Weekend Rugby Preview: Dubai 7s, European Champions and Challenge Cup

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ECRC TrophiesNEW YORK, NY – This weekend witnesses the return of  European Rugby Champions Cup and Challenge.  This time, there is very little for the tournaments to share the limelight with.

The other major event going on, on the other side of the globe, is the Dubai 7s , a large international 7s tournament. These tournaments cover all the international and domestic action there is to talk about this weekend.  

As usual though, before we get into the fixtures,  we must cover the all of the week’s Player Transactions,  USA Rugby News and World Rugby News Notes. No more needs to be said; let’s get to to the Weekend Rugby Preview:

Transactions: Exeter Chiefs announced that fly-half Gareth Steenson re-signed with the club for three years… Gloucester‘s Junior World Champion fly-half Billy Burns (Freddy’s kid brother) has agreed a new deal, tying him to the club for the foreseeable future. Under the leadership of David Humphreys as Director of Rugby, Gloucester have been busy re-signing current players on their payroll. They finally added some from the outside, by signing English qualified Kiwi and Super Rugby Chiefs utility back Tom Marshall, who will join them for the 2015/16 season…Another Kiwi moving north will be Auckland lock Jack Whetton, who signed for Leicester Tigers as injury cover until the end of the current season, with an option to extend the deal…Harlequins announced the signing of Italy scrum-half Tito Tebaldi from the Ospreys for the remainder of the season.

Munster announced that Stephen Archer, Dave Foley, Felix Jones and Dave Kilcoyne all signed contract extensions with the province and the Ireland RFURoger Wilson signed a new two-year contract with Ulster that will keep him with the province until the summer of 2017…Welsh region, the Scarlets have signed Auckland center Hadleigh ParkesJosh Strauss and Leone Nakarawa signed two-year contract extensions with the Glasgow Warriors…The Pro12 Board announced the appointment of former Wales international and British and Irish Lion Gerald Davies as Independent Chairman, who will take over from Andy Irvine.

Diego Dominguez is set to replace Bernard Laporte as Toulon boss at the end of the season according to L’Equipe, while Midi Olympique has said Oyonnax coaching duo Joe El-Abd and Frederic Charrier are following departing Christophe Urios to CastresSouth African lock Bakkies Botha may push back his playing retirement until November next year because of the Rugby World Cup and the large number of internationals that Toulon will lose to the World Cup… The town of Bordeaux will host this year’s Top 14 semi-finals, at the Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux, which has been constructed ahead of Euro 2016France winger Maxime Médard signed a four-year contract extension through 2019 with Toulouse. And Jonathan Wisniewski has today extended his stay at Grenoble for another three seasons

Super Rugby Melbourne Rebels prop Laurie Weeks signed a two-year contract extension through til 2017. The Blue Bulls have announced the retirement of front row forward Frik Kirsten due to an ongoing neck injury.

USA Rugby News and Updates: Stars Rugby released the roster for the  Tobago International Rugby Sevens Tournament on December 13 -14 2014.

Jack Kyle
Jack Kyle

World Rugby News: Yours truly felt a clip on my ear while writing this piece. I know I normally say we as I represent the staff when I do the preview but Declan Yeats wanted me to acknowledge to all and sundry my error. In my coverage of the preview and recap last weekend, we forgot to acknowledge the passing of the greatest Irish fly-half ever, Jack Kyle. The title of greatest ever is not just a RWU claim as it is widely acknowledged that Kyle was ahead of his time in ability and talent. So revered and respected was Kyle for his talent, and his humanitarian work as doctor once he retired from the game, that several current internationals and some legends attended his funeral.

It has been confirmed that two-time Heineken Cup champions Toulon have accepted the challenge to play the Super Rugby outfit Sharks on Thursday, 5 February 2015 at Stade Mayol in Toulon.

WEEKEND FIXTURES:
Dubai 7s: The  HSBC Sevens World Series fires up again, in the Middle East party place of Dubai. This is an especially big tournament as it hosts both the men’s and women’s legs of the 7s series. So to prepare you, our fans, we have two previews of the USA teams and their respective tournaments.  Please click here for the women and click here for the men.

European Champions Cup: Things are about to get serious in the European (Rugby) Champions Cup. The pivotal week 3 has been reached and if a side is 1-2 or winless after this, it is time to start trying to play for a place in the Challenge Cup knockout rounds, or just forget about Europe all together because all hopes of progression will be put on life support. On the scene to present a precision preview as exact as a doctor with a scalpel is our East Midlands Man Nick Hall. Please see his preview featuring the Six Pack’s picks when it is published.

European Challenge Cup: The red-headed step-child of the Champions’ Cup is the European Challenge Cup. It is a second tier tournament but has become a great tournament for showcasing the mid-table European clubs with real ambition. These are the clubs that aim to become powers in Europe and eventually enter the Champions’ Cup competition. On Thursday, Exeter continued their fine form in all competitions and put newly promoted Top 14 side La Rochelle to the sword.

As for the matches going on this weekend:
Grenoble welcomes Italian side Rovigo, Stade Francais makes the dreary trip to Newcastle and Brive clashes with Oyonnax in an all Top 14 affair to close out Friday. On Saturday, it is a tale of two cities as Cardiff Blues face London Irish. Meanwhile, Bayonne travel to the Irish west country to face Connacht. The Newport-Gwent Dragons will get a Romanian stamp on their passports as they travel to Bucharest and in another Top 14-only affair Bordeaux take on Lyon. Sunday will see a match for pride as a rebuilding Edinburgh take on a winless-in-all-competitions London Welsh side.

Here are the results:
THU – 4TH DEC 14
Pool 2 La Rochelle 10 – 36 Exeter

Here is the weekend’s schedule:
FRI – 5TH DEC 14
Pool 1 Grenoble – Rovigo
Pool 3 Newcastle Falcons – Stade Francais
Pool 5 Brive – Oyonnax
SAT – 6TH DEC 14
Pool 1 Cardiff Blues – London Irish
Pool 2 Connacht – Bayonne
Pool 3 Bucuresti – Newport-Gwent Dragons
Pool 4 Bordeaux-Begles – LOU Rugby
SUN – 7TH DEC 14
Pool 4 Edinburgh – London Welsh
Pool 5 Gloucester – Zebre

That’s it for now. Feel free to comment below, look for and “Like” our Facebook Rugby Wrap Up Page and follow us on Twitter@: RugbyWrapUp,Junoir Blaber, DJ Eberle, Nick Hall, James Harrington, Cody Kuxmann, Jaime Loyd, Karen Ritter , Jamie Wall, Jake Frechette and Declan Yeats, respectively.

And as always, stay low and keep pumping those legs.

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About Junoir Blaber 868 Articles
Born in Osu, Accra, Ghana, West Africa, Junoir Blaber is a rare commodity; while most Ghanians eat, sleep and dream Soccer (football), Junoir is all about Rugby. A self-proclaimed Rugbyologist, he has been involved in Rugby as a ref, coach, administrator and player since Columbus discovered Ohio. His useful/trivial rugby knowledge qualify Blaber as RWU's Senior Correspondent & known in rugby circles as The Rugby Rain Man. He can also be found moonlighting for our American partners at MeetTheMatts.com.