NEW YORK, NY – Though the calendar may be less congested, please do not think it is due to a lack of important fixtures. It is really a case of less is more as the EPRC European Champions and Challenge Cup are in playoff round action this weekend. Still with a full slate of action will be this weekend’s round of Super Rugby action. Not to be lost in the shuffle will be the seventh leg of the Sevens World Series, the Tokyo 7s. Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s look at the week’s Transfer Rumors, Player Transactions, USA Rugby and World Rugby news first. And with that, it’s time to dive into the Weekend Rugby Preview:
#Top14: Argentina fly-half Nicolás Sánchez has left Toulon with immediate effect so he can prepare for his wedding in May then subsequently the Rugby World Cup. We will follow up with our man in France, to see if there is more to this story…French news outlet Midi Olympique has reported that former World Cup-winning coach Jake White has signed a new contract to remain with Montpellier until 2017. White’s original contract was only until the end of the season, after replacing Fabien Galthié in December. though French labor laws made it impossible to fire Galthie so the club and him are now in court…Will Genia will join Stade Français after the World Cup on a three-year deal, according to club president Thomas Savare… A fresh report from RMC suggests that Toulon number eight Chris Masoe will not be returning to his old side Castres as rumored earlier in the year. He is now linked to on a one-year contract to join Racing Métro, with the option of a second season. Racing owner Jacky Lorenzetti refused to comment on the speculation.
Aviva Premiership: Harlequins completed the signing of Newport-Gwent Dragons loosehead prop Owen Evans for the start of the 2015/2016 season… Leicester Tigers scrum-half Sam Harrison re-signed with the club, it was announced…Leeds Rhinos (of the Rugby Super League) captain Kevin Sinfield is to switch codes and join Championship rugby union side Yorkshire Carnegie at the end of the rugby league season. Though they have two different names the Rhinos are Yorkshire Carnegie’s sister organization. The club has a team in League and Union.
Wasps have confirmed that the club will appeal against the three-week ban (to include three meaningful fixtures) given to number eight Nathan Hughes at an RFU disciplinary hearing on Tuesday. Hughes collided with Northampton winger George North, resulting in the Wales star suffering another concussion. North is to now take a month out of rugby in order to recover… A number of Premiership players took to social media to express their disagreement at Nathan Hughes’ three-game ban.
Guinness Pro12: Ulster completed the signing of Australian fly-half Sam Windsor, who will join the province on a one-year contract from Worcester for 2015/16… Connacht announced that Mils Muliaina will leave the province at the end of the season to join Italian side Zebre on a one-year deal… The Ospreys announced that Moldovan prop Dmitri Arhip signed a new contract with the Welsh region. Continuing their strong streak of re-signing players, the Ospreys also announced that scrum-half Tom Habberfield became the latest player to stay with the region… Scarlets confirmed that Leicester Tigers lock Tom Price will join the region ahead of the 2015/2016 season…Glasgow have completed the signing of experienced former Scotland international scrum-half Mike Blair on a two-year deal for next season from Newcastle… Former Scotland captain and current Glasgow captain and lock, Al Kellock is to retire from rugby at the end of the season at the age of 33.
Super Rugby: Western Force full-back Dane Haylett-Petty has signed a contract extension through to the end of 2017. Haylett-Petty’s re-signing coincides with the confirmation that lock Sam Wykes will depart the club at the end of the 2015 season to take up an opportunity in Japan. Our Super Rugby expert, Kiwidropped two big pieces of news in his preview. The first was that All Black and Blues back Charles Piutau has signed with Ulster for the 2016 season. Secondly, The Waratahs announced the appointment of Daryl Gibson as their new head coach on a three-year contract to commence ahead of the 2016 Super Rugby season. Check out his preview for his thoughts on the signings.
USA Rugby News and Updates: In one of the most brilliant ideas for fundraising and supporting your team, we have ever heard, USA rugby introduced the #wegottheirbacks campaign. The USA Rugby Men’s Eagles will be taking thousands of supporters with them onto the pitch this fall at the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England. Fans now have the opportunity to support the Eagles with the purchase of a spot on a player’s number to place his/her photo for the entirety of the Rugby World Cup. Each player’s jersey number will be a mosaic of supporters’ uploaded photos.
