George Smith, Tony Brown, Steffon Armitage, Sale Sold, June Internationals and More

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George Smith RedsNEW YORK, NY – The week started out slowly but by the end, this week was one of the biggest Rugby News and Transactions weeks ever.  By biggest, we don’t mean quantity, we mean confirmations and announcements so astonishing they stop you in your tracks. After that build-up and with the June internationals kicking off this weekend, let’s begin the Weekend Preview:

News & Transactions:

Tony Brown

Super Rugby: The Queensland Reds have secured the services of one of Australia’s greatest-ever flankers, with George Smith agreeing to join them on a two-year deal. Smith will join the Reds for the 2017 and 2018 Super Rugby seasons, while also playing for Suntory Sungoliath in Japan’s Top League… After first turning down the franchise’s offer, Tony Brown has been appointed head coach of the Highlanders for 2017, along with a new coaching team. The bad part of this news is that Brown is only appointed for 2017, after that he will leave the franchise to join departing Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph in Japan with the Japanese national team. Brown will be assisted by fellow former All Blacks Scott McLeod who will continue as assistant coach and Mark Hammett (yes, that Mark Hammett) as a new Highlanders assistant coach… Wallabies and Waratahs prop Benn “Fat Cat” Robinson announced that he will be forced to retire following a serious eye injury… The Blues confirmed that lock Jimmy Tupou will join them in 2017 along with former Blues U18 prop Alex Hodgman, as both players move back to the north island and leave the Crusaders… The Crusaders returned the favor to the Blues by signing their scrum-half Bryn Hall for the 2017 season… Vincent Koch is contracted to the Pumas Rugby Union, despite having played for the Stormers in Super Rugby, but the Union has filed an official complaint with SA Rugby after Koch penned a deal with the Saracen of the English Premiership. Apparently Pumas expect Koch to either finish out his contract and play Currie Cup for the Union or one of Koch, the Stormers, SA Rugby or Saracens has to pay them the remainder of Koch’s wages with the Union.

Steffon Armitage is taking his act to Pau

Steffon Armitage is taking his act to Pau

Top14: This week’s Top14 news is really just all the events that have happened in Toulon this week.  We will start with the announcement by Pau that they had signed Toulon back-row Steffon Armitage on a three-year contract. Toulon focused on additions and announced that they had completed the signing of fly-half Pierre Bernard, on a three-year contract from Bordeaux-Bègles (UBB). UBB tried to get even by signing Toulon and France center Maxime Mermoz but were turned down. According to UBB president Laurent Marti, who told Rugbyrama: “Mermoz rejected a three-year contract proposal.” Considering he is battling for a starting spot in the midfield with fellow international midfielders Ma’a Nonu and Mathieu Bastareaud, Mermoz was expected to move but will now see out the final year in his contract. Joining the Toulon backline will be Japan full-back Ayumu Goromaru who will join the club for the 2016/17 season, after a shambolic year at Super Rugby’s the Reds… Finally we are hearing rumors that USA international Samu Manoa maybe working on a move from Toulon back to his previous club Northampton Saints of the Aviva Premiership.

Sale SharksPremiership:  Speaking of the Premiership, Sale Sharks announced that after 16 years under owner Brian Kennedy’s control, the Premiership club has been acquired by CorpAcq Ltd. CorpAcq is a Manchester based corporate acquisitions and investment company controlled by Simon Orange… The reigning European and Premiership champions Saracens confirmed the signing of the aforementioned capped South African Springbok prop Vincent Koch. Koch will be joined at the London-based club by Scotland outside back Sean Maitland Newcastle Falcons wing Giovanbattista (Giamba) Venditti will return to his native Italy after signing a deal with Zebre Gloucester added to their back line for next season with the signing of former Worcester Warriors center, Andy Symons.

Rassie Erasmus

Rassie Erasmus

Pro12: Munster confirmed the coaching staff that will join Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus and Head Coach Anthony Foley at the start of season 2016/17. Defensive guru Jacques Nienaber will join the province as Defense Coach (duh!) on a three-year contract. Meanwhile Jerry Flannery extends his role of Scrum Coach for a further year and former Munster and Ireland player Felix Jones assumes a technical coaching role on a one-year deal. After indicating his intention to return to the private sector earlier this season, Brian Walsh, who held the role of Assistant Coach for the past two seasons, has completed his time with the province, joining previously confirmed departees Ian Costello and Mick O’DriscollConnacht announced that prop JP Cooney, inside back Shane O’Leary and lock Danny Qualter have signed contracts while backrow Rory Moloney also earned a senior deal. All three senior players featured in a number of games this season across both the Pro12 and the Challenge Cup, with Cooney and O’Leary named in the matchday 23 for the final in Edinburgh. Connacht also confirmed that Conor McPhillips will take over as backs coach for the senior squad from the start of the 2016/17 campaign. Andre Bell, who had previously held the role as backs and kicking coach for the last two seasons, has returned home to New Zealand to be with his family… Home of PRO12 side Glasgow Warriors, Scotstoun Stadium, is set for a major upgrade to ensure it remains a center for rugby and athletics in the Glasgow sporting community by moving to new-age artificial turf.

