NEW YORK, NY – It is time for round 5 of the European Champions and Challenge Cup. However, there was loads of news and transactions to cover as the clubs were very busy. So without further adieu, here is the Weekend Rugby Preview.
News & Transactions:
January is the start of rugby’s silly season. It is when all the gossip and rumors come to the forefront as players can be contacted by clubs trying to persuade them to leave their current club.
Aviva Premiership: There was not so much silly as there were signings this week. Leicester Tigers were quite busy as they re-signed winger Adam Thompstone to a new contract. Tonga international Telusa Veainu also agreed a new contract with the club. Leicester’s biggest announcement of the week came when they announced that Rugby World Cup winner JP Pietersen will join the club ahead of the 2016/17 season. Currently playing club rugby in Japan with Panasonic Wild Knights, the 29-year-old Pietersen was South Africa Players’ Player of the Year in 2012 and will arrive in Leicester later this year. England Tighthead prop David Wilson will continue to ply his trade at Bath, after signing a contract extension this week. Joining Wilson in re-signing at Bath is England center Kyle Eastmond… Exeter Chiefs confirmed that center Josh Jones is to leave the club with immediate effect, with family reasons seeing him move on. Signed in the summer from Super League outfit St Helens, the 22-year-old is due to head back to the north of England, along with partner Olivia, who is expecting their first child in June…
Saracens announced that exciting young fly-half Alex Lozowski will join the club from Wasps at the beginning of the 2016/17 season on a multi-year deal. Lozowski is expected to bolster Saracens’ fly-half options with Charlie Hodgson hanging up his boots at the end of this season to take up a role as the club’s Head of Recruitment and Talent Identification. Saracens were not done as they also announced that impressive Fiji Sevens finisher Savenaca Rawaca will join the club ahead of next season. The blockbusting Fijian wing or center, who has lit up the World Rugby Sevens circuit for Ben Ryan’s Fijian side, will link up with Saracens after also signing a multi-year deal with the club… Worcester Warriors captured the signature of Bath second-row Will Spencer, who will join the club ahead of the 2016/17 season… Wasps trio, fullback Rob Miller, wing Josh Bassett and center Brendan Macken have agreed to contract extensions with the club… Gloucester retained the services of back-row forward Lewis Ludlow after he signed a senior contract with the club. The 21-year-old is a product of the Gloucester Academy having come to study at Hartpury College…Northampton Saints announced that England and Lions loosehead prop Alex Corbisiero has left Franklin’s Gardens with immediate effect, which makes sense as Corbisiero had already announced he was taking a year and half away from the game… Harlequins announced that hooker Rob Buchanan has signed a contract extension meanwhile promising center Harry Sloan put pen to paper on a new contract with the club.
Pro 12: The Ireland Rugby Football Union announced that former England defense and attack coach, Andy Farrell, will be the new defense coach for the national side. Due to the non-compete clause in Farrell’s England contract, he cannot officially take over the role until after the 2016 RBS 6 Nations. Following this announcement, Munster confirmed that Farrell will join the province in an advisory role with immediate effect. The role will see the incoming Ireland defense coach provide support to head coach Anthony Foley and his coaching group on a part-time basis over the next four months… Cardiff Blues have announced that fast-paced full-back Dan Fish has put pen to paper on a contract extension to remain at the PRO12 side… Scrum-half Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, a product of Edinburgh’s academy pathway and the Scotland age grade squads, who made his professional debut in 2013, has committed his future to the club in re-signing for a further two years, until May 2018.
Super Rugby: The Waratahs are reportedly closing in on the signing of Melbourne Rebel’s number 10 Bryce Hegarty as fly-half cover for the upcoming Super Rugby campaign.
USA Rugby: USA Rugby announced Rugby Utah and Scion Rugby Academy as the two newest additions to the USA Rugby Olympic Development Academy in the first Olympic year to feature the sport of rugby since 1924… Tickets for HSBC Atlanta 7s at Fifth Third Bank Stadium at Kennesaw State University went on sale Wednesday, less than three months out from kickoff. You can Purchase Atlanta 7s tickets here… The USA Rugby AIG Men’s Junior All-Americans Filter Camp for the upcoming World Rugby Junior (U-20) World Trophy qualifier against Canada begins Friday, Jan. 15, at Lindenwood University. For more info on the camp, click here.
World Rugby: Veteran sevens specialist Tim Mikkelson will captain the All Blacks Sevens for the remaining eight rounds of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series. Mikkelson replaces Scott Curry who suffered a season ending shoulder injuring at the Dubai Sevens last month. Nick Cummins has signed with the Australia Sevens while Fulgence Ouedraogo and Romain Martial have been added to France squad… Stade Français winger Josaia Raisuqe has been suspended for 15 weeks following an independent Disciplinary Hearing in Paris earlier this.
The weekend’s fixtures:
European Rugby Champions Cup: The European (Rugby) Champions Cup has reached round 5. For those clubs still in the hunt, it is a make-it-or-break-it round. Others will be hoping to play the role of spoiler, if they can’t move on to the quarterfinals. Once again, the RWU Wolf Man Ronan Nelson has put together an enthralling preview featuring the RWU Analysts’ picks, which will be out later today.
European Rugby Challenge Cup: The second tier, European Challenge Cup tournament should not be dismissed because it is a second tier competition You will find it filled with European clubs with real ambitions and playing a very entertaining brand of rugby. Some clubs in the Champions’ Cup competition this season were in the Challenge Cup last season. As for the matches, they begin on Friday with Pau against Sale, Edinburgh host Agen and Castres travel to Newport-Gwent. The following day will see Newcastle make the 13 hour journey to Siberia to play Enisey-STM, while Montpellier travel to Calvisano, Gloucester welcome La Rochelle, London Irish play Grenoble, Worcester clash with Zebre and Brive face off against Connacht. The final match of the weekend will see Harlequins and Cardiff do battle.
Here is the Schedule:
Fri – 15 Jan 2016
Pau – Sale Sharks
Edinburgh – Agen
Newport-Gwent Dragons – Castres
Sat – 16 Jan 2016
Enisey-STM – Newcastle Falcons
Calvisano – Montpellier
Gloucester – La Rochelle
London Irish – Grenoble
Worcester Warriors – Zebre
Brive – Connacht
Sun – 10 Jan 2016
Harlequins – Cardiff Blues
That is 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, James Harrington, Jamie Wall, Nick Hall, DJ Eberle, Jake Frechette, Scheenagh Harrington, Jamie Loyd, Cody Kuxmann, Karen Ritter, Ronan Nelson, Kaitlin McCabe, Kyle Phillips, Rocky Brown and Declan Yeats, respectively
And as always, stay low and keep pumping those legs.