Dan Carter, Hodgson, Ludik, Champions and Challenge Cup

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DanCarterNEW YORK, NY – The weekend’s here; time to unwind with a rugby party and we’re in the partying mood but first things first; let’s look at what’s happening in the large number of fixtures in the European club cup competitions and SANZAR domestic competition playoffs. Before we get to the fixtures, there’s plenty of rugby news and transactions including nuggets re Dan Carter, Matt Hodgson, Louis Ludik, Champions and Challenge Cup and more… So, off we go. We’ll try to keep from getting grumpy.

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News & Transactions:

Dan Carter: Racing 92 fly-half Dan Carter has reportedly been cleared of doping after being questioned by a commission. L’Equipe report that Carter was notified on Saturday “following an investigation by the medical commission of the French Rugby Federation.” Carter, along with team-mates Joe Rokocoko and Juan Imhoff, were all questioned after testing positive for corticosteroids following last season’s Top 14 final.

Matt Hodgson celebrating on 100 Super Rugby games with the Force, last season.
Matt Hodgson celebrating his 100th Super Rugby game with the Force, last season.

Super Rugby: The Western Force announced the re-signing of club stalwart Matt Hodgson for the 2017 Super Rugby season. Hodgson will have a new teammate as the Force have signed Brumbies utility back Robbie Coleman for the 2017 and 2018 Super Rugby seasons. The 26-year-old will leave the Canberra based club with a year left on his contract and head west to Perth to continue his rugby career… The Crusaders confirmed that utility back David Havili has committed his future to the club by signing a contract extension  through to 2019… The Brumbies announced the signing of loose forward Lolo Fakaosilea on a two-year deal from Queensland Country of the Australian NRC.

Aviva Premiership: Gloucester announced the signing of Wallaby tighthead prop Salesi Ma’afu, who joins from Cardiff Blues with immediate effect… Shane Geraghty will join Premiership strugglers Bristol from London Irish with immediate effect.

Louis Ludik
Louis Ludik

Pro 12: Louis Ludik has agreed a three-year contract extension with Ulster, which will keep him at Kingspan Stadium until the summer of 2020… Edinburgh confirmed the signing of Argentina tighthead-prop Felipe Arregui on a short-term deal. The 22-year-old joins the Scottish club from the Jaguares, on a deal which will see him remain at Edinburgh until the end of January 2017… Cardiff Blues confirmed that scrum-half Tomos Williams has agreed a new long-term contract with the region… Glasgow Warriors have signed 21-year-old loose forward Ruaridh Mackenzie until the end of the season. The deal – made in partnership with BT Scottish Premiership side AyrScarlets have signed former Wales U20 prop Nicky Thomas from Gloucester on a two-year deal. The 22-year-old Thomas will join Scarlets immediately.

Top 14: Montpellier’s search for a medical joker could see them turn to Munster’s veteran scrum-half Tomas O’Leary. O’Leary is reportedly interested in the move, according to Midi Libre Lyon are taking legal action after Springbok and Super Rugby Lions lock Franco Mostert moved to Japan despite having a two-year deal with them. The Top 14 outfit revealed the news via a press statement on their official website on Monday. The Lions state the Lyon deal is invalid as it was signed without their agreement to allow Mostert to speak with Lyon. In other words stay tuned.

usa_rugby_logoUSA Rugby: – USA Rugby has opened the application process for scholarships from the Shanagher Morrison Referee Fund. The Fund is named after two of USA Rugby’s most storied referees and was created to encourage more young people to become referees and is completely donor funded through USA Rugby Trust. The fund covers all costs, including travel and lodging and living expenses, for the recipient to travel and spend an entire season refereeing in a major rugby country. For more information, go here.

World Rugby: Former Kenya captain Innocent Simiyu will take charge of the men’s national sevens side after signing a two-year contract with the union… With less than one month to go before World Rugby Conference and Exhibition 2016 (ConfEx) gets underway at the Hilton London Metropole on 14-15 November, World Rugby has announced the speaking line-up for its ‘Rugby sevens beyond Rio – the golden opportunity’ panel. The rest of the panel can be found here. World Rugby also confirmed that Dow Jones as an official event partner of the World Rugby Conference and Exhibition 2016 (ConfEx).

The weekend’s fixtures:

Bledisloe Cup
Bledisloe Cup

As always, Ladies first…
Women’s Exhibition: Top Women’s rugby sides and rivals Australia and New Zealand are set to battle in a two test exhibition series. The women will be the curtain raiser to the Men’s match.

Here is the schedule:
Sat – 22 Oct 2016
New Zealand – Australia

Bledisloe III: The Bledisloe will remain in New Zealand for another year, that was already decided after the first two rounds of the Rugby Championship. Now what is left is pride and a chance for the Aussies to break the All Black record winning streak. These two nations have been rivals since creation, so dead rubber match or not, this will be a match both sides are desperate to win.

Here is the schedule:
Sat – 22 Oct 2016
New Zealand – Australia

Champions Cup
Champions Cup

European Champions Cup: The 2016/2017 European (Rugby) Champions Cup second week of action kicks off this weekend. With only one round down most teams still have a chance of making the quarterfinals. Our Ronan Nelson will have a fantastic preview of the round, later today.

