Rabeni, Pocock, Armitage, Foley, PRO Rugby, USA Rugby & World Rugby News

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Seru RabeniNEW YORK, NY – It is another busy weekend for our crew.  We have lots to cover including the Six Nations, all its sub sections and the three top European leagues. Then we add in  another round of Super Rugby along with some Tier 2 cup competitions. Not to be forgotten is all the important Rugby News and Transactions. So with so much to get to, let’s dive into the Weekend Rugby Preview.

News & Transactions:

Seru Rabeni; Gone too soon: Former Fiji international center Seru Rabeni has passed away at the age of 37 at his home in Nausori, Fiji. Rabeni, who spent several years with Leicester Tigers in the Premiership, won 30 caps for Fiji and a further 9 for the Pacific Islanders. He represented Fiji at the 2003 and 2007 Rugby World Cups, and also turned out for his country in the Sevens format at the 2002 Commonwealth Games. Rabeni featured for the Highlanders in the 2003 and 2004 seasons before heading to Welford Road where he made 63 appearances for the Tigers. He is survived by his wife and their two children, aged seven and four. We will pray for his family.

David Pocock
David Pocock

Super Rugby: David Pocock announced that he has recommitted to the Brumbies and Australian Rugby until at least the next World Cup. The 2015 Brumbies Brett Robinson Medalist for Players’ Player will now be with the Brumbies until 2019. Pocock will be released from Australian Rugby duties in 2017 to further his studies and personal development, before returning to Australia ahead of the 2018 Super Rugby season… The Highlanders have officially begun their search for a new head coach to replace Jamie Joseph at the end of the 2016 Super Rugby season. Highlanders CEO Roger Clark said the Highlanders Board and New Zealand Rugby would look to finalize a replacement before the end of the current season.

Delon Armitage
Delon Armitage

#Top 14: Lyon have acquired the services of Melbourne Rebels utility back Mike Harris and Toulon full-back Delon Armitage for next season.The French Pro D2 club are on course to be promoted to the Top 14. They are currently 23 points ahead of second-placed Bayonne in the standings with only seven matches remaining… France wing Virimi Vakatawa‘s future remains up in the air after this year’s Olympic Games, but Racing 92 would welcome his return. Racing coach Laurent Labit clarified Vakatawa’s contract situation with the club on French Rugby news outlet, Rugbyrama, that Racing will be due compensation if he opts to join another team, given he remains under contract.

Aviva Premiership: Gloucester signed hooker Motu Matu’u from Super Rugby outfit the Hurricanes for the 2016/2017 Premiership seasonWorcester Warriors announced that highly-rated Springbok scrum-half Francois Hougaard will extend his stay with the Premiership club. The former Bulls stalwart arrived at Worcester on a short-term contract in February but has now signed a permanent deal. He joined Warriors following a spell with the South Africa Sevens side and will return to the Sevens circuit for this summer’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. After Rio, he will then report back to Worcester and becomes Worcester’s sixth new signing ahead of the 2016/17 campaign… In shocking news, Springbok tighthead prop Vincent Koch appears set to head abroad after negotiating with Premiership side Saracens. Koch’s agent Gert-Andries van der Merwe has confirmed that the 26-year-old has been in talks and might make the move before the end of the Currie Cup competition, which is set to play in for the Pumas.

Pro 12: Munster confirmed that Anthony Foley has accepted a one-year contract extension and that the province is looking to appoint a Director of Rugby for the 2016/17 season. Foley, who signed a two-year contract in the summer of 2014 with the option of a third year, will continue as Munster’s Head Coach for the 2016/17 season.

PRO Rugby USA: PRO Rugby has revealed their player rosters for the inaugural season – sort of. A list of five squads has been released, with a total of 98 players spread between teams comprised of between 15 and 22 each. Of course that means there are numerous players still to join up, with an assortment of names sifting into the media now from various sources. Click here for the in depth story and the rosters to date. The most notable inclusion, however, comes in the form of star winger Takudzwa Ngwenya, who will leave Pro D2 club Biarritz Olympique to play for San Diego before returning to France in the Top 14 for a new team, strongly suggested to be Brive.

