grobler and Ruan Ackermann crossing in the second half, while Billy Twelvetrees kicked seven points

Here’s how I rated every Gloucester player out of 10 for Gloucestershire Live.

Gloucester Rugby player ratings v Northampton Saints

Louis Rees-Zammit starred again as he scored three tries in Gloucester’s 33-26 defeat at Northampton.

Here is how I rated every Gloucester player out of 10 for Gloucestershire Live

Gloucester Rugby v Worcester Warriors match report

Gloucester left it late, but finally break their losing streak on the clubs 500th Premiership game as they go into Christmas with a 36-6 win.

Five tries within 20 minutes saw Gloucester turn around a miserable first half performance and run away with the win after finally finding their feet. They could have had seven tries, but two disallowed in the first half saw them settle with five. 

Winger, Louis Rees-Zammit showed how crucial he is proving to the Cherry and Whites after being involved in three of the tries and picking up the man of the match award.

The five second half tries were the difference between the two sides, as Gloucester will be thankful of their late victory as they finally have another win on the table and move up to third place.

Worcester opened the scoring through Duncan Weir with a penalty in front of the posts, as the visitors controlled the game early on in the match. 

England scrum half Willi Heniz made his first appearance since the World Cup but was welcomed back to Kingsholm with a disallowed try. He chased Louis Rees-Zammit’s kick ahead, but was caught offside. 

The home side had another opportunity to push over the line but were disallowed their second try of the evening as No.8 Ben Morgan dropped the ball. 

Both fly-halves traded missed penalty kicks in the play that followed, as both sides found themselves giving penalties away.  

Gloucester had three attacking penalty opportunities late in the first half, but failed to capitalise on any. Worcester were the ones who came away points through a penalty of their own after Franco Mostert knocked the ball on at try time. 

Worcester’s defence held strong to deny Gloucester of any points, until the final second of the first half, when Danny Cipriani levelled the scores with a penalty kick.

Worcester’s Ryan Mills found himself on the referees naughty list in the second half, after he was yellow carded for being off his feet at the breakdown. 

Gloucester finally found the try-line without any assistance from the officials as Ruan Ackermann scored under the posts to put a Christmas cracker in the game, with Cipriani adding the extras. 

Soon after, Rees-Zammit showed his excellence, as a beautiful pass found the hands of Chris Harris who scored the second try of the evening as things started to get a bit livelier.

The youngster proved his talent moments later as the momentum started to shift as he went over in the corner to score the Cherry and Whites third of the evening.

Ben Morgan scored the all-important bonus point try after phases of attacking pressure by the Cherry and Whites broke the Worcester defence to light up the Kingsholm crowd. 

Winger, Rees-Zammit scored his brace on the stroke of full time, running in the final try out wide as he completed the Christmas try festivities and with the successful conversion from Cipriani, Gloucester have themselves an early Christmas present. 

Gloucester Rugby player ratings v Connacht

Gloucester Rugby beat Connacht 26-17 in the Heineken Champions Cup at Kingsholm today.

Tom Marshall scored two tries in a man of the match performance for the Cherry and Whites.

Here is how I rated the Gloucester players for Gloucestershire Live.

UGRFC 1s v Hartpury 3s match report

UGRFC made the short trip to Hartpury University this afternoon with the hope of making it two away wins on the bounce, following their fantastic display against Brighton last week. 

It wasn’t to be for the boys in blue who showcased their new kit for the first time this season, as they lost 41-25, but secured the bonus point with the last try of the game. 

This article is published on UniVersal, to read more, please click here.

UGRFC confident that a win in the new league will come

After gaining promotion into BUCS Prem B and winning their fourth consecutive varsity fixture the University of Gloucestershire’s Men’s Rugby Union’s start to the season has been far from replicating the last. The newly promoted side have struggled in their opening few rounds, but are confident in their sides ability and development. 

This article is published on UniVersal. To read more, please click here.

Gloucester Rugby player ratings v Toulouse

Gloucester started their Heienken Champions Cup campaign with a 25-20 defeat at home to Toulouse.

Joe Simpson scored two wonder tries in the first half as they led 20-9 but the French champions produced an impressive comeback to claim the win.

Here’s how I rated the Gloucester players for Gloucestershire Live.