NEW YORK, NY – In most jobs, coming toward the end of the calendar year means very little work. Everyone is running out the clock. In the rugby world though, it is as busy as ever and you wouldn’t know that Christmas is around the corner. With that, we have a heavy week of Player Transactions, a busy week in USA Rugby & World Rugby Updates, some rugby news that needed its own classification, as it did not properly fit in the aforementioned sections. We’ll also look at the fixture list with Europe’s three top leagues back in action. Indeed, Santa’s bag is not big enough to hold all of today’s Weekend Rugby Preview:
Transactions: In the Aviva Premiership, Bath announced that the back-row trio of Matt Garvey, Leroy Houston and Guy Mercer have renewed their contracts with the club. Meanwhile, French paper Midi Olympique reported that Stade Français are ready to pay Bath to release Australian scrum-half Will Genia from his pre-contract agreement to join the club after Rugby World Cup 2015. The rumors don’t stop there, with Bath also rumored to be chasing the signature of Wales fly-half Rhys Priestland, along with fellow premiership club London Irish… Harlequins announced the signing of Australia lock James Horwill to a three-year contract after the World Cup. Young Sale Sharks hooker Tommy Taylor has penned a one-year extension… Exeter have announced the re-signing of Don Armand, Will Chudley and Matt Jess… Seven members of the Northampton Saints pack, including two England Internationals and six being academy products, re-signed with the club this week. The players were England international lock Courtney Lawes and hooker Dylan Hartley, England Saxons backrower Callum Clarke and prop Alex Waller, prop Ethan Waller, Lock James Craig, and prop Gareth Denman.
In the Pro 12, Ulster announced that loosehead prop Andrew Warwick signed his first senior contract, a two-year deal that will see him remain with the club until at least the end of the 2016/17 season… Connacht Rugby and the IRFU have appointed former outhalf for Connacht and Ireland and Connacht head coach Eric Elwood as domestic rugby manager for the province.
Our Ligue Nationale de Rugby expert is on top of all the Top14 news but this weekend’s Top14 Preview was bursting at the seams with transactions, so some spilled over here… There is the Delon Armitage situation needed its own subject line and then there’s the news that Brive captain Arnaud Mela looks set to end his career with the club, after extending his contract there by two years.
As for Super Rugby transactions, Western Force announced the signing of Japanese international wing Akihito Yamada ahead the 2015 season… Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe has reportedly rejected the chance to join Argentina‘s new Super Rugby franchise in 2016… Western Province have announced the hiring of Paul Treu, Rito Hlungwani and Hanyani Shimange set to join, in various capacities, from 2015 onwards, whilst WP Rugby has also agreed to release defensive guru Jacques Nienaber to further his career at the national level with the Springboks…Also, Rito Hlungwani will serve as the WP U19 forwards coach and Hanyani Shimange will initially consult to the WP Vodacom Cup team… The defense-coaching workload will continue to be shared between Allister Coetzee and Greg Hechter… Treu stepped down from his position as head coach of Kenya 7s (held the position less than a year) after battling the incompetence of the Kenya RFU for his brief tenure.
Delon Armitage Saga: Delon Armitage, the Toulon player, has been suspended for 12 weeks as a result of a misconduct complaint lodged against him by EPCR following his club’s Champions Cup match against Leicester Tigers at Welford Road on December 7. However, it doesn’t end there. Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal has threatened legal action against the Tigers fans, as this decision was made on just the accounts of the fans with no video, audio or witnesses. Boudjellal believes the verdict is unjust. Also, Tigers fans do have history of getting into it with opposition players and coaches. RWU will keep you updated on the events.