The current confirmed player signings this week are that Canada will have at least four players in the inaugural season of PRO Rugby. Prairie Wolf Pack duo Hubert Buydens and Nick Blevins will join the new organization shortly, with Buydens set to join Phil Mackenzie at San Diego and Blevins earmarked for San Francisco… One-time New Zealand All Black prop Jamie Mackintosh is headed to Ohio. The 31-year-old loosehead specialist has ended a short spell in the Top 14 as a medical joker with Montpellier and will join the new PRO Rugby franchise for their inaugural season… Chilean Nikola Bursic will play for the San Diego franchise in the inaugural PRO Rugby season set to kick off in April. The powerful ball carrier at lock or eightman becomes the second Chilean to join the new professional competition, following Lindenwood loose forward Sebastián Kalm who will play for Ohio.

usa_rugby_logoUSA Rugby: USA Rugby has commenced the search for a new Chief Executive Officer to succeed current CEO Nigel Melville who will be transitioning to CEO of Rugby International Marketing (RIM) in 2016. Click here for the full press release… In another press release, New England Patriot (of the American Football league, the NFL) Nate Ebner will attempt an Olympic run with USA Rugby Sevens team. That press release can be found here.

World Rugby: World Rugby has found no evidence to support the slanderous accusations made towards Paul Treu regarding the use of banned substances amongst his players. These allegations – which stated that the former Kenya Sevens head coach promoted the use of illegal supplements amongst his players – were made by Kenya’s head of the task force on anti-doping, Professor Moni Wekesa… World Rugby Chairman Bernard Lapasset this week received the Commandeur de la Légion d’Honneur from French President François Hollande at the Elysee Palace in Paris…. World Rugby’s statement on the Joe Marler investigation outcome by Six Nations Rugby. The governing body of international rugby requests more information has been sought by the governing body from the tournament organizer of RBS 6 Nations.

The weekend’s fixtures:

Six_Nations_Championship.svg

RBS 6 Nations: The last and final round of the 2016 6 Nations is going on this weekend. England has wrapped up the tournament for the first time in a long time and have already wrapped up with triple crown champions and will be looking for the Grand Slam this weekend. The RWU Wolfman Ronan Nelson has a great review of all the matches and our Expert Panel’s picks, if you click here.

RBS U-20 6 Nations: The stars of the future of European rugby also have their 6N matches this weekend to give fans a preview of what’s to come. Like the big boys, there a team on the verge of a Grand Slam. This time though it is is Wales on the verge of their first ever Grand Slam. France will face England in Le Crunch, while Italy will try and deny Wales weekend and in the big Celtic battle Ireland will face Scotland.

Here is the schedule:
Fri – 18 Mar 2016
France U20s – England U20s
Wales U20s – Italy U20s
Ireland U20s- Scotland U20s

REPRO FREE***PRESS RELEASE NO REPRODUCTION FEE*** 2015 RBS 6 Nations Rugby Championship Launch, The Hurlingham Club, Ranelagh Gardens, London 28/1/2015England captain Tamara Taylor, Scotland captain Tracy Balmer, France captain Gayle Mignot, Ireland captain Niamh Briggs, Italy captain Sileva Gaudino and Wales captain Rachael TaylorMandatory Credit ©INPHO/James Crombie

RBS Women’s 6 Nations: Though they don’t get as much coverage as they often deserve, the Women’s 6N will also be kicking off this weekend. The sparse coverage aside, this year has been very competitive. France will face England in an extra spicy Le Crunch as it will be the title decider,  Scotland will travel to the Emerald Isle to face Ireland and Wales will host Italy.

Here is the schedule:
Fri – 18 Mar 2016
France Women – England Women
Sun – 20 Mar 2016
Ireland Women – Scotland Women
Wales Women – Italy Women

Rugby Europe Logo

European Nations Cup: The ENC, or the 6 Nations “B” , is the premier tournament for the second-tier nations of Europe. Unbeknownst to some, the ENC consists of seven divisions, each featuring between four and six teams. The matches played will determine who will get promoted and relegated from groups 1B, 2A – 2D, and 3A over a two-year cycle. Division 1A, where the best teams in Europe not called England, Ireland, France, Italy, Wales or Scotland reside, has no promotion option – only relegation back to 1B. Hopefully promotion from 1A to the proper 6N will eventually occur… but we aren’t banking on it.

