NEW YORK, NY – Currently, we are reviewing the performances of our 2014 USA, Canada and European Rugby classes and naming their 2015 counterparts. After covering the Eagles and Maple Leafs, as well as the 2015 European Rugby Players To Watch, we now turn our attention to the 2015 European Clubs, Coaches & Management To Watch.
England – Newcastle (Aviva Premiership): The Falcons are on this list not because they are a club on the rise but they are a club that is on the verge of being relegated. Thankfully, for them at least, they have the cellar-dwelling London Welsh beneath them at the foot of the table for the 2014/2015 season. However 2015/2016 could be whole different kettle of fish. 2014 club-of-the-year Bristol and the club relegated from the premiership, Worcester are set to battle it out for promotion to the Premiership. This means Newcastle will have to make some smart buys in the summer or else they could well find themselves at the wrong end of a relegation dogfight by Boxing Day of this year.
Ireland: Connacht (Pro12): For a long time, Connacht has been a development province for Irish rugby. It has been an IRFU development province for a long time, with a good chunk of its funding coming from the success of the other three provinces. The other three held fast to the theory that four strong provinces is better than three and Connacht provided a farm team where over-the-hill or young players could go to get some meaningful minutes. A few years back, things started changing and the province started developing. They produced their first top-drawer Irish international in ages and played well in both ye olde Heineken and Amlin Cups. Now under the coaching of Samoan Pat Lam and Connacht man born-and-bred Eric Elwood, they are in the top half of the Pro12 table and pushing for a playoff spot. The day may not be far away when the Pro12 playoffs are all Irish.
France: Béziers Hérault (Pro D2): The Top 14 has seen some giants come and go. In the ’80s Béziers was one of the top clubs in the country. However ,professionalism hit them hard and they fell on hard times. They didn’t collect in the the rich sugar daddy sweepstakes, either. However, they are slowly building to a return to the top flight. They are currently seventh and two places away from a playoff spot. They finished sixth last year, just missing out on qualification. We believe, with our heart more than our head, that they will get a playoff place this year. They may not win promotion but if you are looking for a club slowly building itself back into the Top14, it’s Béziers.
France – Diego Dominguez (Toulon): Rich guys can do whatever they want with their money. However, when Mourad Boudjellal announced late last year that the new coach for Toulon would be Italian(Argentine) goal kicking legend, Diego Dominguez, a few jaws dropped. Dominguez is loved and respected but he has no coaching experience. He’s not officially due to join Toulon until January 2016, but expect to see him hovering around various Top 14 rugby grounds, trying to pick up a few hints and tips… Then, it will be interesting to see how a wealthy man who does not take losing well deals with a rookie coach.
England – Gary Street (Unattached): Normally, when someone updates their LinkedIn page to say they are “looking for a new challenge” you wonder vaguely what happened. When it is a Women’s Rugby World Cup-winning coach, you most likely spit out your coffee in shock. This is the story of Gary Street. After winning a WRWC medal, he stepped down from coaching the England women. It appears it was a mutual decision between the man and the RFU, which suggests they didn’t see eye to eye on the future of the women’s game. Where Street goes is anyone’s guess but with women’s rugby coaches often having their talents overlooked, don’t be surprised if he ends up at a Championship club as head coach or an assistant with Premiership club.
France – Christophe Urios (Castres Olympique): The majority of Christophe Urios’ career centered around RWU’s Top 14 savant James Harringon’s town of Castres. Urios was there for nine years as a player and three years officially as coach. Since then, he has paid his coaching dues and travelled around Top 14 coaching scene. To Urios’ great credit he has worked wonders at Oyonnax. He has coached the side since 2007 and has seen them get better every year. So, it’s no wonder Castres decided to lure him back and give him a chance with a large contract from the start of the 2015-16 season. How he does at Castres and how Oyonnax get along with out him will say a lot about each club.
England 2015 LTD: This is the official organization set up by the RFU to organize the 2015 Rugby World Cup. The English 2015 group has helped all that it can to bring the issues important by them. The success of the 2015 version of the quadrennial showpiece, which runs from September 18 to October 31, will have a lot to do with the organisational skills of the England 2015 administrators.
European Professional Club Rugby: Europe’s flagship cup competitions need to be better marketed, but many in the know seem to think that this new Swiss-based organisation can do the job. Organisers of the 2014 competition had so little time to organise the inaugural tournament, that they had no choice but to subcontract it to the Dublin-based company that ran the old Heineken and Amlin Cups. From next season, however, it is taking over the reins completely. Everyone agrees that the original competitions had developed into something very special, so this will be a big job for the umbrella body which has set up home in Neuchatel, in neutral Switzerland.
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.
We will do a Southern Hemisphere Class of 2015 soon, so please look out for it. And, as always… Stay low and keep pumping those legs.