European_Rugby_Challenge_Cup_LogoEuropean Challenge Cup: The second tier European Challenge Cup is a quality tournament in its own right. It is played by mid-table European clubs, they play good rugby and are looking to move up to the Champions Cup next season. The weekend began with Bath defeating Premiership rivals Bristol, La Rochelle thumped Top 14 Rival Bayonne, Stade Francias cruised past Timisoara. The next batch matches sees Cardiff take on Pau, Newport-Gwent travel to face Russian side Enisey-STM, Treviso go up against Gloucester, Brive clash with Worcester, Edinburgh host Harlequins, Lyon tangle with the Ospreys and finally Newcastle challenge Grenoble.

Here are the results:
Thu – 20 Oct 2016
Bath 22-6 Bristol
La Rochelle 51-24 Bayonne
Stade Français 27-0 Timisoara Saracens

Here is the schedule:
Fri – 21 Oct 2016
Cardiff – Pau
Sat – 22 Oct 2016
Enisey-STM – Newport Gwent Dragons
Gloucester – Treviso
Worcester Warriors – Brive
Edinburgh – Harlequins
Lyon – Ospreys
Sat – 23 Oct 2016
Newcastle Falcons – Grenoble

2016 Currie Cup qualification: The tournament is a competition that will be played between 5 August and 15 October 2016 and will feature nine teams that qualified through the 2016 Currie Cup qualification competition. The 9 South African provincial unions are Pumas, Sharks, Blue Bulls, Western Province, Eastern Province, Boland, Griquas, Free State and Golden Lions. This will be the 78th edition of South Africa’s premier domestic rugby union competition. It is time for the final as the Free State Cheetahs will host the Blue Bulls.

Here is the schedule:
Sat – 21 Oct 2016
Free State Cheetahs – Blue Bulls

Mitre 10 Cup: The Mitre 10 Cup (formally known “National Provincial Championship” or “NPC“) is the highest level of New Zealand domestic professional rugby union competition, contested annually from late August to early November and managed by the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU). Building off competitions dating back to the National Provincial Championship in 1976, with teams from a number of provinces, the Mitre 10 Cup officially started with the 2006 season with 14 teams after the National Provincial Championship (NPC) was split into this professional competition and the amateur Heartland Championship competition. The competition was known as the Air New Zealand Cup to the end of the 2009 season; the name then changed to the ITM Cup for the 2010 season after ITM, the trading name of Independent Timber Merchants Co-operative Ltd., a New Zealand building supplies retailer took over as lead sponsor. In 2016 the New Zealand-owned home improvement and garden retailer, Mitre 10 took over sponsorship after out-bidding ITM. For the Mitre 10 Cup competition it will involve the top 14 provincial unions of New Zealand. With All Blacks released back to the provincial sides for the weekend, it guarantees that the action will only get more intense. The playoffs begin this week and in a Friday night lights affair Otago won at home against Bay of Plenty. Saturday sees Wellington battle with North Harbor while Canterbury face Counties-Manukau and Taranaki versus Tasman ends the weekend.

Here are the results:
Fri – 21 Sep 2016
Otago 27-20 Bay of Plenty

Here is the schedule:
Sat – 22 Oct 2016
Wellington Lions – North Harbour
Sun – 23 Oct 2016
Canterbury- Counties Manukau
Taranaki – Tasman

NRC logoAus. NRC: Australia’s third tier competition goes into its third year as the National Rugby Championship kicks off. Those with New York Rugby Club ties like me, will be supporting the two-time defending champs Brisbane City since one of their feeder clubs, is New York’s sister club West (Brisbane) Bulldogs. It is playoff time once again in the NRC. The top four sides in the regular season advance to the semifinals of the knock-out stage, which is followed by the final to decide the National Rugby Championship title. This year’s final will see a new winner of the title as NSW Country Eagles will face the Perth Spirit.

Here is the schedule:
Sat – 22 Oct 2016
NSW Country Eagles – Perth Spirit

Rugby Europe Logo

Rugby Europe: The ENC, or the 6 Nations “B” , is the premier tournament for the second-tier nations of Europe. Unbeknownst 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 Championship, Trophy, Conference 1 North &1 South and 2 North & 2 South over a two-year cycle. The Championship, where the best teams in Europe not called England, Ireland, France, Italy, Wales or Scotland reside, has no promotion option – only relegation back to 1B. Hopefully promotion from 1A to the proper 6N will eventually occur… but we aren’t banking on it.

In the Conference 2 North this weekend, Finland hosts Estonia and Denmark goes against Norway. In Conference 1 North, it is Latvia against Luxembourg and in Conference 1 South its, Andorra versus Malta.

Here is the schedule:
Sat – 15 Oct 2016
C2N: Finland – Estonia
C2N: Denmark – Norway
C1N: Latvia – Luxembourg
C1N: Andorra – Malta

That’s all for now, please feel free to comment below, look for and “Like” our Facebook Rugby Wrap Up Pageand follow us on Twitter@: @RugbyWrapUp, @Junoir Blaber, @MeetTheMatts, @Luke Bienstock, @Ronan Nelson, @Brian C Cole and @Declan Yeats.

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.