This weekend will give us Rugby Union’s biggest and best annual international competition as the Six Nations returns to our screens with Ireland facing reigning champions Wales on Saturday lunch time in Dublin followed by Scotland against England later that same evening and on the following day in Paris, France, take on Italy to complete the opening round of this year’s fixtures.
Nottingham linked rugby stars have of course featured for England in the famous competition (which first originated from the Home Championships and into the five nations) during the past, with the likes of Dusty Hare, Gary Rees, Neil Back, Chris Oti, Brian Moore, Simon Hodgkinson, Rob Andrews and many more, representing proudly their country against their nearest and dearest rivals, as well as the green and white of our very own Nottingham RFC.
World cup winner Back, started his career at Nottingham in 1988 and played 38 times before famously joining Leicester where he would go on to become one of the greatest openside flankers in the game.
Gary Rees a one club man born in Long Eaton, playing 307 times for Nottingham (from 1980-1997) also went on to enjoy four successive five nations championships in the late eighties whilst at Ireland Avenue.
Chris Gray was part of the Scotland team that won the ‘Grand Slam’ and 1990 Five Nations Championship, he moved to the Midlands to become a dentist in the mid 1980’s and like Rees, was part of a Nottingham team that came a ‘lick of paint away’ from reaching the Pilkington Cup Final in 1991.
Gray stating of his Scotland career which started in the then five nations “I’ll never forget my debut against Wales. I enjoyed the whole experience – apart from getting whacked in the ribs by Phil Davies every time I jumped.”
The most recent performances in the Six Nations (this side of the Millennium at least) involving ex-Archers, include that of Alex Corbisiero and Tom Youngs.
Corbisiero, a New York born Loosehead prop that played just four games whilst on loan at Nottingham in 2007, went on to feature in all five games in England’s 2011 championship success.
Youngs played for Nottingham 55 times whilst on loan from Leicester Tigers. He went on to play 28 times for England (with his brother Ben having well over 100 caps) and was part of the Triple Crown winning team of 2014.
This year, the 2022 edition, Nottingham will feature not one or two but three players in the England squad that link back with history to the city. Joe Heyes is born in the city and went to the Toothill School in Bingham, aged 22 his terrific performances with Leicester Tigers in recent seasons have already earned him two caps in 2021, he’ll be looking for more over the next couple of months as England aim to reclaim the title which they last won in 2020.
Heyes will be joined by Leicester Tigers team-mate Ollie Chessum who makes the squad named by Eddie Jones for the first ever time.
21-year-old Chessum who played for Newark as a youngster, impressed so much at Lady Bay during his first season in 2019/20, Leicester Tigers came straight in for the 6ft7in forward after just eleven Nottingham appearances made and the Lincolnshire born star has since featured in the majority of Tigers’ games this season, with the Welford Road outfit currently top of the Gallagher Premiership.
Eddie Jones stating of Chessum’s inclusion “He’s a young back rower/lock and we see him in the same sort of mould as Courtney Lawes so we’re looking for someone with a similar skill set. He’s got good lineout skills, can carry, can hit and he’s got plenty of energy and vigour.”
Finally, joining Heyes and Chessum with links to Nottingham is Alfie Barbearry who played just one game on loan for the Archers in 2019.
Barbearry a flanker/no8 from Wasps has represented England U18,19 & 20’s and like Chessum has been included in Eddie Jones full squad for the first ever time.
Ahead of the weekend, England Head Coach Jones stating “The Six Nations is going to be the most competitive we’ve ever seen. All the countries performed well in the autumn, so we need to be at our best and improve with every game.”
A reminder before it all kicks off on Saturday, Nottingham Rugby will be in action at Lady Bay on Friday night as a perfect prequel to the Six Nations against Jersey Reds in the RFU Championship. Kick off is at 7:45pm with the team already, announced by Head Coach Craig Hammond below:
Starting Team: Toby WIlliams, Archie Vanes, Ben Betts, Scott Hall, Callum Allen, George Cox, Nathan Tweedy, Josh Poullet, Matt Marsh, Morgan Bunting, Harry Graham, Will Simonds, Charlie Thacker, David Williams, Jack Stapley.
Replacements: Jake Farnworth, Aniseko Sio, Josh McNulty, Jack Ramshaw, Lewis Barrett, Michael Stronge, Sam Hollingsworth, James Peachey.
Tickets are still available for Friday night so get down and attend the rugby action trentside at the Bay before settling back for a weekend of international quality which will hopefully involve some of our own grown and known.
*Main image @NottinghamRugby England international pending Ollie Chessum in Nottingham colours.