#NACRA7s, Tuilagi, Russell, Spies, Tier 2/3 Cups, Player Moves and USA Rugby News

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NEW YORK, NY – It is almost time to look for the summer international test season. But not yet. We still have the Top 14 final and Super Rugby but for the rest of the world it is all about cups. From regional cups to international World Rugby-sponsored cups we have you covered. There are also regional Olympic qualifiers occurring this season.  Here’s the skinny:

Player Transactions:
#TOP14:  Parisian team Racing-Metro 92 announced that the club will be simply known as Racing 92 in the future… Keeping with Racing 92 related news, Clermont completed the signings of Racing 92 duo Adrien Planté and Camille Gérondeau for next season. Winger Plante, signed a 2-year deal while Gerondeau a backrow/lock penned a four year deal… In further Clermont news, winger Noa Nakaitaci has been ruled out of this year’s Top14 final and may miss the Rugby World Cup due to injury. No need to worry Clermont fans it appears that winger Hosea Gear is set to return to the Top 14 next season with Clermont with a deal expected to be completed in the coming days. Gear left Toulouse after the 2014 season to try and make the All Black RWC team, however it appears that has failed so he is headed back to France… Speaking of Toulouse, according to reports in the French press, Leicester and England center Manu Tuilagi is at the top of their transfer wish list… Meanwhile, former England prop Matt Stevens could be a shock replacement for Carl Hayman at Toulon according to reports. Toulon did announce the signing of tighthead prop Salesi Ma’afu, from Northampton Saints on a two-year contract, so they are likely looking at Stevens for depth. Grenoble announced five new signings for the 2015/2016 season. They are Castres prop Paea Fa’anunu, Worcester second row James Percival, former Super Rugby Highlanders back Steven Setephano, Lyon center Fabrice Estebanez and Colomiers winger Armand Battle have all been signed… Agen have started their recruitment for their return to the Top 14 as they were promoted from Pro D2, thanks to their play-off win over Mont-de-Marsan. They are bringing in Super Rugby Cheetahs center Johann Sadie. Sadie joins George Tilsley, the New Zealand Sevens international at the club.

Aviva Premiership: Byron McGuigan agreed to on a new one-year deal with Aviva Premiership side Exeter Chiefs. McGuigan was on a short-term deal to cover for Namibian compatriot Chrysander Botha… Newcastle Rugby, the company that owns both Newcastle Falcons and Newcastle Thunder, confirmed the purchase for the freehold of Kingston Park Stadium from Northumbria University. The deal will see Newcastle Rugby once again own the ground after it was sold in 2007 to Northern Rock. The University then purchased the ground from Northern Rock in 2008 and the ground has been leased to Newcastle Rugby since this time. The current lease was due to expire in the middle of 2017… Premiership Rugby have confirmed that next season’s London Double Header will take place on Saturday November 28, with the home teams in the annual clash to be Premiership champions Saracens and London Irish, with the away sides confirmed at the Fixtures Launch on July 3.

Guniness Pro 12: Glasgow fly-half Finn Russell according to reports will re-sign with PRO12 champions some point in the new seasonCardiff Blues have confirmed the appointment of Danny Wilson as head coach after signing a three-year contractThe highly-rated former Wales U20 head coach will join the Blues for the start of pre-season, after the region secured a release for Wilson from his current contract at Bristol… Newport Gwent Dragons have confirmed that both Welsh International Adam Warren and Nick Scott have signed contracts with the region. Warren comes from Scarlets and Scott from London Welsh and the pair will both play center… Connacht announced the appointment of a new forwards coach, promoting Jimmy Duffy from their academy…Edinburgh are reportedly looking to use Scottish Football Club, Hibernians, home field of Easter Road as a possible new home as they look to move away from Murrayfield next season.

Super Rugby: The Crusaders announced the re-signing of several players this week. The list begins with prop Wyatt Crockett re-signing until the end of 2018, versatile center Ryan Crotty, has also signed up until the end of 2017. Props Owen Franks and Tim Perry can be added to that list, along with hooker Codie Taylor. Young lock Scott Barrett is another while experienced half-back Andy Ellis and relative rookie Mitchell Drummond will continue to compete for the starting half-back spot in 2016. Center Robbie Fruean was also announced along with the fact that three players in this year’s Wider Training Group will be promoted to the full squad in 2016 – utility back David Havili, fly-half/full-back Richie Mo’unga and loose forward Jed Brown… The Reds secured flanker Liam Gill on a one-year contract extension while Wallaby captain Michael Hooper has signed a new deal with the Waratahs through to 2018… The Stormers have confirmed rumors that they are looking to sign three current Springboks in the form of backrower Marcell Coetzee of the Sharks, his Sharks teammate Pieter-Steph du Toit and Cheetahs winger Cornal Hendricks.  Barend van Graan, CEO of the Bulls, confirmed the departures of Pierre Spies, Jacques du Plessis, Flip van der Merwe, Jacques-Louis Potgieter, Victor Matfield, Akona Ndungane and Francois Hougaard to French and Japanese clubs and retirement. Spies has signed a deal with Top 14 side Montpellier via Japan and du Plessis will be joining him at Montpellier. Van der Merwe moves to Clermont and Potgieter to Lyon and  Ndungane hangs up his boots this weekend as his contract was only extended for this year’s Super Rugby competition. Hougaard leaves for Japan later this year and depending on a number of factors, will make a call on whether to return to the Bulls at a later stage. Matfield will retire after the Rugby World Cup and is eager to continue coaching the Bulls next year after playing his last game for the side this weekend.

usa_rugby_logoUSA Rugby News/Updates: Today, Serevi Rugby re-launched as ATAVUS with the motto of “relentlessly driven to breed character, develop skills and champion Rugby in the USA and beyond.

