Weekend Rugby Preview: Rene Ranger, Andrew Trimble, Aviva, Pro 12, ENC, USA Rugby and World Rugby News

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Rene Ranger: heading home
Rene Ranger: heading home

NEW YORK, NY – The thing about the 6 Nations schedule is those 5 weeks really impact about 8 weeks of rugby. The tournament camps and players being held out of domestic competition means that clubs will lose talismanic figures as the final third of the season goes on. Not to mention some quality youth players as the U-20 6 Nations takes place also. In the bye weeks of the competition, a group of players are released back to domestic duty while a fair few stay with the national team. Of Europe‘s 3 premier domestic competitions, The Top #14, Aviva Premiership and Guinesss Pro 12, only the Top 14 doesn’t play matches same time as a 6 Nations and they only recently came to that decision. What this means for you as a rugby fan this weekend is that every game will be more intense as their best players won’t be around We will also provide an update on the postponed European Nations Cup game from last week. In the Southern Hemisphere, the intercontinental rugby competition known as Super Rugby has its own news to report and fixtures to set for this weekend.  As usual though, before we get to the matches because we must cover Transfer Rumors, Player Transactions, USA Rugby and World Rugby news. We have already talked too much already so let’s just get into the Weekend Rugby Preview:

Player Transactions:
#Top14: Montpellier announced that by way of mutual agreement former New Zealand All Blacks back Rene Ranger has been granted an early release from his contract with the club and will play for the Blues in Super Rugby next season. The New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) has confirmed that Ranger will return mid-2015 and will be assigned to North Harbour instead of hometown province of Northland.

Aviva Premiership: Saracens announced the signing of Italy‘s Fiji-born back-rower Samuela Vunisa from PRO12 club Zebre, for the 2015/16 season. Former England flanker Magnus Lund has extended his stay with Sale Sharks. Lund broke into the Premiership with Sale and the only Premiership club he has ever played for. Lund signed a new two-year deal with the club… London Irish announced that center Guy Armitage has joined London Scottish on loan for the remainder of the season.When Armitage gets back to the Irish, the coaching staff will look different. The exiles, this week announced  the remainder of  their coaching team ahead of next season,  with confirmation that Grant Doorey and Clark Laidlaw are set to join them. Doorey will join the Premiership club as Assistant Coach to Tom Coventry and he will look after defense, ending his current association with the Super Rugby Blues. Laidlaw is currently an Assistant Coach at the Super Rugby Hurricanes and he will serve as Assistant Coach while being responsible for the backs.

Twice-capped, Australian international Cooper Vuna will move to the Worcester Warriors with immediate effect from his current side, Japan‘s Toshiba Brave Lupus…In other news from the Championship, the Warriors‘ promotion rivals Bristol have signed Sale scrum-half Will Cliff, for next season, when they hope to be in the Premiership.

Guinness Pro12: Ulster and Ireland winger Andrew Trimble has signed a new two-year deal that keeps him Belfast through to the end of the 2016/2017 season… The Dragons announced that young fly-half Dorian Jones has signed a long term deal with the region. The Dragons also announced this week, the signing of Wasps scrum-half Charlie Davies and back-row Ed Jackson ahead of 2015/16… Danie Poolman has signed a new two-year deal with Connacht which will keep him at the province, where he is currently this season’s top try-scorer until 2017.

USA Rugby and World RugbyUSA Rugby News/Updates: USA Rugby, in partnership with IMG, will hold the 2015 College 7s National Championships at the University of Denver. The tournament will host forty-eight of college rugby’s finest men’s and women’s programs on May 23-24. It will feature competition in three fields – Men’s Division I, Men’s Division II, and the Women’s Division. This will be the first time the event will be held in May in a departure from the November dates of 2011 – 2013. It appears to be a strategic move by USA Rugby to head to head with the independent College Rugby Championship invitational 7s tournament (CRC7s). USA Rugby announced their new partnership with World Rugby Shop that will see WRS serve as both official online retail partner of USA Rugby and official sponsor of the USA Rugby National Referees…The Women’s Eagles Sevens’ roster for Atlanta 7s – the third leg of the 2014-15 World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series – has been announced. The tournament will take place next weekend, March 14-15 at Fifth Third Bank Stadium on the campus of Kennesaw State University in GeorgiaClick here to read more.

