Barritt, Farrell, POC, #USAvUru, Aviva, Pro 12, Player Moves, USA Rugby, World Rugby News

Paul O'Connell
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Brad Barritt
Brad Barritt

NEW YORK, NY – And down the stretch they come!! Those are the words echoing out in the Northern Hemisphere regarding Europe’s top three leagues, the #Top14, the Aviva Premiership and the Guinness Pro 12 as they resumed action for the handful of final match-days of the regular season going into playoffs. Meanwhile down south in Super Rugby, the thought of playoffs is now starting to weigh heavy on minds as round 11 rolls around. In addition to that action, we have matches  from tier 3 international rugby championships, including womens, in Europe, South America, and Asia. However, before we get ahead of ourselves, we must discuss all of the Transfers, Player Transactions, USA Rugby and World Rugby news. With no more needing to be said, let’s get into the Weekend Rugby Preview:

Player Transactions:
Aviva Premiership: Exeter announced the re-siging of lock Jerry Sexton (Johnny’s brother) until the end of the 2015/16 seasonHarlequins will have signed Samoa international center Winston Stanley for next season from Super Rugby HighlandersSaracens and England center Brad Barritt and fly-half Owen Farrell have committed their futures to the club by signing long-term deals… One Saracen ending his time with the club will be lock Eoin Sheriff as he joins London Irish at the end of the season...Leicester director of rugby Richard Cockerill has confirmed the signing of Wallaby winger Peter Betham for next season. Betham will join at the end of the Super Rugby season as he is currently playing with the NSW Waratahs.

Paul O'Connell
Paul O’Connell

Guinness Pro12: Newport Gwent Dragons announced that former British and Irish Lion Lee Byrne will retire with immediate effect from professional rugby as a result of a shoulder injury…Edinburgh confirmed that Ulster wing/center, Michael Allen, will join the club at the end of this season…Toulon have denied that they are in talks to sign Paul O’Connell (POC) after reports emerged that they were on the verge of signing the Irish skipper…Scarlets have confirmed that Australian-born and Welsh qualified loosehead prop Dylan Evans will join the region ahead of the 2015/16 season.

USA Rugby News/Updates: Tickets for the first and second World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup match day doubleheaders in the U.S. – Saturday, July 18, at Avaya Stadium and Friday, July 24, at Bonney Field – are officially on sale to the public…Men’s Eagles Sevens Head Coach Mike Friday has made his final roster selections for the 2014-15 World Rugby HSBC Sevens World Series. It only contains one change and can be seen here.

Following an audit of the AIG Men’s Collegiate All-Americans, USA Rugby announced an overhaul of the program, departing from the  end-of-season, single-assembly team to a year-round identification, monitoring, and development structure for future Eagles. “There are a handful of quality institutions that have produced the majority of our Collegiate All-Americans over the years, and subsequently our senior Eagles and there is no wonder there–great coaching, superior DTEs, and in most cases some level of rivalry or parity in the local competition.” said USA Rugby Director of Performance Alex Magleby. In addition to a change in the structure of the AIG MCAAs, a new coaching staff was announced.  Gavin Hickie, former Aviva Premiership hooker and current Dartmouth Men’s Rugby head coach, is the new head coach of the team. Clemson Head Coach Justin Hickey and Yale Head Coach Greg McWilliams will join the coaching staff as forwards coach and backs coach, respectively, and filling out the backroom will be Tony Pacheco, reappointed as head coach of the AIG Men’s Collegiate All-American Sevens, serving as MCAA scouting director.

Tom Bliss, A RWU USA Class of 2015 member, has re-signed with Wasps, but will play at Ealing Trailfinders who were just promoted from National One (England’s third division) to the Greene King IPA Championship (second division), joining USA fullback Ronald McLean at the club.

In an ugly and turgid match, the USA Selects XV defeated Uruguay. It may not have been pretty but the USA showed great resolve and heart, managing to win the match though they were a man down for a combined 40 minutes of the match.

Here is the Result:
Fri – 24th Apr 15
Uruguay 3 – USA 13

World Rugby News: Barbarians played a match against Heriot in the Scottish Borders region on Wednesday to commemorate both clubs’ 125th anniversaries. In that match the BaaBaas capped player Ian McKinley, who joins the hundreds of players around the world reviving their careers courtesy of the new World Rugby-approved rugby goggles. For the complete story, click here…Now for an Aussie -centric news brief: Australian Rugby Union CEO Bill Pulver stated that it was unlikely that Wallabies will represent Australia at next year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. In more depressing news, the ARU announced that it sustained a A$6.3 million deficit for 2014. The ARU also revised their policy on selecting overseas players. Those internationals with at least 60 caps and who have played a minimum of seven seasons in Australia are now eligible for selection regardless of where they currently play. That is the short list of Matt Giteau and George Smith. Expect those requirements to be quietly amended. Soon after that announcement, NZRU’s chief executive Steve Tew announced that The New Zealand Rugby Union will not follow Australia’s example by allowing players to move overseas and still represent their country.

