Weekend Rugby Preview: USA vs Canada, Bledisloe 3, ARC, ECC, Currie, ITM, Player Moves

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ECRC logoNEW YORK, NY – There is a thing known as hurricane season in the western hemisphere and tsunami season in the eastern hemisphere. Well rugby fans, we are in the middle of rugby’s hurricane tsunami season. Last week was the latter and this weekend is the former as we have the initial weekend of the European Rugby Champions Cup and Challenge– the Heineken Cup 2.0, if you will. There is also the final matchday of the Americas Rugby Championship, Bledisloe 3 and the playoffs for two of SANZAR’s domestic leagues, while the third enters its final regular season weekend. There is also Tier 3 and Women’s rugby action. Throw in Player Transactions, IRB Notes and USA Rugby News and it’s all we can do to stay afloat! No more needs to be said; let’s get to to the Weekend Rugby Preview:

Ladies First:
Women’s International: There is a test between friendly European rivals as they build toward the next European championship. Sweden will host the Netherlands in a match that the dutch are seen as favorites in, with their backline improving as members of the Women’s 7s World Series.

Here is the weekend’s schedule:
Sat – 18th Oct 14
W INT  Sweden – Netherlands

Bledisloe III: Lord Bledisloe’s Cup is staying in New Zealand for another year. However, this is one of the oldest rivalries in rugby and the Wallabies have not beaten the All Blacks  in 10 matches since 2011-  when the All Blacks sent a secon-rate side, as they prepared for the World Cup. Look for coverage from Kiwi rugby expert, Jamie Wall.

Americas Rugby Championship: The ARC is the most important developmental tournament for  Canada, the USA, Uruguay & Argentina. Keep in mind, these are not the first-string squads, but a combination of capped players and new blood gaining experience… With that, Team USA bested host Canada, 3-16 (home team score comes first), behind two tries from winger Tim Stanfill. Stanfill continues to build off his success in 7s with the Seattle Saracens side. The pitch was sloppy from previous heavy rains, which made handling the pill difficult… Argentina knocked off the USA’s next opponent, Uruguay, 31-9, in the other match, pretty much locking up the title. Indeed, Canada would need to beat Los Jaguares by 50 and Team USA would have to beat Uruguay by like 30 for them not to win… but there is a chance!

European Champions Cup: The Heineken Cup is dead. It has been revised and rebooted as the European (Rugby) Champions Cup. There are a lot of things that are the same and a couple things that are different.  Same goes for RWU, as our East Midlands Man Nick Hall will be the go-to guy for ECC action. What hasn’t changed is that the six-pack is back and making bold predictions. Please see the match preview and the Six Pack’s picks.

European Challenge Cup: The ugly step-sister of the Heineken Cup used to be the known as the Amlin Challenge Cup. With the Champions Cup now the new Heineken, the Amlin is now called the European Challenge Cup. On Thursday, Gloucester welcomed Brive in the first match of the new era for both competitions. Gloucester was heavily favored going in and justified that expectation by dominating and shutting out Brive.
As for the matches going on this weekend:
Newcastle welcomes Bucharest, Bordeaux face Edinburgh. Grenoble travel to Cardiff to face the Blues, Mighty Connacht will introduce newly promoted #Top14 side La Rochelle to European competition while Bayonne will challenge a dangerous Exeter side. Stade Francais will roll out the welcome mat for Newport-Gwent and London Welsh will visit Lyon, in search of their first win in all competitions. Oyonnax and London Irish are favorites to win in Italy against Zebre and Rovigo, respectively.

Here are the results:
Thu – 16th Oct 14
Pool 5 Gloucester 55 – 0 Brive

Here is the weekend’s schedule:
Fri – 17th Oct 14
Pool 3 Newcastle – Bucuresti
Pool 4 Bordeaux-Begles – Edinburgh
Sat – 18th Oct 14
Pool 1 Cardiff Blues – Grenoble
Pool 2 Connacht – La Rochelle
Pool 2 Bayonne – Exeter
Pool 3 Stade Francais – Newport-Gwent Dragons
Pool 4 LOU Rugby – London Welsh
Pool 5 Zebre – Oyonnax
Sun – 19th Oct 14
Pool 1 London Irish – Rovigo

The 2013 Sharks looking to crash the party
The 2013 Sharks looking to crash the party in 2014 and celebrate again.

Currie Cup: And then there was four. The 2014 Currie Cup is now in its playoff rounds. 4 teams will battle it out for the title beginning on this Saturday, when the Lions challenge the Sharks to beat them at home in Jo’burg… and the best regular season side, Western Province, will face the Blue Bulls.