World Rugby News: In a RWC year, anti-doping education has been prioritized by World Rugby. This was underscored by the record program attendance of Keep Rugby Clean awareness and education in 2014.  Rugby’s governing body used the preventative power of education to deliver mandatory education workshops to 3,377 players, coaches and staff through its Keep Rugby Clean program in 2014… World Rugby signed historic agreement with International Gay Rugby, The Memorandum of Understanding outlines a commitment between the two organizations to work together to educate and eliminate homophobia in rugby… Amendments have been made to the Six Nations referee schedule. We will now see Wayne Barnes take charge of the Wales v Ireland clash on 14 March in Cardiff.

As for the weekend’s fixtures:
Super Rugby: Our resident Kiwi and Super Rugby expert Jamie Wall has put together a concise and efficient preview of Round 4. Worry no though friends, he still squeezed in some wicked one-liners. For his full preview, click here.

Top 14: After a bye week for the 6 Nations, the Top 14 is back. Our Top 14 rugby expert James Harrington chronicles the state of the incredibly tight playoff in his round preview of the round. For the preview, click here.

Aviva Ball PicAviva Premiership: Our Midlands rugby scholar, Nick Hall in his recap of round 16 discussed the insanity of the Premiership’s playoff race. The pressure remains on all the teams in the top half of the table, if they hope to make the playoffs. The weekend’s action begins with Bath welcoming Sale. The next day, Harlequins will receive a visit from London Irish as Exeter will roll the red carpet for the London Welsh. Gloucester will have the unenviable task on taking down Northampton. The weekend ends with a mouth-watering fixture between Wasps and Saracens while Leicester travel to Newcastle.

Here is the weekend’s schedule:
Fri – 06th Mar 15
Bath – Sale
Sat – 07th Mar 15
Harlequins – London Irish
Exeter – London Welsh
Gloucester – Northampton
Sun – 08th Mar 15
Wasps – Saracens
Newcastle – Leicester

Guinness Pro 12: The race for playoff places in the Pro 12 are no joke either. There are 6 teams for 4 playoff spots there too. Hopefully this weekend will clear things up. It kicks-off with Zebre traveling to Glasgow to face the Warriors, while Connacht make their way to Cardiff to face the Blues. Ospreys will welcome Munster as will Scarlets against Leinster. The continue the Scotland v Italy club face-off Edinburgh heads to Treviso. Newport-Gwent will take on Ulster to complete the Welsh Regions v Irish Provinces challenge that dominate round.

Here is the weekend’s schedule:
Fri – 06th Mar 15
Glasgow Warriors – Zebre
Cardiff Blues – Connacht
Sat – 07th Mar 15
Ospreys – Munster
Scarlets – Leinster
Benetton Treviso – Edinburgh
Sun – 08th Mar 15
Newport Gwent Dragons – Ulster

European Nations Cup: The ENC, or the 6 Nations “B” , is the premier tournament for the second-tier nations of Europe. Unbeknown to some, the ENC consists of seven divisions, each featuring between four and six teams. The matches played will determine who will get promoted and relegated from groups 1B, 2A – 2D, and 3A over a two-year cycle. In division 1A last weekend, a late result of a match that was initially postponed was finally published. Russia had a huge upset home victory against Romania.

Here were the results:
Sat – 28th Feb 2015
1A: Russia 16 – 13 Romania

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, James Harrington, Jamie Wall, Nick Hall, DJ Eberle, Jake Frechette, Scheenagh Harrington, Jamie Loyd, Cody Kuxmann, Karen Ritter 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.