At least three rosters will be generated following the largest athlete assembly in USA Rugby history. The Women’s Eagles, AIG Women’s Collegiate All-Americans, and AIG Women’s Junior All-Americans will draw from the pool that attended the National All-Star Competition at James Madison University. With the Women’s Rugby Super Series taking place in two weeks’ time, Women’s Eagles Head Coach Pete Steinberg announced the players chosen to face off against Canada, England, and New Zealand in Alberta, Canada. Click Here for the complete list.

The National Club Championships are scheduled for this weekend. The matches will be played June 13 and 14 at Glendale, Colorado’s Infinity Park. They will be broadcast live at USARugbyTV.com. If you are going to be there in person, tickets for the championships can be purchased via Infinity Park’s ticketing system. Adults (13+) can purchase tickets for $10, children’s (ages 4-12) tickets cost $5 and children age 3 and under are FREE.

Here is the schedule:
Sat – 13th Jun 15
4 pm – Gates Open
5 pm – Women’s DI Final: Beantown – Seattle Saracens
7 pm – Men’s DI Final: NYAC – Austin Blacks

Sun – 14th Jun 15
10 am – Gates Open
11 am – Men’s DIII Final: Wichita Barbarians – Tri City Barbarians
1 pm – Women’s DII Final: Wisconsin Rugby – Sacramento Amazons
3 pm – Men’s DII Final: Life West Gladiators – Wisconsin Rugby

World Rugby News: World Rugby has welcomed the confirmation by the International Olympic Committee’s Executive Board of the venue for rugby at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. The sevens event will be held at the 45,000-seater Tokyo Stadium,  in what is viewed as a positive development by World Rugby.

As for the weekend’s fixtures:
NACRA 7s: The North America region’s qualifier for the Rio Olympics will be held this weekend in Cary, North Carolina. For a complete preview of the action checkout our team USA Women’s analysis and tournament preview by clicking here.

Super Rugby: Our Super Rugby expert, Kiwi ‘s has a preview of the final round of action in Super Rugby. It doesn’t look good for a lot of sides as many were playing for pride. For his excellent preview, click here.

Who will lift the Brennus this year?
Who will lift the Brennus this year?

#Top14: One game season. That is what it comes down to this weekend. Stade Francias will take on Clermont for the Top 14 title. Both clubs have hit fine form going into the final so it could be a classic. Clermont will be without their starting centers Wesley Fofana, Jonathan Davies and winger Noa Nakaitaci. However, they still have plenty of depth and talent. After losing out on the European title they would love to win the Top 14 title. Stade are looking to have finally gelled as a unite and with plenty of players looking to force their way on the French RWC team, they will be very dangerous.

Here is the schedule:
Sat – 13th Jun 15
Clermont – Stade Francais

Currie Cup: Promotion into the 2016 Currie Cup will be on the line this weekend. Familiar foes, SouthWest District Eagles will take on Leopards for the right to play in the Currie Cup Premier division.

Here is the schedule:
Sat – 13th Jun 15
SWD Eagles – Leopards

Regional Olympic Qualifiers: Each of World Rugby’s regional rugby unions must hold playoffs for 2016_Rio_Summer_Olympics_logotheir teams to book their places in the XXIX Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 for the Men and the Women. The regional unions are Rugby Afrique, Oceania Rugby, Rugby Europe, Asia Rugby, NACRA, and ConSuR.  As we mentioned NACRA is being decided this weekend, ConSuR was last weekend but Europe’s is a process. -The 2015 Rugby Europe Sevens Grand Prix Series consists of 3 legs, Moscow, Russia (6/7 June), Lyon, France (13/14 June) and Exeter, England on 11/12 July. England and Wales are ineligible to qualify for the Olympic Games due to England qualifying Great Britain for the Olympics via the HSBC World Series.

This weekend they will be in Lyon, France battling it out. Here are Rugby Europe Sevens Grand Prix Series standings going into the weekend.

2015 Rugby Europe Sevens Grand Prix Standings
Points After Leg 1
France – 20 points
Russia – 18
Spain – 16
England – 14
Portugal – 12
Germany – 10
Wales – 8
Lithuania – 6
Georgia – 4
Belgium – 3
Italy – 2
Romania – 1

Note the following regarding Rugby Europe and Olympic Qualification:
-All 10 other participants are eligible to qualify for the Olympic Games. Therefore, the Highest Ranked eligible team, after all three legs of the Rugby Europe Sevens Grand Prix Series, will qualify directly to Rio
-The second highest eligible team after all three legs of the Rugby Europe Sevens Grand Prix Series qualifies to play in World Rugby’s Global Repechage Tournament in 2016
-All other eligible teams in the Rugby Europe Sevens Grand Prix will take part in the European Olympic Repechage Tournament in Lisbon on 18 / 19 July.

