Liverpool St Helens visit Vagabonds Ladies at Ballafletcher on Friday night to start the ball rolling on Rugby World Cup semi-final weekend.
There have been only a few games played in Women’s NC1 North West this season so form is difficult to assess and, with no league history between the two, there’s no previous form either.
LSH have played one and won one thus far, while Vagas have a 100 percent percent record but the other way round, losing both their opening games.
Vagas have been missing some of their more experienced players for the opening rounds and may have some back for their home debut. Nat Bush and Corinna Daly have been missing in the forwards and their presence will add some know how to the front five.
But the players filling in have been effective: Jess Swales has done a great job at scrum half, with Sophie Henry acting as a battering ram in the centres.
The team continues to graft hard and deserve a result to really kickstart their season and they’re holding an Allianz Girls Inner Warrior rugby camp at 10am on Saturday, so a big result on Friday night should add some spring to the step the following day as they try and recruit the players of the future.
On Saturday afternoon, Vagabonds men take up the cudgels against Birchfield in Counties Four ADM Lancs/Cheshire.
After four games, Vagas currently lie third in the standings while Birchfield have as yet only played two and are in fifth.
The two have met before in the leagues on seven occasions, with Birchfield ahead four to three. The last meeting was way back in 2003 when Vagas won 31-0 but it’s unlikely that any players from that game are still playing now.
Vagas have benefitted from some fairly consistent team selection. The front five has been largely unchanged and the back row of Oldfield, Gascoyne and Pulman has started the last two consecutive matches.
But the back line has seen some personnel and positional changes. A head knock against Colne & Nelson kept Reece McCallister out last Saturday, with Cam Findlay switching to full back to cover.
Also missing last week was Matty Williams at scrum half but he was covered by Will Taylor and, with the team winning away at Chorley, he may yet be retained for this game.
With Ashton-under-Lyne and Colne & Nelson both having home games against strugglers Blackpool and Chorley this weekend, Vagas need maximum points from this game to stay in touch at the top of the standings.
There are two games in the Ravenscroft Manx Shield this Saturday too.
Southern Nomads host Western Vikings at Ballakilley Park, while Castletown face IoM Barbarians at Poulsom Park. After a big defeat to Ramsey last Saturday Nomads need to bounce back and the visit of Western Vikings may give them they chance they need. They still have a shot at the Cheshire Bowl but need to start getting their best 15 out every Saturday to build up some match fitness ahead of their next fixture.
Vikings had a proper test against Castletown last week and took maximum points with a late Nikki Timmins score. They’ll need all that and more though to beat Nomads on their own turf.
The IoM Barbarians is the brainchild of new rugby development officer Kris Hattam. The team takes the Shield numbers up to five which helps with rest breaks. The thinking is that any players not involved in their first teams will come together to form a team.
The personnel will likely change on a weekly basis but it will ensure that everyone gets a run. How the games goes will of course depend on who turns up but it should ensure a 15-a-side game is played.
Friday, October 20:
Women’s NC1 North West
Vagabonds v Liverpool St Helens
@ Ballafletcher ko 7.45pm
Saturday, October 21:
Regional Two North West
Douglas v Burnage @ Port-e-Chee ko 12.30pm
Counties Four ADM Lancs/Cheshire
Vagabonds v Birchfield
@ Ballafletcher ko 2pm
Ravenscroft Manx Shield all ko @ 2.15pm
Castletown v IoM Barbarians @ Poulsom Park
PDMS Southern Nomads v Western Vikings
@ Ballakilley Park