Super 15 LogoAs for the weekend’s fixtures:
Super Rugby: This weekend marks Australia New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) Day. It is a bit like memorial day combined with Veteran’s day celebrated with the vigor of Independence day, all wrapped in one. our Super Rugby expert, Kiwi , has found time for another great preview, if you   Click Here.

#Top14: The pressure for the clubs in the race for playoff positions is so thick, you could cut it with a knife. Our Top 14 expert, , a great piece that reviews the standings, the pressure to make the playoffs and predicts the weekend’s action, click here to read it.

Aviva Premiership: 8 points separate second from 6th with three games to go in the 2014/2015 season of the Aviva Premiership. Saying it will be a frantic finish is kind of an understatement. The weekend begins with Bath hosting London Irish. On Saturday, Sale will try and close the gap against an out of form Harlequins, while Leicester get to run a live scrimmage against London Welsh, Gloucester will try and ride their European Challenge Cup form against Newcastle. In a possible finals preview, Northampton will tangle with Saracens in the marque match of the weekend and the weekend concludes with tasty playoff place 6 pointer between Wasps and Exeter.

Here is the weekend’s schedule:
Fri – 24th Apr 15
Bath – London Irish
Sat – 25th Apr 15
Sale – Harlequins
Leicester – London Welsh
Gloucester – Newcastle
Northampton – Saracens
Sun – 26th Apr 15
Wasps – Exeter

Guinness-PRO12Guinness Pro 12: It appears that the four teams that will be in the pro12 playoffs has been decided. With Leinster in fifth place and 8 points out of fourth, their streak of consecutive playoff appearances in the Pro12 since playoffs were introduced in the 2009-10 season, leaving Ulster, Munster, Ospreys and Glasgow Warriors to be in the playoffs. However, only 4 points separate first from fourth so the fight for home field advantage rages on. The weekend begins with Edinburgh trying to continue their winning ways from the Challenge Cup into their match against Zebre while Ulster tackle a desperate Leinster. On Saturday, Connacht will give a Irish West Country welcome to Glasgow, while regional rivals Cardiff face Ospreys. Newport-Gwent will take on Scarlets in another Welsh Derby while Munster will get a chance for a bonus point win against Treviso.

Here is the weekend’s schedule:
Fri – 24th Apr 15
Edinburgh – Zebre
Ulster – Leinster
Sat – 25th Apr 15
Connacht – Glasgow Warriors
Cardiff Blues – Ospreys
Munster – Benetton Treviso
Newport Gwent Dragons – Scarlets

European Nations Cup:The ENC, or the 6 Nations “B” , is the premier tournament for the second-tier nations of Europe. Believe it or not, 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. Division 1A aka the 6 Nations B is where the six best teams in the rest of Europe reside and there is no promotion to the Europe’s premier international rugby competition, only relegation back to 1B…There will be several divisions in action this weekend. In 2A, Malta welcomes Switzerland, while the Czech Republic hosts Israel. In 2B, neighbors will do battle when Lithuania and Latvia meet, meanwhile in 2C, Denmark takes on Serbia and Austria clashes with Slovenia. Finally in 2D, Turkey will face Bulgaria and Bosnia & Herzegovina tackle Finland.

Here is the weekend’s schedule:
Sat – 25th Apr 15
2A: Malta – Switzerland
2A: Czech Republic – Israel
2B: Lithuania – Latvia
2C: Denmark – Serbia
2C: Austria – Slovenia
2D: Bosnia & Herzegovina – Finland
2D:Turkey – Bulgaria

ConsurSouth American Championships (SAMC) 2015: The SAMC is the same as the ENC – except it’s South America, a minor detail – and that has 4 divisions featuring 15 teams. It is the battle to find the 2nd best team in South America with Argentina the firm number 1. The top division is called the CONSUR division and features Argentina’s B team, Uruguay and Chile. The A division will see Brazil travel to face Chile.

Here is the weekend’s schedule:
Sat – 25th Apr 15
Chile  –  Brazil

The Asian Rugby Championship, which is similar to the ENC (European Nation’s Cup) but with 5 divisions with the 3 most dominant teams, the tri-nations of Korea, Hong Kong, and Japan in the top division. There are 4 teams in division 1 and 2 then division 3 is broken up into East, Central and West with 3 teams each before we finally get to division 4 with 7. Believe it or not this is allegedly streamlined from previous years where it was just 5 divisions and 5 teams in each… There women’s championship will also begin this weekend. The top division in that championship is a 4 nations tournament featuring Hong Kong, Japan, Kazakhstan, and Singapore.

As for the weekend’s fixtures, Hong Kong will host Korea in the top division while in the Women’s 4N it will see reigning champions Kazakstan take on Hong Kong.

Here is the weekend’s schedule:
Sat – 25th Apr 15
Top: Hong Kong – Korea
Women’s 4N: Kazakhstan – Hong Kong

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, Audrey Youn, Akweley Okine, Rocky Brown 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