pro-rugby-team-names-2016PRO Rugby:  PRO Rugby this week released the team names that will be used for their 5 current franchises. The names are the Denver Stampede, Sacramento Express, San Diego Breakers, San Francisco Rush and the Ohio Aviators. Feel free to share your thoughts on them in the comments section.

USA Rugby: Santa Barbara Rugby Academy (SBRA) has joined the USA Rugby Olympic Development program as a National Development Academy, USA Rugby announced.

World Rugby: The World Rugby website has an interview with Venezuela womens’ sevens coach Marisell Méndez ahead of her team’s appearance at the women’s sevens repechage in Dublin later this month.

The weekend’s fixtures:

Rugby Europe LogoLadies first:
Rugby Europe Womens Sevens Grand Prix Series: The 2016 Rugby Europe Womens Sevens Grand Prix Series consists of 2 legs. The first leg of the European Womens Sevens Grand Prix is in Kazan, Russia this weekend (the second leg will be after the 2016 Rio Olympics). Here are Series standings going int this weekend’s action based on last year’s results. Please note, Great Britain Royals and Lions replaced England and Wales, respectively.

2016 Rugby Europe Womens Sevens Grand Prix Standings
Rankings based on 2015 standings
France
Russia
Spain
Great Britain Royals
Ireland
Netherlands
Great Britain Lions
Italy
Ukraine
Portugal
Belgium

pro-rugby-logo_smPRO Rugby: Heading into the ninth week of action in the inaugural season, San Diego travels to Ohio in the leagues only match-up of the weekend.
Here is the weekend’s schedule:
Sun – 12 Jun 2016
San Diego – Ohio

Logo_Top14_2012Top 14: The playoffs for the Top 14 are finally here. It is only the quarter-finals but at least we are moving closer to the season finally ending. The matches for the weekend are filled intriguing sub-plots. It begins with the Champions Cup finalists Racing 92 taking on a resurgent league stalwarts Toulouse while Montpellier, who have been moving from strength to strength all season will take on small city upstarts Castres.

Here is the weekend’s schedule:
Sat – 11 Jun 2016
Racing 92 – Toulouse
Sun – 5 Jun 2016
Montpellier – Castres

aus-v-eng-test-matchJune Internationals: The Men’s June International season kicks off this weekend and there a lot matches to go over. South Africa and England will have their second sides (B sides) battle in SA to kickoff the weekend. Wales begin their tour of New Zealand as do England in Australia. South Africa will welcome Ireland for the start of their incoming tour. Italy travel to play to play their cousins in Argentina. Japan with their interim head coach will be in Canada and finally Georgia will be doing a tour of the Pacific Islands this year beginning with Samoa.

Here is the weekend’s schedule:
Fri – 10 Jun 16
South Africa ‘A’ – England Saxons
Sat – 11 Jun 16
New Zealand – Wales
Australia – England
South Africa – Ireland
Argentina – Italy
Canada – Japan
Samoa – Georgia

JWC Captains 2016
Junior World Cup: The JWC is the yearly World Cup held for U-20 teams of the top tier rugby playing nations. Georgia qualified for it by winning last year’s Junior World Trophy, the second tier competition. This year’s tournament is being held in Manchester, England. For those looking to watch the action in the USA, the JWC can be seen using the Watch ESPN app on your Roku, Firestick and other devices or on ESPN3.com. This week saw the start of pool play as France shockingly fell to Argentina, South Africa thumped Japan, Australia in a huge upset lost to Scotland, Wales came up 1 point short against Ireland, New Zealand crushed Georgia and finally England barely broke a sweat defeating Italy.

Here are the results:
Tue – 7 Jun 16
France 15-24 Argentina
South Africa 59-19 Japan
Australia 10-15 Scotland
Wales 25-26 Ireland
New Zealand 55-0 Georgia
England 48-10 Italy

As for the second round of pool matches this weekend, New Zealand clash with the Irish and Australia imitates their senior side as they face England. South Africa will battle SANZAAR rival Argentina while ancient foes England and Scotland go at it one more time. Wales takes on Georgia and France clashes with Japan.

