Rugby talk will be in full flow round the Pearson’s Boxing Day dinner table this year - as both Nick, 32, skipper of Sheffield Tigers and cousin Jimmy, 36, captain of Sheffield RUFC, are eager to discuss both sides’ successes at the mid-point stage in the season.
The two captains, whose fathers are brothers, were both appointed to lead their respective clubs this season, and are both pleased with the progress of their clubs.
Both teams have achieved what they set out to in pre-season, with Tigers currently fourth in Nation Three North on 49 points whilst Sheffield are riding high at the top of the division below - North One East, on 59 points.
“When me and Jimmy were younger we dreamed of captaining our sides so it’s such an achievement this season,” said Tigers number eight Nick.
“It’s brilliant that Sheffield rugby is flourishing at the moment. I’ll be in good spirits this holiday as we wanted to be in the top four at this stage of the season and we have had some excellent results. The home one against Sale in particular stands out.”
Jimmy, a former Sheffield Tigers player, added: “The pair of us are very close friends so I’m really looking forward to talking rugby with Nick on Boxing Day when his family will be with mine. Hopefully everyone else won’t get bored of us talking tactics over the dinner table, though!
“At Sheffield we have really clicked as a group of players, despite being a new-look side and right now we are playing some unbeatable rugby. I just hope we keep the momentum going and use it to our advantage.”
However Tigers will go into the Christmas period with a little less spirit than Sheffield, after they suffered a disappointing 23-17 away defeat to top-of-the-table Sandal last weekend, in a game which saw them concede 16 penalties.
The narrow loss was the Sheffield’s side’s first setback in five games, and Nick hopes the players can put the defeat behind them when they face seventh-placed Billingham at home on January 3.
“We were heartbroken with the result because both sides were very closely matched but ultimately we were outgunned in the forward line,” said the former Macclesfield star.
“I think we were trying too hard to get the win and then our decision-making suffered as a consequence. We gave away easy penalties and we needed a little to play with a bit more composure.
“However, the lads can go away and enjoy Christmas because we have still done well so far after a very bad start to the season. We’ll all be back in January hungry for a good result in our first game.”
Their neighbours, Sheffield, go into the festive season full of confidence after their eighth consecutive win last weekend, a 29-9 home victory against Rochdale. The Sheffield side took an early lead with a try from flanker Alex Fawdry followed by four more from Tony Stringwell and a brace from Ben Parker, the win rounded off by Gareth Morley.
“We got off to the best possible start because of Fawdry but it was the defence that won us the game really because Rochdale really came at us,” said the experienced fly-half.
“But we were incredibly disciplined.
“We didn’t expect to be where we are at the start of the season because we are working with a transition side. But the coach Adam Byron has really done a great job and everyone has bought into what his style of play. Fitness has played a really big part in our success and also we are prepared for every single game as soon as we step onto the pitch.
“But the biggest factor is the turn around in our defence. After six games Adam pointed out that we had one of the worst defensive records, but we worked hard on that and now we have one of the best.”
But Sheffield will face a tough test when they return to play in January as they have a series of tough away matches - starting on January 3 when they play sixth-placed Ilkley, who they only just beat in injury time in the reverse fixture.
If Tigers don’t reach the play-offs, the city would be in store for the fierce rivalry to be reignited once again in the 2015/16 North Three Division after eight years of playing in separate leagues.
“Our aim now is to retain the top spot and maintain our unbeaten record at home,” said Jimmy.
“Next season we want to be playing against Tigers in league games so are desperate for that promotion.
“To have that rivalry start up again would do wonders for the sport in the city, although I’d be a little bit nervous on the pitch - hopefully my old team mates won’t massively target me!”
Nick added: “The two teams are great friends as players move to and from each club. But if we play against them next season that bitter rivalry will return. “It’s only a positive, though, and would greatly enhance the game in Sheffield.
“At Tigers we are still in with a shout of the play offs but if that doesn’t happen I’m a bit of a bruiser on the pitch so Jimmy better watch out although I’m sure he’ll have quite a few tricks up his sleeve.”
Though there may not be a rugby scrum over the leftover turkey come Boxing Day as the cousins are “best of friends,” there may be differing views on winning a game of rugby as their styles of captaincy are the complete opposite.
“I tend to be right in the thick of it and lead from the front whereas Jimmy is a great tactician of the game and looks at it from a outsiders’ perspective as well,” said Nick, who represented Cheshire County
Jimmy interjected: “We have very different styles but we take advice off each other. It would be interesting to put our captaincy styles against each other and I hope for the city we will be playing against each other next season.
“For sure, it would be a derby not to be missed.”