Here is the weekend’s schedule:
Sat – 18th Oct 14
Lions – Sharks
Western Province – Blue Bulls

ITM Cup: The 2014 ITM Cup is also in its playoff rounds. As a two-tier competition, the ITM Cup has two groups of four competing for their own titles. The second tier, aka Championship final four, will see Ranfurly Shield holders Hawkes’ Bay welcome Northland while Southland travel to Manawatu. In the senior circuit, aka the Premiership, has traditional powerhouses on the road, as Auckland and 7-time (consecutively) defending champs Canterbury travel to face upstarts Taranaki and Tasman, respectively.

Here is the weekend’s schedule:
Fri – 17th Oct 14
Championship semifinal: Hawkes’ Bay – Northland
Sat – 18th Oct 14
Championship semifinal: Manawatu – Southland
Premiership semifinal: Taranaki – Auckland
Premiership semifinal: Tasman v Canterbury

Australia NRC: The inaugural NRC enters its ultimate round. In the Thursday night game, Sydney Stars won a shootout against cross-town rivals the North Harbour Rays.
As for the matches going on this weekend:
The NSW Country Eagles will welcome a challenge from the venerable Perth Spirt, the Melbourne Rising will face a stiff challenge from Queensland Country.

Here are the results:
Thurs – 16th Oct 14
Sydney Stars 49 – 40 North Harbour Rays
Here is the weekend’s schedule:
Sat – 18th Oct 14
NSW Country Eagles – Perth Spirit
Melbourne Rising – Queensland Country
Brisbane City – UC Vikings

Tier 3 We begin with the European Nations Cup, which consists of 7 divisions, each with 4-6 teams. The matches determine who will get promoted and relegated form groups 1A, 1B, 2A – 2D, and 3A. On Saturday, Scandinavian rivals Norway and Finland face off in what is expected to be a tense affair.

Here is the weekend’s schedule:
Sat – 18th Oct 14
ENC Norway – Finland
Penalty Kick:

Thierry Dusautoir of Toulouse
Thierry Dusautoir of Toulouse

Transactions: London Irish have brought in former Worcester and London Scottish lock Dave Lyons on a short-term deal as injury cover.

There have been loads of stories out of the French media rumor mill. Apparently Bath was talking to Toulon about Steffon Armitage but that broke down. It was confirmed that it was more than a  rumor by Bath head coach Mike Ford... France captain Thierry Dusautoir and Toulouse team-mate Patricio Albacete have (allegedly) been targeted by Bath, Leicester and London Irish, according to the rumor mill. Also according to the rumor mill, Welsh trio Jamie Roberts, Dan Lydiate and Mike Phelps are going to leave France and head back to the regions, though currently the players seem baffled by such talk.

With fly-half François Trinh-Duc out for three months, Montpellier are on the lookout for a short-term replacement until he returns. There are currently in discussion to try and lure retired great Felipe Contepomi back into active rugby. According to sources, Contepomi is back in Argentina playing for the Newman club and working on putting his medical license as a doctor to good use.

Prop Siate Tokolahi from Canterbury and Hawke’s Bay lock Michael Allardice have signed with the Chiefs for Super Rugby 2015. Chiefs assistant coach Wayne Smith will remain with the Hamilton-based franchise for the 2015 Super Rugby season. Taranaki back-row Iopu Iopu-Aso has secured a Super Rugby contract with the Hurricanes until the end of 2016.

USA Rugby News and Updates: USA Rugby  has announced the addition of the Life University National Development Academy, as part of the broader USA Rugby Olympic Development Academy program, to help identify and develop rugby players across the country.

Per Mike Holzman and an article from TIAR, ESPN is set to air all the European Champions and Challenge Cup matches on ESPN 3. That is the on-line channel to watch ESPN sports. It is not live TV yer but it a huge step in the right direction.

IRB NewsThe third IRB Women’s Sevens World Series, which kicks off in Dubai, has been extended to six tournaments this year, following the success of the previous two seasons. Similiar to the men, the top 4 seeds recieve Olypmic births. Teh pools for the first leg of this year’s series were released earlier this week.

That’s 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, DJ Eberle, Nick Hall, James Harrington, Cody Kuxmann, Jaime Loyd, Karen Ritter , Jamie Wall, Jake Frechette and Declan Yeats, respectively.

And as always, stay low and keep pumping those legs.

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.