In 1A this weekend, Six time champions, including this year, Georgia will face a stern test from their biggest 1A rival Romania while Russia to Portugal and finally Spain visits Germany. Both Portugal and Germany have to not only win but win by more points than each other because the team that fails to do so gets relegated. The Belgians will be moving back up to 1A  from 1B but will still face a physical Poland side while bottom of the table Moldova take on the Dutch.

Here is the schedule:
Sat – 18 Mar 2016
1A:  Georgia – Romania
1A: Portugal – Russia
1A: Germany – Spain
1B: Poland  – Belgium
1B:
Moldova -Netherlands

(Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images for Aviva)

Aviva Premiership: Due to the 2015 RWC, the 2015/2016 Aviva Premiership is not taking any breaks during the 6N. And with the start their European Cup place and playoff push, things are only getting more intense. This weekend will see with Bath hosting Newcastle, Harlequins welcoming Worcester, Exeter play Northampton, Wasps and Sale do battle, London Irish will host Gloucester, and finally in the clash of the weekend, Leicester meets Saracens.

Here is the schedule:
Fri – 18 Mar 2016
Bath – Newcastle Falcons
Sat – 19 Mar 2016
Harlequins – Worcester Warriors
Sun – 20 Mar 2016
Exeter Chiefs – Northampton Saints
Wasps – Sale Sharks
London Irish – Gloucester
Leicester Tigers – Saracens

Clermont fans

Top 14: The Top 14 has a full slate of matches this weekend also. Though it is technically round 19, this round is really round 13. All the European Cup matches effected during the terrorist attacks in November 2015 were rescheduled to a regular Top 14 week, so that round, round 13 saw its matches rescheduled to this weekend. The first match of the weekend sees Stade Francias host La Rochelle, then Montpellier welcome Racing as Oyonnax role out the red carpet for Agen. Then Pau and Castres do battle, Grenoble and Brive are set to clash and the match of the round sees Toulouse travel to (once was a) fortress Michelin to face Clermont Auvergne.

Here is the schedule:
Sat – 19 Mar 2016

Stade Francais – La Rochelle
Montpellier – Racing 92
Oyonnax – Agen
Pau – Castres
Sun – 20 Mar 2016
Grenoble – Brive
Clermont Auvergne – Toulouse

Pro 12: The Pro 12 has its own make up matches this weekend Cardiff face Munster in a match that was originally scheduled to be held during Round 12, on 8 January 2016 but was postponed due to a European Rugby Champions Cup fixture rearrangement that occurred as a result of the Paris attacks. In the other match, Glasgow face Leinster in match that was scheduled to be held during Round 9, on 5 December 2015 but was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch.

Here is the schedule:
Fri – 18 Mar 2016

Cardiff Blues – Munster
Glasgow Warriors – Leinster

Ben Smith and his the Landers were victorious

Super Rugby: Super Rugby continues into the fourth round of the newly re-formatted tournament that crosses at least 6 or 7 time zones. As for this round of fixtures, it started with the Hurricanes crush the Force and the Waratahs coming up short at home against the Highlanders. In the other matches for the weekend, the Bulls host the Sharks, The Sunwolves welcome the Rebels, the Crusaders get to beat up on the Kings, the Reds try to get some momentum against the Blues who are also looking for momentum. The Lions battle the Cheetahs in a cat fight, the Stormers and Brumbies do battle and the Jaguares welcome the Chiefs to Argentina.

Here are the results:
Fri – 18 Mar 2016

Hurricanes 41–6 Force
Waratahs 26–30 Highlanders

Here is the schedule:
Fri – 18 Mar 2016

Bulls – Sharks
Sat – 18 Mar 2016
Sunwolves – Rebels
Crusaders – Kings
Reds – Blues
Lions – Cheetahs
Stormers – Brumbies
Jaguares – Chiefs

World Rugby Pacific Challenge: The World Rugby Pacific Challenge continued this week in Suva, Fiji with the national A teams from Fiji, Samoa, Tonga and Japan going head to head over two weeks. The third match day results saw Fiji crush Tonga and Samoa win comfortably against Junior Japan.

Here are the results:
Thu – 17 Mar 2016
Fiji Warriors 56-18 Tonga A
Samoa A 42-22 Junior Japan

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, Ronan Nelson, Kyle Phillips 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.