Cruden, Festuccia, Muldoon, Mbongemi, Champions and Challenge Cup

Aaron Cruden
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Aaron Cruden

NEW YORK, NY – Okay, it’s been busy three/four days, so we need to catch you up on what you have missed in the rugby world. Here’s what/who stood out: Aaron Cruden, Carlo Festuccia, John Muldoon, Bongi Mbongemi, Champions and Challenge Cup.

News & Transactions:

Top14: All Blacks fly-half Aaron Cruden has signed a three-year deal with French club Montpellier and will move to the Top 14 next season. The 47-Test All Black will play out the Super Rugby season for the Chiefs and will be available for selection for the All Blacks in the Lions Series 2017 in June and July… Toulon center Maxime Mermoz has reportedly been released from his contract with immediate effect to join Leicester Tigers Top 14 high-flyers La Rochelle announced the signing of Fiji Sevens international Savenaca Rawaca Toulouse announced the signing of Super Rugby Stormers utility back Cheslin Kolbe, who will join them for the start of the 2017/18 season…

Grenoble have announced that six players, including full-back Gio Aplon, have put pen to paper on new deals at Stade des Alpes. Aplon is joined by Hendrik Roodt, Fabien Alexandre and Lucas Dupont in re-signing with the struggling Top 14 side for another three seasons. Aly Muldowney and Sona Taumalolo both sign one-year extensions with the option of another term, with Grenoble battling to avoid relegation.

Carlo Festuccia (ball in hand)

Aviva Premiership: Gloucester announced that Academy scrum-half Ben Vellacott has put pen to paper on his first senior contract with the Kingsholm club… Former Italy, Wasps and Zebre hooker, Carlo Festuccia, has re-joined Wasps on a short-term contract until the end of the 2016/17. Edd Shervington, who came out of retirement to provide injury cover for Wasps at hooker, will leave the club shortly to return to his farming business in WalesScotland international centre Nick De Luca has extended his contract with Wasps until the end of the season, at which stage he will retire. Following his retirement, De Luca will take up a post as Director of Rugby at Uppingham School… Bath announced that hooker Ross Batty and prop Max Lahiff have signed contract extensions that will see them both remain at the Club for at least a further two seasons… Sale Sharks have terminated the contract of Tom Arscott with immediate effect following a disciplinary investigation and hearing. No further comment will be made in accordance with the club’s disciplinary procedure. Arscott was disciplined by the club earlier this month for allegedly leaking information about the side’s tactics to opponents Bristol before the Sharks’ 24-23 defeat.

John Muldoon

Pro 12: Treviso are waiting for the arrival of fly-half Marty Banks, with his manager saying they are working on his “next steps” in terms of rugby. Banks, who has played for the Hurricanes and Highlanders in Super Rugby, has been superb for Tasman in the Mitre 10 Cup in recent years… Ulster lock Franco van der Merwe will leave the club at the end of the season to join Cardiff Blues... Connacht and the Ireland RFU announced that captain and back-row John Muldoon has put pen to paper on a new deal for the 2017/18 season… Scarlets fly-half Dan Jones has signed a long-term deal with the region… Connacht scrum-half John Cooney has signed a two-year deal with Ulster and will move to the Kingspan Stadium at the end of the season… Ulster announced the signing of Blue Bull Arno Botha, who will join the side after the 2017 Super Rugby campaign… On the back of another dismal defeat last weekend, Zebre have announced that they have parted company with head coach Gianluca Guidi.

Super Rugby: The Waratahs announced the contract extension of NSW country-born second-row Ned Hanigan for the 2017 and 2018 Super Rugby seasons… The Sunwolves have snapped up the experienced Sam Wykes and rugby league convert Will Tupou on contracts for Super Rugby 2017.

Bongi Mbongeni

Western Province Rugby confirmed that Springbok hooker Bongi Mbonambi is amongst a host of key players that have signed new contracts. Mbonambi made his Test debut in 2016 following an impressive Super Rugby campaign with the Stormers and has signed a three-year deal. He is joined by the likes of backs Jean-Luc du Plessis, Dan du Plessis, EW Viljoen, Grant Hermanus, Justin Phillips and Brandon Thomson, and fellow forwards Chad Solomon, JD Schickerling and Kobus van Dyk, in signing long-term contracts.Senior players Eben Etzebeth, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Frans Malherbe who are all contracted until 2019. Western Province captain Chris van Zyl, Western Province U21 captain Luke Stringer, utility forward Jurie van Vuuren, centre Ryan Oosthuizen and fly-half Ernst Stapelberg, all signed contract extensions with the union. In addition to this, there are a number of players in last year’s table-topping Western Province U21 and Western Province U19 teams that have also signed on. Junior Springboks Eduard Zandberg, Cobus Wiese, Reuben de Villiers and Edwill van der Merwe along with David Brits have all signed five-year contracts, committing their long-term future to Western Province Rugby. They are joined by the likes of Zain Davids, Percy Mngadi, Jaco Coetzee, Herschel Jantjies, Carlu Sadie,Lee-Marvin Mazibuko, Nama Xaba, Jordan Sesink-Clee, Jordan Chait, Ricky Nwagbara, Reuben Terblanche, Matt Wiseman, Saud Abrahams, Paul de Wet, Daniel Maree, Cornel Smit, Nico Leonard, Eduan Keyter, Thumi Mogoje, Ryan Muller, Juarno Augustus and Tristan Leyds who have all extended their contracts.

