Cooper, Afeaki, Pro 12, ENC, NACRA, SAMC, Player Moves, USA Rugby & World Rugby News

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Quade Cooper
Quade Cooper

NEW YORK, NY – Once again, regular service has resumed. There will be no major international action, so each of Europe’s three top leagues, the #Top14, the Aviva Premiership and the Guinness Pro 12 can go back to focusing on their playoff races. We get our weekly look at the fantastic action of Super Rugby. There is also some third tier rugby action that we must cover in Europe, South America, North America and the Caribbean. So we’ve got plenty to touch upon, but first, let’s look at the Transfers, Player Transactions, USA Rugby and World Rugby news before we get to the matchday action. Lets dive into the Weekend Rugby Preview:

Player Transactions:
#Top14: Stade Français announced that wing Waisea Nayacalevu signed a 3-year contract extension that will keep him in Paris until 2019… Lyon flanker Pierrick Gunther has signed a three year deal with Oyonnax beginning next season… Toulon tighthead prop Martin Castrogiovanni has reportedly rejected a contract extension with the club beyond this season…. According to RMC, Quade Cooper could be heading to France after the World Cup and is in advanced negotiations with Toulon, who have offered him a contract to join for next season…Colin Slade, the All Blacks and Crusader fly-half  has been heavily linked with a move to France, with Pro D2 side Pau keen on his services along with Toulon. Yes! A sentence ago we said Toulon were just rumored to be in for Cooper too. However, you never know when it comes to Les Galaticos of Toulon, Mourad Boudjellal, and not to mention that every good agent tries claim Toulon are interested just to get more money as part of negotiations. Our Top 14 expert, , will separate fact from fiction.

Aviva Premiership: Exeter Chiefs have announced the acquisition of young fly-half Will Hooley from Premiership rivals Northampton SaintsHarlequins confirmed that fly-half Tim Swiel will return to the club, next season on a full-time contract…Worcester Warriors announced the signing of winger Bryce Heem, from the Super Rugby ChiefsLondon Irish added hooker Tom Cruse from Rotherham Titans for next season… London Welsh confirmed that Seb Jewell, Alan Awcock, Nic Reynolds, James Lewis and Will Robinson have all signed new deals with the club, in spite of the clubs relegation being confirmed.

London Welsh and Premiership Rugby (PRL) have announced that they have reached an agreement in respect to a settlement on current financial issues. The agreement follows a series of positive meetings over recent months resulting in the execution of an agreement between London Welsh, PRL and each of the PRL shareholder clubs. The parties will be making no further comment at this time.

Ben+Afeaki
Ben Afeaki

Guinness Pro12: The Ospreys announced that British Army-serving hooker Matthew Dwyer signed a new one-year deal… Edinburgh announced that tighthead prop Simon Berghan has signed a contract extension until May 2016… Ulster signed two f Irish-qualified London Welsh players. The pair are scrumhalf Paul Rowley and 6’7″ lock/backrower Peter Browne. Ulster also announced the signing of tighthead prop, Bronson Ross, to a one-year contract extension.

Super Rugby: Chiefs and All Blacks prop Ben Afeaki has announced that he will retire from all rugby due to medical reasons. Afeaki is struggling to fully recover from the effects of a concussion suffered in February of 2014. Afeaki’s doctors believe he will make a full recovery but the threat of another concussion having greater long term damage made it a tough but easy call for the big man. Having met Ben in person during the New Zealand Maori All Blacks match in Philadelphia and their tourist visit to NYC, we can attest to him being a true gentle giant. We wish him well with his future endeavors and glad he made the right call.

usa_rugby_logoUSA Rugby News/Updates: The Women’s Division I and Division II Regional Spring Championships will take place this weekend, April 10-12. Nine DI teams reach the round of 16 as at-large participants, and five DII teams fill out Regionals by way of at-large placement. The matches will be at  West Regional – Stanford, Calif., Southwest Regional – Albuquerque, N.M., Mid-Atlantic Regional – Pittsburgh, South Regional – Greenville, S.C. For the breakdown of matches, click hereUSA Rugby TV will stream the American Rugby Premiership match this weekend that will see Life Rugby take on New York Athletic Club, live from Marietta, Georgia at 1pm on Saturday… Additional spring Women’s National Recruitment Festivals have been confirmed. The festivals are part of the newly revamped player pathway schedule in order to cast the net a bit wider to find new talent. The locations are:

The 29 man roster for the USA Selects’ tour to South America has been announced. The side will play two matches against the Argentina Jaguars and one match against Uruguay as part of the world cup preparations to help head coach Mike Tolkin decide who on the roster will join the full Eagles side for the Rugby World Cup. The tour will last from April 23rd through May 2nd. For more information on the roster and the tour schedule, click here.

World Rugby LogoWorld Rugby News: The pools and fixtures for the World Rugby U20 Trophy 2015 have been announced. The Junior World Trophy is for the future stars of 2nd tier rugby nations Canada, Georgia, Hong Kong, Fiji, Namibia, Tonga and Uruguay, who join hosts Portugal in Lisbon from 12-24 May for the event. Click here for pools and fixtures…Singapore joins the World Rugby Sevens Series line-up from 2015-16. Singapore is the latest new venue for the World Rugby Sevens Series 2015-16 to be announced. Singapore joins Vancouver, Sydney and Cape Town as a new host on record-breaking Series. Though Sydney and Cape Town will just be replacing other venues in their country while the former two are new stops entirely. We are still disheartened that there was no room for the home of 7s, Scotland in next year’s circuit…The women’s 15s game has received a shot in the arm, with the news that a Super Series of XVs rugby between four of the best nations in the world will take place in Canada this summer. The schedule can be found here for the tournament featuring hosts Canada, the USA, England and New Zealand.

