Weekend Rugby Preview: Challenge Cup, Jeremy Thrush, Tom Coventry, Rumors, Transactions, & USA Rugby news

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European-Champions-Cup TrophyNEW YORK, NY –  It is very rare for weekends like this to occur in the rugby world. The European Rugby Champions Cup and the European Rugby Challenge Cup are the sole competitions. But we still have plenty to cover with Transfer Rumors, Player Transactions, USA Rugby and World Rugby news. So, here’s your Weekend Rugby Preview:

Transactions: January 1st is, the official date when players can be contacted by clubs trying to persuade them to leave their current club. This is the part of the year we call silly season and it is a very interesting time of the year.  It leads to loads of shocking rumors and even more shock when some of these rumors are confirmed. This past week, there were a lot of rumors and lot of players signing contracts.

We begin with the rumor mill of the Top 14… According to reports, newly appointed Montpellier consultant/coach Jake White has stated that he is looking for a two year extension to his current 6 month deal…France full-back Scott Spedding will join Top 14 leaders Clermont at the end of the season from struggling Bayonne.

In the Aviva Premiership, Gloucester have re-signed utility back Bill Meakes and loosehead prop Dan Murphy… Gloucester also confirmed the signing of New Zealand international second row Jeremy Thrush from the Super Rugby Hurricanes for next season after this year’s RWCHarlequins had a busy week as they announced the signing of 5 players. Center Matt Hopper and backrow Luke Wallace, inked contract extensions until 2017 earlier this week. Those two were followed by tighthead props Will Collier and Kyle Sinckler signing through to 2018 and 2017, respectively. Finally, scrum-half Karl Dickson extended his contract with the club until the end of the 2016/17 season… ‘Quins are also rumored to be chasing the signature of Sale fly-half Danny Cipriani… Another rumor that is being given credence is that Gavin Henson’s proposed move to Bristol from Bath which could be edging closer to reality after Bristol coach Sean Holley spoke of his admiration of the former Welsh star. Bath did confirm the signature of outside center Jonathan Joseph to a new two year contract… Exeter have completed the signing of former England U20s prop Alec Hepburn from Australian National Rugby Championship side Perth Spirit… England prop Kieran Brookes will leave Newcastle to join Northampton Saints at the end of the season… London Irish have confirmed that Director of Rugby Brian Smith will leave the club with immediate effect. Glenn Delaney, the club’s Forwards Coach, will take on the role of interim Head Coach between now and the end of the season. He will be assisted by Richard Whiffin and Mark Tainton and the club’s Academy coaching team of Nick Kennedy, Declan Danaher and Paul Hodgson. Smith’s replacement has already been found, in the form of Super Rugby Chiefs assistant coach Tom Coventry, who will take up a position with the Irish at the end of the AP season, the Super Rugby franchise has confirmed… Joining Coventry at the Irish could be New Zealand prop Ben Franks after this year’s World Cup according to reports.

Connacht and the IRFU had a productive week of their own. First it was announced that second-row pair Quinn Roux and Ultan Dillane have inked contracts until at least the end of 2016/17. Roux’s contract is an extension from his loan deal extension announced a few weeks ago. Connacht was also happy to announce that center Dave McSharry had signed a new deal that will tie him to the club until the end of 2016/17.?..Wasps backs coach Stephen Jones will leave the English club to take up a similar role at his former region, the Scarlets, in Wales next season.

In Super Rugby, the Blues have announced that loose forward Peter Saili has parted ways with the club and will leave the Super Rugby team to take up a contract in France later this month.

USA Rugby News and Updates: USA Rugby announced earlier this week that Pete Steinberg has agreed to continue in the role of Women’s Eagles head coach through the next Women’s Rugby World Cup cycle to 2017Serevi Rugby® and Eagle Impact Rugby Academy (EIRA) today announced their merger, aimed at providing a consistent and high-quality level of youth rugby development under the umbrella of the USA Rugby Academy.  Both Serevi and EIRA were already academys for USA Rugby under USAR’s academy program and are run by long time rugby guys Waisele Serevi and Salty Thompson, respectively… In an adorable story that is gaining popularity in USA rugby circles, here is a video of Chicago Wapiti RFC youth rugby coach Vincent Johnson teaching his 1 year old son to pass a rugby ball.

World Rugby News: Currently on the WR website is a video by second row legend Simon Shaw on how to have a long career in the game. Please click here to read it.

European Champions Cup: The European (Rugby) Champions Cup. is hitting its final stages of pool play, with round 5 kicking off this weekend. There is still a lot on the line for a lot of sides with hopes of making the quarters and others looking to spoil the party. Our East Midlands Man Nick Hall will be the go-to guy for ECC action. Please see the match preview and the Six Pack’s picks.

European_Rugby_Challenge_Cup_LogoEuropean Challenge Cup: The European Challenge Cup is also nearing it end of pool play. With the top 3 sides that fail to qualify for a quarterfinal in the Champions Cup, parachuted into the Challenge Cup quarterfinals, the race for the top spot in each of the 5 pools is tight. The action has been and will continue to be fierce.
As for the matches going on this weekend:
Cardiff Blues will have fun time against Rovigo, while Brodeaux-Begles will do the same when they host London WelshStade Francais should have an easy game in Paris against Romania, while no one knows what to expect between Zebre and BriveGloucester face Oyonnax in Kingsholm in arguably the match of the round… London Irish will take on the challenge of Grenoble, while Newcastle welcome Newport-Gwent to northern England… Bayonne face La Rochelle in an all Top14 clash, while Lyon host Edinburgh… The other game that could arguably be the match of the round sees Connacht taken on a struggling Exeter.

Here are the results:
FRI – 16TH JAN 15
Cardiff Blues – Rovigo
Bordeaux Begles – London Welsh
SAT – 17TH JAN 15
Stade Francais – Romania Bucuresti
Zebre – Brive
Gloucester – Oyonnax
London Irish – Grenoble
Newcastle – Newport Gwent Dragons
Bayonne – La Rochelle
Lyon – Edinburgh
SUN – 18TH JAN 15
Connacht – Exeter

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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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.

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