U20 Captains_ItaliaJunior World Cup: The JWC is the yearly World Cup held for U-20 teams of the top tier rugby playing nations. Japan qualified for it by winning last year’s Junior World Trophy, the second tier competition. This year’s tournament is being held in Italy. England go into the tournament as defending champions for the past two years. In the final round of Pool play saw Scotland fight past Argentina, France defeat England for the first time in JWC history, Wales crush Japan, Samoa prove too strong for Italy, South Africa trounce Australia and New Zealand shutdown Ireland.

Here are the results:
Wed – 1oth Jun 15
Argentina 6-19 Scotland
England 18-30 France
Wales 66-3 Japan
Samoa 30-24 Italy
South Africa 46-13 Australia
New Zealand 25-3 Ireland

Captain's_photo_(WR_Nations_Cup_Bucharest)_l-r_Gonzalo_Bertranou_(Arg)_Jaime_Nava_(Sp)_Mihai_Macovei_(Rom)_Peter_J_van_Lyll_(Nam)Nations Cup – The 10th annual WRO Nations Cup will be held in Bucharest, Romania for the ninth time in a row. It will be played between 12 and 21 June and will run alongside the 2014 IRB Tbilisi Cup in Georgia. All fixtures will be played at the 5,000 capacity Stadionul National de Rugby, were Romania won back to back cup title in 2012 and 2013. The other teams in the tournament are NamibiaSpain and the Argentina Jaguars.  The weekend kicks off with Argentina Jaguars taking on Namibia then Romania against Spain.

Here is the schedule:
Fri – 12th Jun 15
NC Argentina Jaguars – Namibia
NC Romania – Spain

Tblisi Cup – The 2015 WRO Tbilisi Cup will be the third edition of this tournament. It will be played from the 13th to 21st June 2014 at the Avchala Stadium in Tbilisi. The hosts Georgia will welcome Emerging Italy,  Uruguay and Emerging Ireland (Ireland’s C side). The first match of the weekend will see the two emerging sides take on each other then Georgia will battle Uruguay.

Here is the schedule:
Sat – 13th Jun 15
TC Emerging Italy – Emerging Ireland
TC Georgia – Uruguay

Confederation_of_African_Rugby_(logo)Africa Cup: The Africa Cup 2015 will be the fifteenth edition of the continental tournament that involves the best African national teams, organized by the Confederation of African Rugby (CAR). Given their superiority, the South African national team has rarely participated in the tournament and the 4 times the SARU has, they sent either a U-23 team or amateur side, they go on to win it. Beyond South Africa, there are up to 27 rugby countries in the Cup with the national participants in the two divisions with each division divided into three groups ( 1A, 1B, 1C, 2A, 2B, and 2C ), with promotion and relegation. Tournaments Divisions 1A and 1B’s games are often double as qualification games for the Rugby World Cup. In 1A, Zimbabwe will take on Kenya in what is sure to a wide open match.

Here is the schedule:
Sat – 13th Jun 15
1A:  Zimbabwe – Kenya

The Crescent Cupcrescent cup: a competition which sees the participation of Muslim nations battle it out for best rugby playing Muslim nation. Malaysia will host the inaugural Crescent Cup Rugby Championships. It was originally scheduled to have twelve countries — Algeria, Iran, Ivory Coast, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Tajikistan, UAE, Uganda, and Uzbekistan were supposed to compete. However after being moved from December of 2014 until this weekend, only the six keenest countries were selected; Algeria, Iran, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, Malaysia and Uzbekistan. The tournament face another restructuring as Iran have pulled out late. The matches still went on. In the weekday matches Uzbekistan were crushed by Lebanon, Algeria blanked Kazakhstan, Malaysia showed no mercy to Uzbekistan.

Here are the results:
Mon – 8th May 15
Pool A: Uzbekistan 3 – 54 Lebanon

Wed – 10th May 15
Pool B: Algeria 15 – 0 Kazakhstan

Thu – 11th May 15
Pool A: Malaysia 55 – 9 Uzbekistan

That leaves this weekend third place match to Lebanon against Kazakhstan and Malaysia to fight Algeria for the title.

Here is the schedule:
Sun – 14th Jun 15
3rd/4th Place: Lebanon – Kazakhstan
Championship: Malaysia – Algeria

ARFUThe 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… Guam served a short turnaround to win a  big midweek fixture against China. Now China must do a quick turnaround and take on Indonesia this weekend.

Here are the results:
Wed – 10th Jun 15
D3 East: China 17 – 34 Guam

Here is the schedule:
Sat – 13th Jun 15
D3 East: China – Indonesia

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 MeetTheMatts.com.