Thursday, May 23, 2013

Americas Tour - Events Ahead of the Weekend

As recently posted CONSUR is considering changing the controversial structure of the South American Championship for the better. With the competition being played over the space of a week the short turn arounds take away from the competitiveness of the competition as teams are unable to compete at the required level due to minor injuries ending an individuals tournament. Chile has been pushing for a new tournament for quite some time with matches to be played on a home and away basis similar to that of the Asian Five Nations and the European Nations Cup. The proposal that CONSUR is currently considering is for Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay to face each other home and away with the top two advancing to face Argentina in the final phase with Argentina never having home advantage. If it goes ahead then the South American Four Nations will aid the development of rugby throughout the Southern Cone. Curiously, New Zealand refused to play in Fiji this year despite it being Fiji´s 100th Birthday. 

Argentina´s Benjamin Urdapilleta had plenty to do with Oyonnax winning the Pro d2 and securing promotion to the Top 14 for the 2013-2014 season. He was named this week in the Pro d2 Dream Team as the best flyhalf in France´s second division. He is likely to start for Argentina at flyhalf against England next month. 

Argentina´s squad for the Nations Cup  in Romania was announced during the week. The players named are all Argentina based with the exception of Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro who is to trade Stade Français for the Newport-Gwent Dragons. The Los Jaguares team features a number of players from Los Pampas XV but there is no place for Los Pampas XV flyhalf Santiago González Iglesias. His non-selection  combined with Ignacio Mieres missing out on a spot in the Pumas squad for the tests against England and Georgia suggests the coaches are not messing around and have their eyes firmly fixed on the future. 

The unfortunate confirmation that the career of English international centre Dan Hipkiss indeed occured this week. The former English international was a teammate of Horacio Agulla both at Leicester and Bath. They also faced each other at test level with the Puma running over Hipkiss in 2009 when England played in the not so successful purple strip.

Montpellier has announced eleven departing players ahead of the 2013-2014 Top 14 and Heineken Cup season. Of the players three are Pumas with Martín Bustos Moyano and Agustín Creevy having already been confirmed to have signed for Bayonne and the Worcester Warriors. The third is Santiago Fernández who has been linked to a move to Castres but there it remains unconfirmed. Fernández will play for Argentina in the Rugby Championship.

Argentina´s Leandro Cedaro is set to make his test debut for Italy. The La Rochelle secondrower has been called up to the senior squad for Italy´s tour of South Africa in June. He is to be joined by other players born in Argentina including captain Sergio Parisse, Matías Aguero, Martín Castrogiovanni, Gonzalo Canale, Alberto di Bernardo, Gonzalo Garcia and  Luciano Orquera.

Uruguay´s Joaquín Montes has been confirmed as the match referee for England´s pre-Argentine tour match against the South American XV in Montevideo. he wll be assisted by to Argentine officials. he match will be played on Sunday June 2 at Uruguay´s national rugby stadium the Estadio Charrua. Kick-off is scheduled for 3:30pm local time.

The Chilean under 20 side was the first to arrive in Temuco, the host city of the 2013 IRB Junior World Trophy which will kick-off on Tuesday. It is the second time that Chile has hosted the event and the Southern Chilean City looks set to put on an impressive performance. In being played in the Americas the IRB defined region is hosting the tournament twice in a row after the 2012 tournament took place in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The Leicester Tigers are to take on the Northampton Saints to determine who is the 2013 Aviva  Premiership Champion. The final will be played on Saturday at Twickenham but will not feature any Pumas due to Leicester´s Marcos Ayerza having had his season injured in the Heineken Cup Quarter Final loss against Toulon. USA international Samu Manoa will start at number 8 for the Saints while the Argentine-Italian Martín Castrogiovanni has been named on the bench for Leicester. Manoa has been very well praised as of late and could be vital to the USA´s changes of success against Canada in July´s Rugby World Cup Qualification matches. 

Argentine captain Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe will start for Toulon at openside flanker in the Top 14 Semi Final in Nantes today. He will face fellow Pumas forward Patricio Albacete who will start for Toulouse in the secondrow. The match is the first of two Semi Finals with the winner to face either Castres or Clermont Auvergne in the Top 14 final at the Stade de Français. Canadian Jamie Cudmore has been ruled out of the Semi Final with a broken hand but the second Semi Final will nonetheless feature a player from the Americas as Uruguay´s Rodrigo Capó Ortega will start in the secondrow and do so ahead of Samoa´s Joe Tekori.

Ulster and Leinster wll be in action on Saturday night in the all-Irish Rabo Direct Pro 12 Final at the Royal Dublin Society Stadium. The USA will be represented with Callum Black having been confirmed in the match day 23 by Ulster as a replacement prop.

While this Saturday will feature both the Aviva Premiership Final and also the second Top 14 Final it will also be a key day for North America. Canada and the USA wll square off in the Pacific Nations Cup in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Neither team will be at full strength due to the non-involvement of most European based players. Canada´s team was named on Wednesday and had the surprize selection of Conor Braid at fullback rather than flyhalf which was the young and highly promising Harry Jones named at pivot. The USA side features some surprises such as veteran prop Mike MacDonald having been left out of the team. With james paterson and Luke Hume starting on the wings the USA will have a reputable wing combination. Canadian rugby journalist Jeff Hull predicts Canada to win the match 24-21.

USA winger Taku Ngwenya has been named in the starting lineup for the Barbarians to take on England. He joins a host of notable players representing a range of big name nations such as Australia, England, France, Italy, New Zealand, Samoa, Scotland and Wales. Ngwenya will be available for international duty in June. He is expected to start on the wing, possibly in combination with Luke Hume, against Ireland in Houston.

While New Zealand will not send the All Blacks, or a team without the top players under the same name, to play in Fiji it nonetheless continues to seek matches for the New Zealand Maori. With the team now known as the Maori All Blacks for marketing reasons the NZRU has sought out another tour for the side this November to back up from its tour last November which involved a game against Canada in England. The Maori All Blacks will face both Canada and the USA this November in North America. While it is good to play more matches and to do so in Philadelphia and Toronto the tour is not what North American rugby needs. It is a bad move as it means they miss out on a potential test match. As such it is like a return to the Churchill Cup. 

Video of the Week
With Canada set to host the USA this weekend it is only appopriate to take a look at a fine try scored by Canada in recent history. The Sale Sharks bound Canadian born and raised Phil MacKenzie scored an excellent solo try against Japan in Napier during Rugby World Cup 2011. He came off his wing to link with flyhalf Ander Monro and time his running perfectly ad showing great pace to get past three would be Japanese defenders.

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