USA Rugby and the Triangle Sports Commission announced tickets for the 2015 NACRA Sevens Championships at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C., are now available to the public…The locations and teams for the April 10-12 Women’s Division I and Division II Regional Spring Championships have been finalized. The completion of conference playoffs has seen Conference Champions into Regionals, while 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 locations are West Regional – Stanford, Calif., Southwest Regional – Albuquerque, N.M., Mid-Atlantic Regional – Pittsburgh, South Regional – Greenville, S.C. The winners of the DI Spring Championship will play Fall Champion Penn State, while Notre Dame College awaits the winner of the DII Spring Championship. Both the Women’s DI and DII National Championships will be part of May 9’s College 15s National Championships at Fifth Third Bank Stadium at Kennesaw State.
The Women’s Eagles Sevens squad for the fourth round of the 2014-15 World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series, the Canada Women’s Sevens in Langford, British Columbia, April 18-19, has been announced. Head coach Ric Suggitt’s squad will see two changes. For the full article and roster, click here.
The USA Rugby Academy, powered by Serevi®, announced the dates and locations for its 2015 series of High Performance Resident Camps. The 2015 USA Rugby Academy powered by Serevi Resident Camps will be held at:
- Women’s Elite: Infinity Park – Glendale, Colo. June 23-27
- Girl’s & Boy’s High School: Rutgers University – New Jersey July 19-23
- Girl’s & Boy’s High School: University of Washington – Seattle August 2-6
- Men’s Elite: Hypo2 Sport Center – Flagstaff, Ariz. August 4-8
In the USA Varsity Cup news, Oklahoma Forfeited its Penn Mutual Varsity Cup Opening Round Match to Utah. As per the press release from Varsity Cup LLC:
The University of Oklahoma must forfeit its opening-round meeting with Utah on Saturday, April 4, in Salt Lake City at the 2015 Penn Mutual Varsity Cup National Rugby Championship…Oklahoma’s forfeit is attributed to recent difficulties stemming from a USA Rugby D1A Disciplinary Hearing on March 2, when the Sooners were found to have played ineligible participants in their Fall 2014 Red River Conference matches. USA Rugby’s subsequent sanctions required OU to forfeit all Red River Conference matches in which ineligible participants were used and made the Sooners ineligible to advance to any and all spring 2015 postseason play.
World Rugby News: World Rugby takes steps against unofficial hospitality providers. Unofficial RWC 2015 hospitality providers have been targeted in the run up to this year’s event. Fans who wish to buy hospitality can do so officially at www.rugbyworldcup.com/hospitality.
Tokyo 7s: Time to dust off your favorite Tokyo drift and Mr. Roboto jokes because the sevens world series next stop is in the Land of the Rising Sun. For those of us in the USA,we can check out the action on Friday night. Before you check out the action, check out our team USA analysis and tournament preview by clicking here.
Super Rugby: Now that the cricket is over, our Super Rugby expert, Kiwi can get back to being a rugby fan. He covers the main news of the week as we mentioned earlier and what matches are worth wagering on. Be warned though, Wall’s favoritism for the Hurricanes should be watched carefully. There is another wonder and concise preview if you click here.
European Champions Cup: The business end of the European (Rugby) Champions Cup kicks off this weekend. It is playoff time, the quarterfinal stage to be exact. RWU will present a precision preview in a matter of hours. The preview will feature the Six Pack’s picks when it’s published.
European Challenge Cup: The red-headed step-child of the Champions’ Cup is the European Challenge Cup. It is a second tier tournament but has become a great tournament for showcasing the mid-table European clubs with real ambition. These ambitious clubs will have their day in the sun this weekend as the Challenge cup has also reached the quaterfinal stage and there are some very tasty match-ups.
Gloucester will welcome the team from the Irish west country, Connacht. The Newport-Gwent Dragons will get an extra derby fixture as they face the Cardiff Blues with a lot more at stake than usual. Premiership foes, Exeter and Newcastle will face each other again, in a match that will be more meaning full than their league fixtures. Finally, London Irish will try and create a bright spot for their season by trying to win at home against Edinburgh and qualify for the semi-finals.
Here is the weekend’s schedule:
Fri – 03rd Apr 15
Gloucester – Connacht
Sat – 04th Apr 15
Newport Gwent Dragons – Cardiff Blues
Exeter – Newcastle
Sun – 05th Apr 15
London Irish – Edinburgh
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And as always, stay low and keep pumping those legs.