Weekend Rugby Preview: Sean Maitland, Challenge Cup, Rumors, Transactions, Cody Kuxmann & USA Rugby News

Sean Maitland
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Sean Maitland
Sean Maitland
NEW YORK, NY –  The Northern Hemisphere continues to dominate all the rugby action, as we continue to wait, with bated breath, for the action south of the equator to kick off next month. In the top half of the world, the only tournaments being talked about this weekend are the European Rugby Champions Cup and the European Rugby Challenge Cup. But before we get to those tournaments, we still have to cover the Transfer Rumors, Player Transactions, USA Rugby and World Rugby news. So, here’s your Weekend Rugby Preview:

We begin with the constant rumor mill that is the Top 14… According to French sport newspaper Midi Olympique, Springboks front-row brothers Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis had agreed to join Montpellier. But club president Mohed Altrad “categorically denied” these reports. The Herault club did confirm stories that they shored up their half-back options for next season by signing scrum-half Nic White and fly-half Demetri Catrakilis to two-year contracts… France second row Alexandre Flanquart re-signed with Stade Français on a three-year deal taking him through to 2018. Stade also completed the signing of Fiji hooker Talemaitoga Tuapati as a medical joker for the injured Laurent Sempéré… Former England utility back Mathew Tait will join the list of players leaving England to play in France. He has agreed to a deal with Bayonne… And former All Blacks flanker Jerry Collins has ended his rugby sabbatical by joining ProD2 side Narbonne as a medical joker.

In the Aviva PremiershipLondon Irish announced the signing of Scotland International and British & Irish Lions winger Sean Maitland from Glasgow Warriors on a long-term contract. The Exiles also confirmed confirmed the signing of World Cup-winner Ben Franks on a three-year deal from the Super Rugby Hurricanes. With addition comes subtraction and the Exiles confirmed scrum-half Tomás O’Leary will leave at the end of the season to re-join Munster… Newcastle had a busy week as they announced that fly-half Tom Catterick signed a contract extension until 2017, backrow and captain Will Welch signed a new two-year contract and eightman Callum Chick also re-signedFlanker Ben White became the latest Exeter Chiefs player to commit his long-term future to the club… Northampton Saints announced that backrower Jamie Gibson will leave arch-rivals Leicester and join them in 2015/16.

Connacht announced that head coach Pat Lam has signed a new three-year deal to remain in Galway until at least the end of 2017/18 campaign… Munster and the IRFU confirmed the player contract extensions of winger Andrew Conway, lock Dave O’Callaghan, fly-half Johnny Holland and prop/hooker Eusebio Guinazu. With a year left on his contract, Wales winger Alex Cuthbert has rejected the chance to sign a dual contract with the WRU and Cardiff Blues, according to the national side’s head coach Warren Gatland… Newport Gwent Dragons  confirmed that they have secured Kiwi backrower Nick Crosswell on a long-term deal.

In Super Rugby, the Blues have announced that All Blacks tighthead prop Charlie Faumuina has re-committed to the franchise and New Zealand Rugby to the end of 2017, despite interest from big-money clubs in Europe.

Cody Kuxmann
Cody Kuxmann

USA Rugby News and Updates: Two players, Ahmad Harajly from Detroit Tradesmen Rugby Football Club and Mataiyasi Leuta from California State University, Monterey Bay, made cases for themselves at the Jan. 10, National Team Recruitment Camp in Chula Vista and earned spots at this week’s Men’s Eagles Sevens High Performance Camp. They will be in the mix for the squad headed to New Zealand next month for the Wellington Sevens. For the full article and camp list, click here… The roster for the USA Rugby Boys High School All-American sides competing in the 2015 Las Vegas Invitational has been announced – please click here for it… Head Coach Mike Tolkin and the Men’s Eagles coaching staff will work with 20 Rugby World Cup hopefuls at the Eagles Forwards Camp held at the United States Olympic Committee Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif., next week. Here is the 20-strong listRWU’s own Cody Kuxmann has been named as one of two recipients of the Shanagher Morrison Scholarship for 2015. He and Nick Cutrell will attend high-level referee coaching sessions at the Maties Rugby Academy in Stellenbosch, South Africa.

World Rugby News: Sevens fans can now register for Rio 2016 tickets. Fans can sign up to ensure they don’t miss out on tickets for rugby sevens’ Olympic Games debut in Brazil. Please click here to find out more.

European Champions Cup: It is the final round of the pool stage of the European (Rugby) Champions Cup and it appears to be the end of the road for many teams. For the ones still in the playoff hunt, our East Midlands Man Nick Hall has all the ECC action. Be sure to check out the match preview and the Six Pack’s picks.

The European Challenge Cup Trophy
European Challenge Cup Trophy

European Challenge Cup: The European Challenge Cup has already begun its final round of play. There are only five seeds available for the playoffs and they will go to the top team in each of the five pools. The remaining three places will go to the three highest-placed sides in the Champions Cup that missed out on qualifying for the quarter-finals of that competition.

On Thursday night, Gloucester secured the #1 spot by dispatching Brive, while Oyonnax made light work of Zebre.
As for the matches going on this weekend:
Edinburgh will host Bordeaux-Begles, while another French side, Grenoble, roll out the welcome mat for Cardiff Blues. London Irish get a half day off as they play Rovigo, and same goes for Newcastle as they take on Bucharest. Stade Francais face a tough challenge when they travel to Newport to take on the Dragons. Exeter will face Bayonne while Connacht take on La Rochelle in France. Finally London Welsh, still searching for their first victory in all competitions, will take on Lyon.

Here are the results:
Fri – 23rd Jan 15
Oyonnax 20 – 3 Zebre
Brive 20 – 31 Gloucester

Here is the schedule:
Sat – 24th Jan 15
Edinburgh – Bordeaux-Begles
Grenoble – Cardiff Blues
Rovigo – London Irish
Romania Bucuresti – Newcastle
Newport Gwent Dragons – Stade Francais
Exeter – Bayonne
La Rochelle – Connacht
Sun – 25th Jan 15
London Welsh – Lyon

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.