Aviva Premiership News: Saracens CEO Edward Griffiths has called for the salary cap to be scrapped as it will “kill any hope of growth.” In a statement released on their website, Griffiths also said that believes he has the backing of six other English clubs. For better understanding of the Salary Cap issues of the league, checkout this interview RWU had with Northampton Saints CEO, last year:
Super Rugby News: The Crusaders’ hopes of playing a Super Rugby match in Fiji hinges on a meeting between the players and the New Zealand Rugby Players Association. The match between the Crusaders and Hurricanes is scheduled to be played in Suva’s National Stadium on May 29 as their home ground, the AMI Stadium, will be used for FIFA’s U20 World Cup in May and June. Although broadcaster Sky are understood to be keen to screen the match, New Zealand Rugby Players Association boss Rob Nichol revealed that several issues must be addressed before the game will be able to take place.
Odd Rugby-Related News: All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has cleared star center Sonny Bill Williams to resume his boxing career in January. Williams’ next fight is against American heavyweight Chauncy Welliver on January 31 in Sydney on a card which also features Wallaby fly-half Quade Cooper. Coincidentally the pair have the same agent.
USA Rugby News and Updates: As reported in the Weekend Recap, USA Rugby officially announced a bid has been submitted to World Rugby to host Rugby World Cup Sevens, to be held in 2018. USA Rugby, in conjunction with the San Francisco Giants, San Jose Earthquakes, and the Bay Area Sports Organizing Committee, plans for the proposed three-day tournament to be held in the San Francisco area.
World Rugby News: In a further boost to preparations for Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan, the iconic 72,000-seater stadium in Yokohama has been added to the list of bidders seeking to become venues for rugby’s pinnacle tournament. The late application, which came from Yokohama and the Kanagawa Prefecture, has been accepted by Japan Rugby 2019, the tournament’s organizing body, bringing the total number of applicants to 15.
The Coca-Cola Company was appointed an official sponsor of Rugby World Cup 2015 and named Brian O’Driscoll as its ambassador.
The pools for round two of the Women’s 7s World Series in Sao Paulo, Brazil -on the 7th & 8th of February – were announced this week.
Pool A: France, New Zealand, USA and Spain
Pool B: Australia, Fiji, Brazil and China.
Pool C: Canada, England, South Africa and Russia.
World Rugby confirmed the qualification process for the next Women’s Rugby World Cup, to be held in 2017. The top seven teams from Women’s Rugby World Cup 2014 will qualify directly, meaning reigning champions England, Canada, France, Ireland, New Zealand, USA and Australia are confirmed for the 2017 tournament. For how the remaining teams will qualify, please click here.
WEEKEND FIXTURE LIST:
Top 14: As we have already mentioned, the Top 14 was chock full of news this week. Our Ligue Nationale de Rugby expert covers back-room politics, the arrival of Dan Carter and more. For his exceptional preview, click here.
Aviva Premiership: As the clubs return back to domestic action this weekend, there are a few tantalizing fixtures. Clubs Sale and Exeter face-off and will be battling for a Top Six finish to qualify for the Champions Cup next season… Harlequins will try and overcome their injury list and win at home against Newcastle… It will be one-way traffic as Saracens, at home, will demolish London Welsh… It will be another playoff rematch between foes, Northampton and Leicester… Gloucester take on Bath and Wasps begin life in Coventry against London Irish.
Here is the weekend’s schedule:
Fri – 19th Dec 14
Sale – Exeter
Sat – 20th Dec 14
Harlequins – Newcastle
Saracens – London Welsh
Northampton – Leicester
Gloucester – Bath
Sun – 21st Dec 14
Wasps – London Irish
Guinness Pro 12: In the Pro 12, clubs will also be battling for either a playoff place or European Cup place. The fixture list begins with a Welsh derby as Cardiff Blues take on Scarlets, Edinburgh host Treviso and Connacht head east to take on Leinster – in an Irish derby. Glasgow welcome Munster and Ulster travel south to face Ospreys… Newport-Gwent will wrap up the weekend when they take on Zebre.
Here is the weekend’s schedule:
Fri – 19th Dec 14
Cardiff Blues – Scarlets
Edinburgh – Benetton Treviso
Leinster – Connacht
Sat – 20th Dec 14
Glasgow Warriors – Munster
Ospreys – Ulster
Sun – 21st Dec 14
Newport-Gwent Dragons – Zebre
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.