Here is the schedule:
Sat – 11 Jun 16

New Zealand – Wales
Australia – England
South Africa – Argentina
England – Scotland
Wales – Georgia
France – Japan

WRO NAtions Cup 2016Nations Cup – The 11th annual World Rugby Nations Cup will be held in Bucharest, Romania for the tenth time in a row. It will be played between 9th and 18th of June. Normally it is run alongside the World Rugby Tbilisi Cup in Georgia but due to Georgia’s tour of the Pacific Islands in June, the Tbilisi Cup will not take place this year. Instead, the Nations Cup will feature six teams split in two pools of three, where the three European teams play the other three teams. All fixtures will be played at the 5,000 capacity Stadionul National de Rugby. The other teams in the tournament are Namibia, Spain, Emerging Italy, Uruguay and the Argentina XV. The tournament started this week with the Argentina XV spanking Spain. Uruguay narrowly losing to Emerging Italy and Namibia fell to the hosts, Romania.

Here are the results:
Thu – 9 Jun 16
NC: Argentina XV 44-8 Spain
NC: Uruguay 24-26 Emerging Italy
NC: Namibia 8-20 Romania

Pacific Nations Cup: Of all of World Rugby’s Cup tournaments to benefit Tier 2 and Tier 3 nations, the Pacific Nations Cup is arguably the biggest and best. The Pacific island nations of Tonga, Fiji and Manu Samoa are the top tier 2 nations in the world. Thy produce some of the world’s best players and on occasion a side can be found to be ranked higher than a 6 Nations side.  With Georgia‘s tour of the Pacific Islands, it appears that when one of the three nations is suppose to be on a bye, they will be playing Georgia. With Samoa playing Georgia as we previously mentioned, that leaves Fiji to do battle with Tonga in the first round of action.

Here is the schedule:
Sat – 11 Jun 16
Fiji – Tonga

Sudamerica RugbySudamerica Rugby: Formerly the SAMC now just Sudamerica Rugby, is the same as the ENC – except it’s South America, a minor detail – and it has 4 divisions featuring 15 teams. It is the battle to find the 2nd best team in South America with Argentina the firm number 1. The top division is called the Sudamerica Rugby Cup division and features Argentina‘s B team, Uruguay and Chile. There are 3 divisions after that known as Divisions A, B, and C. This weekend will see a promotion/relegation match when Ecuador and Guatemala do battle for Division B status.

Here is the schedule:
Sat – 11 Jun 16

Ecuador v Guatemala

Rugby AfriqueAfrica Cup: The Africa Cup 2016 will be the sixteenth edition of the continental tournament that involves the best African national teams, organized by the Rugby Afrique, formerly known as the Confederation of African Rugby (CAR). Given their superiority, the South African national team has rarely participated in most tournaments. The four times the SARU has participated, they sent either a U-23 team or amateur side, and went on to win it. Beyond South Africa, there are up to 27 rugby countries in the Cup with the national participants in the two divisions with each division divided into three groups (1A, 1B, 1C, 2 West, 2 East, and 2 South), with promotion and relegation. In 1B, the teams are divided into pools and in pool A action this weekend, Madagascar will host Zambia in their fortress at Antananarivo.

Here is the schedule:
Sun – 12 Jun 16

1B (Pool A): Madagascar – Zambia

2016 Currie Cup qualification: The tournament is a competition between which will be played between 9 April and 23 July 2016. It will feature all fourteen South African provincial unions plus the Welwitschias from Namibia and will also serve as a qualifying competition for the 2016 Currie Cup, the 78th edition of South Africa’s premier domestic rugby union competition. Nine teams from this competition will play in the 2016 Currie Cup Premier Division, while the remaining six teams will play in the 2016 Currie Cup First Division. Round nine’s fixtures start with Blue Bulls hosting the Sharks and SouthWest District welcome Border. Saturday will see Falcons battle the Welwitschias and finally the Golden Lions and Griquas do battle.

Here is the schedule:
Fri – 10 Jun 16
Blue Bulls – Sharks XV
SWD Eagles – Border Bulldogs
Sat – 11 Jun 16
Falcons – Welwitschias
Golden Lions XV – Griquas

That’s all for now, please feel free to comment below, look for and “Like” our Facebook Rugby Wrap Up Page and follow us on Twitter@: RugbyWrapUp, Junoir Blaber, @MeetTheMatts, Luke Bienstock, Ronan Nelson, Crawford Miller, James Harrington and Declan Yeats.

And as always, stay low and keep pumping those legs.
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About the Author ()

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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