NEW YORK, NY: After being stretched to the max last weekend, this weekend’s rugby coverage reprieves our staff -somewhat – with a lighter workload. There will be no International matches or 7s tournaments, so the focus is on domestic play. For the 3 top leagues in Europe (Aviva Premiership, Rabodirect Pro 12 and Top 14) it’s time to run for the playoffs or be left for dead. In the Southern Hemisphere, all but one of the Super 15 teams have played, so now expectations are set. They are high/low based on 1 or 2 games. With all that said, let’s get into the Weekend Rugby Preview.
Top 14: As always, James Harrington is the source for All Things French. This week he takes a look at how things are shaping up for the playoffs with this being the tightest race in memory. CLICK HERE.
Rabodirect Pro12: The Pro 12 will also see a few teams attempt to finish with a flurry. There are 3 teams fighting for the 4th and final playoff spot. Ospreys travel to Edinburgh, while Ulster welcome Dragons and Glasgow take their act on the road to Dublin to face Leinster… Connacht will welcome the Treviso to the west country and the Blues will take a trip to Italy to face Zebre… The Mighty Men of Munster will travel to Wales to face Scarlets.
Here is this weekend’s schedule:
FRI – 28th FEB 14
Ulster – Newport Gwent Dragons
Edinburgh – Ospreys
Sat – 1st MAR 14
Zebre – Cardiff Blues
Connacht Rugby – Benetton Treviso
Scarlets – Munster
Leinster Rugby – Glasgow Warriors
Signings/Player Moves: Worcester Warriors have announced that Ulster hooker Niall Annett will join the club for next season along with Rotherham duo, Dan Sanderson (a lock) and hooker Ben Sowrey. Worcester have also confirmed that 30-year-old fly-half Danny Gray has departed the struggling club by mutual consent. In more Worcester news, they have confirmed that prop Jerome Schuster has joined the club as injury dispensation for Jeremy Becasseau until the end of the season… London Irish will welcome Ex-Gloucester and England back-row Luke Narraway. Narraway will be returning to the Premiership on a two-year deal after two years in Perpignan. London Irish also confirmed that their Samoa winger Sailosi Tagicakibau will link up with Super Rugby side the Stormers in the next few days… Ceri Sweeney is appears to be excited about agreeing to sign a new 1-year deal with Aviva Premiership side Exeter Chiefs… England prospects Rob Buchanan, Tom Casson, Joe Gray, Charlie Matthews and Dave Ward have all signed contract extensions until the end of the 2015/16 season, while Ben Botica has extended his contract until the end of the 2016/17 season. Long-serving Edinburgh duo Ben Cairns and Steven Lawrie have been forced to retire from rugby due to long-term knee injuries.
USA Rugby News and Updates: The move by Carlin Isles from USA 7s to Glasgow Warriors was confirmed by the Warriors earlier in the week…
Alex Magleby is back working with the USA 7s program as a technical director and Billy Millard has expanded in his roll with USA Rugby. As per the press release:
Former Men’s Eagles Sevens Head Coach Alex Magleby and Men’s Eagles Attack Coach Billy Millard have joined the USA Rugby High Performance team to further the development of the men’s 15s and sevens player development pathways…
Alex Magleby will take on the role of National Development Director for the Men’s Eagles Sevens, providing sustainable support systems for Matt Hawkins’ team. Magleby will manage the national sevens team pipeline, focusing on talent identification and talent development. He will ensure streamlined deliverables through programs in the High Performance sevens pathway and develop with the national coaching team national technical standards for sevens rugby. Part of this process will be the development of a Sevens Technical Panel.
Billy Millard’s role as National High Performance Pathway Manager will focus on 15s rugby, accelerating talent identification and development of the current pathways. He will work with national coaches and regional academies to identify players for national team camps, liaise with High Performance staff/stakeholders to drive coaching content across the national academy network and develop and implement agreed High Performance content and delivery within the academies. Millard will continue to support the Eagles as attack coach and serve as head coach of the USA Rugby AIG Men’s Junior All-Americans.
Australian sportswear company BLK (Beyond Limits Known) has signed a 3-year contract with USA Rugby to become the new official apparel supplier for the Men’s and Women’s National teams.
IRB and USA Rugby changes scrum engagements: In accordance with the mandated changes by the IRB, USA rugby has devised how it will applied on through out the many age grades. Effective March 1 at all college and club matches, referees will discuss in the front-row briefing with scrumhalves how the touching should be accomplished and what the signal will be. Typically, the touch is either in the middle of the back – between the shoulder blades – or on the shoulder. The signal can be a thumbs-up, a nod, or play-on gesture, but must be demonstrated to the scrumhalves prior to the start of each match. The “yes, nine” verbal call will still be utilized at the U19/high school level and younger.
Michael O’Connor resigns: The Australian Rugby Union has announced Michael O’Connor has resigned from his position as head coach of the Australian Sevens team. O’Connor cited family considerations as the contributing factor behind his decision.
IRB development in Africa: The IRB introduced four new posts in Africa in 2013 with one Confederation of African Rugby (CAR) operational manager and three CAR regional development officers being appointed. The goal is to have 26 nations involved in IRB’s Get Into Rugby Programme. It will have development officers in Anglophone and Francophone nations that will help develop coaches and admin.
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And until the next time… stay low and keep pumping those legs.