In Rugby World Cup 2015 news, the match officials for the game’s showpiece tournament. were announced. An experienced 12-member referee panel has been named along with seven ARs and four TMOs to officiate. The complete list can be found here…World Rugby announced ESPN Latin America and ESPN Brazil as exclusive South America rights holders for RWC 2015 in England and RWC 2019 in Japan.

As for the weekend’s fixtures:
Super Rugby: According to our Super Rugby expert, Kiwi , a fair number of Kiwis were paying attention to the news related to former All Blacks in Europe. However, they didn’t lose focus of their Super Rugby teams and how they are progressing. For all the information on those two topics and the other two conferences, click here.

Logo_Top14_2012Top 14: French rugby has a massive weekend of action coming up. In-form teams are clashing, play-offs places are on the line and the battle to avoid relegation is even more fierce than the playoff battle. Our Top 14 expert, , put together a preview of the round that covers all the fantastic match-ups,  click here to read it.

Aviva Premiership: If you missed the Premiership during the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup break, you should have checked out  Jake Frechette’s Rugby Data article on kicking for touch or going for points. Currently in the AP, 3 points separate second from fifth with 4 rounds, including this weekend to go. This may be the tightest race in years as teams look to not only qualify but also get also get the home game for the playoffs. On the menu for this weekend will be Newcastle hosting third place Bath on Friday night. Saturday sees a mid-table clash between Harlequins and Gloucester while second place Saracens take on fourth place Leicester. Sunday will see fifth place Exeter take on table toppers Northampton, who are smarting from their embarrassing performance against Clermont in the Champions Cup. Will the Saints bounce or will they be right for the plucking?  London Welsh will try to win their first game all year in all competitions against a Wasps team that is 6 points out of fourth place and clinging on to faint hopes of making the playoffs. Sale is one point behind Wasps so their hopes are even fainter but the hope for a bonus point win when they take on lowly London Irish.

Here is the weekend’s schedule:
Fri – 10th Apr 15
Newcastle – Bath
Sat – 11th Apr 15
Harlequins – Gloucester
Saracens – Leicester
Sun – 12th Apr 15
Exeter – Northampton
London Welsh – Wasps
London Irish – Sale

Guinness Pro12Guinness Pro 12: In the Pro 12, it is matter of 8 points that separate 1st from 5th race in the Pro12. With 4 games left the results of this weekend could solidify the top four or create utter chaos. Treviso will welcome fourth place Ospreys, while the first place Glasgow Warriors host the Cardiff Blues. Sixth place Connacht, who are out of the running for a playoff place will attempt to spoil second place Ulster‘s chances when they meet. Scarlets will travel to Italy to take on Zebre. Edinburgh, who are also tied for 6th but are coming off a huge road win in the Challenge Cup quarterfinals, will test their form against third place Munster. The weekend ends on Sunday, when Newport-Gwent, who are on a high of their own after making it to the Challenge Cup semi-finals, will get their chance to end fifth-place Leinster, who made the Champions Cup semi-finals, playoff hopes. Leinster have made the playoffs in the Pro12 since playoffs were introduced in the 2009-10 season.

Here is the weekend’s schedule:
Fri – 10th Apr 15
Benetton Treviso – Ospreys
Glasgow Warriors – Cardiff Blues
Sat – 11th Apr 15
Connacht – Ulster
Zebre – Scarlets
Edinburgh – Munster
Sun – 12th Apr 15
Newport Gwent Dragons – Leinster

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…In 2A this weekend, Croatia welcomes the  Czech Republic.

Here is the weekend’s schedule:
Sat – 11th Apr 15
Croatia – Czech Republic

NACRANACRA Championships 2015: Another regional tournament in full swing is the North America and Caribbean Rugby Association (NACRA) Championship. The NACRA Championship is for the countries in North America and the Caribbean. NACRA has 2 zones with top level (championship) and a bottom level (cup). Each Championship zone has 3 teams while the Cup Zones have 4 each. The Zones are regionally divided, so there is a North Zone and South Zone. USA Rugby competes in the North Zone Championship division. The USA is represented by the USA South Regional all-star team, in order to develop talent and make the competition a much fairer one…The matches this weekend will see the Cayman Islands tackle Mexico. Powerhouse Trinidad & Tobago face fellow powerhouse Guayana in a heavyweight tilt. Finally Curacao will take on St Lucia.

Here is the weekend’s schedule:
Sat – 11th Apr 15
North Zone Championship League
Cayman Islands – Mexico
South Zone Championship League
Trinidad & Tobago – Guyana
South Zone Cup League
Curacao – St Lucia

South 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 be in action this weekend and see Uruguay’s B side play Paraguay.

Here is the weekend’s schedule:
Sat – 11th Apr 15
Uruguay – Paraguay

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 LoydCody KuxmannKaren RitterAudrey YounAkweley OkineRocky Brown and Declan Yeats, respectively.

And as always, stay low and keep pumping those legs.

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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.