NEW YORK, NY – This weekend is a sleepy one for the rugby world. The Six Nations haven’t begun, nor has Super Rugby. The only contests in action are the Top 14 and the Anglo-Welsh Cup. This has left us to focus our efforts mainly on the off-field news. We have Transfer Rumors, Player Transactions, USA Rugby and World Rugby news. We will cover the off-field news before we get to the on-field action. So, let’s dive into the Weekend Rugby Preview:
We begin with the Aviva Premiership. London Irish have announced the signing of Super Rugby New South Wales Waratahs scrum-half Brendan McKibbin on a two-year deal…Wasps confirmed that All Black winger Frank Halai will join the club from Super Rugby’s Auckland Blues for the 2015/2016 season… Bath have announced that two academy graduates, young second-row Charlie Ewels and hooker Tom Dunn, have both inked their first senior contracts with the club… Gloucester have confirmed that Ulster assistant coach Jonathan Bell will take on the role of assistant coach from next season. The cherry and whites have also announced the triple signing of front-rowers Paul Doran-Jones of Harlequins, Paddy McAllister of Aurillac and Nicky Thomas of Ospreys… Leicester backs coach Geordan Murphy has tried to played down rumors that he could be heading elsewhere, because his “contract talks with the Tigers are ongoing so there is plenty of time left”… One man who will be leaving Leicester is England lock Geoff Parling, who has agreed a two-year contract with the Exeter Chiefs… Northampton have announced that Glasgow Warriors second-row Tom Ryder has joined the club on a short term contract until the end of the season. Former England wing and Sale Shark Mark Cueto has announced his retirement from the playing at the end of the current season.
In the Top 14, Bordeaux-Bègles last week signed South African lock Ben Venter as injury cover for Adam Jaulhac until the end of the season. According to reports, they are keen to bring in a second South African. Favourite is Bulls inside centre Ulrich Beyers, who is on trial in the Gironde.
In the Pro 12, Ulster‘s home ground of Ravenhill, known these days thanks to the marketing men as the Kingspan Stadium, will host the 2015 Pro12 Final on Saturday, May 30. In other Ulster news, former NSW Waratahs defense coach, Joe Barakat, is set to join the province as as assistant coach on a two-year contract, next season... Connacht have announced the signing of back-row trio Eoin McKeon, George Naoupu and Eoghan Masterson as the westcountry side continues to build itself into a genuine Irish rugby power. McKeon and Masterson signed two-year contracts while Connacht and Naoupu have both opted to activate the third year on his current contract that will keep him with the club until the end of the 2015/16.
In Super Rugby, Former Springbok center Waylon Murray has joined the Sharks after turning a trial into a one-year deal… The Crusaders have opted to not play a Super Rugby match in Fiji and instead to move their “home” fixture to Nelson… Melbourne Rebels have announced the signing of former Wallaby and Queensland Red Mike Harris and that he is expected to play full-back… NSW Waratahs outside back Rob Horne has ended speculation about his future, including rumors of a possible move to Munster, by signing a two-year deal to stay put. Stormers coach Allister Coetzee has poured cold water on reports that the Super Rugby side has signed former England Sevens star and RWU contributor Mathew Drew Turner. Coetzee says Turner asked to train with the side, but it would take few injuries to the current squad before he would be signed.
USA Rugby News and Updates: The dream continues for Ahmad Harajly. Two months ago, he was working as a medtech and playing D2 rugby. Earlier this week, Men’s Eagles Sevens Head Coach Mike Friday named him in the Eagles squad for the Wellington Sevens, the fourth leg of the 2014-15 World Rugby HSBC Sevens World Series, after a standout performance at the National Team Recruitment Camp. For more details about his fanatastic journey, Click Here. Our friends at Stars 7s rugby are currently seeking sponsors, so click here and give their website a look… The Women’s Eagles Sevens will continue their 2014-15 World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series campaign next month at São Paulo Sevens on February 7 and 8. The squad list has been announced and can be found here. And finally, USA Rugby said in a press release that High Performance Coaching Manager and Eagle great Luke Gross traveled to Jamaica on January 7 and 8 – with support from World Rugby and the North America Caribbean Rugby Association – to help with the union’s development…
World Rugby News: Former New Zealand Sevens player Warwick Lahmert has been called up by England Sevens. Lahmert is the first player to use the 7’s eligibility loophole created by the IOC and WR for qualifying for a nation for the Olympics. This drama also has the added flavor of the HSBC Sevens World Series tournament being in Wellington, NZ. Along with England and the USA, a few other nations released their squad list, which can be found on the World Rugby website… Saracens will play the Super Rugby Bulls in an exhibition match at Allianz Park in London this weekend.
As for the weekend’s fixtures:
Top 14: With Europe no longer of concern to all but three clubs in the #Top14 , it is time to focus on the league. but that just means the teams are under more pressure. Our Ligue Nationale de Rugby expert previews the action this weekend in his piece, check it out by clicking here.
LV=Cup: It’s a bye week in the Aviva Premeirship and the Pro12, so the LV= Cup will hold center stage . The cup is also known as the Anglo-Welsh cup competition and is the premier developmental tournaments for young players in Wales and England. The 12 Aviva premiership teams along with the four Welsh regions battle it out to find a champion. The main thing it does is it lets stars of tomorrow showcase their abilities. This weekend will see Harlequins take on Bath, Gloucester host Ospreys, and Exeter challenge Newport-Gwent. Northern rivals Newcastle and Sale will clash while Scarlets welcome the London Irish. Leicester face arch-rivals Northampton, Wasps tangle with the Blues and London Welsh will do battle with Saracens.
Here is the weekend’s schedule:
Sat – 31st Jan 15
Harlequins – Bath
Gloucester – Ospreys
Newport-Gwent Dragons – Exeter
Newcastle – Sale
Scarlets – London Irish
Leicester – Northampton
Wasps – Cardiff Blues
London Welsh – Saracens
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.