USA Rugby: USA Rugby Trust is pleased to announce our philanthropic partnership with the Rugby Business Network, the world’s biggest and most influential network for senior business people with a passion for rugby...” The USA Falcons went 5-7 at two rugby sevens tournaments, part of the Sudamérica Rugby Sevens Series, in South America to open the 2017 calendar year…

Head Coach Mike Friday has selected a travel squad of 12 athletes for the Jan. 28-29 tournament and HSBC Sydney7s, the latter to be held in conjunction with the Women’s Sevens Series event in Australia, Feb. 4-5. Captain Madison Hughes returns to the team following an early leave from the opening doubleheader weekends, as do Carlin Isles and Brett Thompson, who were previously injured. The Eagles kick off Pool C play against ninth-ranked France Friday at 7:18 p.m. ET, with the Wellington Sevens live stream available to viewers in the United States on the World Rugby Sevens Series website. Read more here.

Life University Director of High Performance Systems and Men’s Head Coach Scott Lawrence will get a first-hand look at a professional rugby club Jan. 30 to Feb. 3, being chosen to shadow Harlequins Football Club of the Aviva Premiership… Four Olympians, including Rio 2016 Olympic Summer Games captain Kelly Griffin, have been named to Richie Walker’s Women’s Eagles Sevens squad for HSBC Sydney7s, the second round of the 2016-17 HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series.Beantown Rugby’s Sarah Buonopane is set to debut on the Series for the U.S., which is coming off of an 11th-place finish at Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens to start the season. The Eagles will again be grouped with Russia in Pool C in Australia, along with England and Spain. Walker’s side’s campaign kicks off Thursday, Feb. 2, on the American east coast (Friday in Australia), with the live broadcast available for free via The Rugby Channel.
All five USA Men’s Eagles matches during this year’s Americas Rugby Championship will be broadcast exclusively live on The Rugby Channel, with the three North American-hosted games to be re-aired nationally on ESPN2, USA Rugby announced.

World Rugby: Fiji pick up more sevens silverware and Chile qualify for the North American rounds of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series after an enthralling Viña del Mar Sevens tournament… World Rugby announces that Canon, a world-leader in imaging solutions, has extended its official sponsorship of Rugby World Cup… Eight new contracted players are among the 20 announced for the Black Ferns Sevens as the countdown continues to the HSBC Sydney Sevens next month.

The weekend’s fixtures:

Champions Cup
Champions Cup

European Champions Cup: The 2016/2017 European (Rugby) Champions Cup sixth week of action kicked off this weekend. With two rounds left after this weekend fewer and fewer teams still have a chance of making the quarterfinals. We have a fantastic review of the round, coming out shortly.

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 Edinburgh crushed Timisoara Saracens. Saturday saw Brive defeated Newport-Gwent, Worcester cruised past Enisey-STM, Bath trounced Pau, Cardiff Blues knocked off Bristol, Grenoble were smashed by Lyon, Newcastle fell short against Ospreys, Bayonne were throttled by Gloucester, Treviso were no match for La Rochelle, and finally Stade Francias defeated Harlequins.

Here are the results:
Fri – 13 Jan 2017
Edinburgh 49-3 Timisoara Saracens
Sat – 21 Dec 2016
Brive 36-19 Newport Gwent Dragons
Worcester Warriors 57-14 Enisey-STM
Bath 69-10 Pau
Cardiff Blues 37-21 Bristol
Lyon 57-13 Grenoble
Newcastle Falcons 21-26 Ospreys
Gloucester 64-19 Bayonne
La Rochelle 31-8 Benetton Treviso
Sun – 18 Dec 2016
Stade Français 27-17 Harlequins

That’s all for now, please feel free to comment below, look for and “Like” our Facebook Rugby Wrap Up Page and 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.

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