NEW YORK, NY – The European Champions and Challenge Cup, are what dominate the headlines at this time of the year. However, getting an equal share of headlines space are all the news and transactions taking place.We will cover all of it as we delve into each of the major rugby competitions in the world. Without further delay, here is the Weekend Rugby Preview.
News & Transactions:
January is the start of rugby’s silly season or signing season depending on how you look at it.. It’s mainly about gossip and rumors about which players can be contacted by clubs trying to persuade them to leave their current club.
Aviva Premiership: Harlequins Director of Rugby Conor O’Shea announced that he will leave the club when his contract finishes at the end of the season. In better news for Harlequins, England loosehead prop Joe Marler is staying at the Stoop after signing a new contract… Bath confirmed the signing of second-row Elliott Stooke, who will join the club from rivals, Gloucester. Bath also announced that England international Semesa Rokoduguni will be staying at the Recreation Ground for at least another two years… London Irish and Canadian International flanker Jebb Sinclair has signed a two-year contract extension…
#TOP14: The Australian Rugby Union announced that Quade Cooper has joined the Sevens program and will be available for selection for the Rio 2016 Olympics. The 27-year-old fly-half will be released by his French club side Toulon for the Sydney, Paris and London legs of the 2015/16 Sevens World Series. He will then link up with the squad in Sydney ahead of the Olympics. In other Toulon news, Leigh Halfpenny will extend his contract with the club, according to head coach Bernard Laporte… Stade Français eightman Sergio Parisse has been crowned Top 14 Player of the Season for 2014/2015 at an awards ceremony in Paris. Parisse guided his side to the Top 14 title last year for the first time since 2007 by defeating Toulon in the semi-finals and Clermont in the final
Pro 12: Alun-Wyn Jones committed his long-term future to the Ospreys and Wales after re-signing his National Dual Contract (NDC)… Ulster announced the signing of Ireland international tighthead prop, Rodney Ah You, who will join from Connacht ahead of next season… Munster and the Ireland Rugby Football Union (IRFU) confirmed that Andrew Conway and John Ryan both agreed new deals with the province. Conway has signed a two-year contract extension that will see him remain with the province until June 2018 while Ryan has penned a three-year deal that will see him stay until June 2019.
Super Rugby: The 2016 Super Rugby competition is set for a major overhaul concerning its points system, with the four-try bonus-point being abolished. Emulating the Top14, teams will now have to score three more five pointers than the opposition if they want to gain an extra point during a game. The change was announced this week and was agreed upon at SANZAR’s (SA, NZ, Aus and Arg rugby) annual conference, which was attended by coaches, referees and officials across all five countries in the new look 18-team competition… Former New Zealand back-row Filo Tiatia has accepted a role as forwards coach for Japan’s Super Rugby franchise, the Sun Wolves… New South Wales Waratahs head coach Daryl Gibson has named Michael Hooper as team captain for the upcoming 2016 Super Rugby season. Hooper will lead the squad together with club captain, Dave Dennis, with the two to be underpinned by a senior leadership team.
USA Rugby: Friend of the show, NYRC Women head coach, Wil Snape and Brandon Sparks, the current University of Michigan head coach, former University of California – Berkeley, deserve congratulations. The pair were officially hired bu USA Rugby this week, after being undefeated in 2015, allowing them to drop the interim tags from their title. Snape is now officially the AIG Women’s Junior All-American Head Coach and Sparks is the AIG Women’s Collegiate All-American Sevens Head Coach… Women’s Eagles Sevens Head Coach Jules McCoy will choose a team of 12 from this week’s High Performance Camp to travel to São Paulo next month for the Brazil Women’s Sevens, the second stop of the 2015-16 HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series. Here is the list players called into camp… USA Men’s Eagles Fullback Chris Wyles has retired from international XVs duty with the Men’s Eagles, USA Rugby announced, to focus on the remaining years of his contract with Saracens RFC in England’s Aviva Premiership and to push for the Rio 2016 Olympic Summer Games… Men’s Eagles Sevens Head Coach Mike Friday has chosen 13 athletes as part of the travel squad for HSBC Wellington Sevens and HSBC Sydney 7s, the third and fourth legs, respectively, of the 2015-16 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.
World Rugby: Super Rugby’s Highlanders, the defending champions, Head Coach Jamie Joseph has been confirmed as the new boss of Japan national team and will take over the role at the end of the 2016 Super Rugby season. The franchise’s CEO Roger Clark this week… World Rugby has announced details of an official partnership with beauty and aromatherapy brand Puressentiel to jointly promote rugby in strategic markets. The deal was launched by World Rugby Chairman Bernard Lapasset and Laboratoire Puressentiel President Marco Pacchioni at a special event in Paris on January 21.
Saracens and England wing Chris Ashton will miss the Six Nations after he has been suspended for ten weeks following an independent Disciplinary Hearing in London … Clermont back-row forward Vito Kolelishvili has been suspended for 14 weeks following an independent Disciplinary Hearing in Paris. Koleishvili was cited by the match Citing Commissioner, Mike Rafter (England), for pushing the match referee, Wayne Barnes (England), in the 17th minute of the Champions Cup Round 5 fixture against the Ospreys at Liberty Stadium in contravention of Law 10.4 (m). Video of incident is below.
The weekend’s fixtures:
European Rugby Champions Cup: The European (Rugby) Champions Cup has reached the final round of pool play. About half of the 20 teams have no hope of playoffs. 3 teams seem to have booked their ticket to the playoffs. This leaves 5 spots and 7 teams competing for them. The action will be physical as sides will be desperate to make the knockout round. The RWU Wolf Man Ronan Nelson has a great preview featuring the RWU Analysts’ picks coming out soon. Apparently it is as tight between the analysts as it has been in years and they also have all to play for. So check it out the preview when it comes out.
European Rugby Challenge Cup: The European Challenge Cup tournament should not be dismissed because it is second tiercopetition. If you pay close attention you will notice that it is 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 began on last night when Sale shellacked Newport-Gwent. Coming up this weekend, Castres will host To14 rivals Pau, La Rochelle will receive a visit from Worcester, Cardiff will run rings around Calvisano and Montpellier will do battle with Harlequins in a huge tilt. The final day of the round will see Zebre breakout the welcome mat for Gloucester, Connacht welcome Enisey-STM, Brive will make the trip to Newcastle, while London Irish have to head to Agen. Finally Grenoble and Edinburgh will duke it out in the final match of the day.
Here are the results:
Thu – 21 Jan 2016
Sale Sharks 38-5 Newport Gwent Dragons
Here is the Schedule:
Fri – 22 Jan 2016
Castres – Pau
La Rochelle – Worcester Warriors
Cardiff Blues – Calvisano
Montpellier – Harlequins
Sat – 23 Jan 2016
Zebre – Gloucester
Connacht – Enisey-STM
Newcastle Falcons – Brive
Agen – London Irish
Grenoble – Edinburgh
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, Kyle Phillips and Declan Yeats, respectively
And as always, stay low and keep pumping those legs.