Friday, December 20, 2013

Americas Weekend Preview - Five Hot Points

USA v Scotland will begin the June 2014 tours
In addition to a return to regular club competition in the Aviva Premiership, Top 14 and RaboDirect Pro 12 competitions there are a host of other notable events occurring which concern rugby in the Americas. With the year coming to a close the selected Hot Points serve as a reminder of the significance of rugby in both North and South America as the last remaining IRB region to be allocated a World Cup continued to evolve to become a vital component of the global game. 

1. Scotland Tour of the Americas
The Scottish Rugby Union (SRU) has confirmed that the international program of the national Scottish team for 2014. The Scots will play a total of twelve test matches with five of them being against European opposition in the Six Nations. The Seven other matches will be tours with Scotland set to embark on a history making tour of the Americas followed by a test against South Africa in June. Scotland will face the USA in Houston on June 7 and then Canada in Toronto on June 14 followed by a test against Argentina at a soon to be confirmed location on June 21. Scotland will then play at a yet to be confirmed South African venue to complete a rare four test tour. In November Scotland is to host Argentina, New Zealand and Tonga - three opponents it is in need of defeating. Of the five tests in Scotland Argentina has four victories while New Zealand has never lost against Scotland and Tonga defeated the Scots in Aberdeen in 2012. 

2. Pablo Matera first start for Leicester Tigers
Still aged only 20 Pablo Matera has already been identified by many as one of the players to keep a close eye on in the lead-up to Rugby World Cup 2015. Planet Rugby named Matera as the worlds best young openside flanker this week and to cap it off the Puma is to start for Leicester against Scottish test captain Kelly Brown when the Tigers face Saracens at Allianz Park on Saturday. Matera is one of a host of changes with many regulars being benched or rested for the fixture. One such example is Marcos Ayerza who is on the bench. Another Puma, Marcelo Bosch, will start in the mid-field for the London based side. 

3. Benjamín Urdapilleta v Santiago Fernández
Having started eleven of the first thirteen matches in the current Top 14 season Benjamín Urdapilleta has been at the forefront of some impressive results including wins over 2013 champions Castres, 2010 champions Clermont, 2009 champions Perpignan, and 2013 Heineken Cup winners Toulon. Oyonnax though, has not won away from home all season. When Bayonne hosted Oyonnax in the first round of the season the Basque side had few problems in completing an impressive 39-10 victory. 19 of the points were scored by another Argentine goalkicker Martín Bustos Moyano. Both will start again this weekend with Urdapilleta facing Santiago Fernández in an all Pumas fly half battle. Earlier in the week Urdapilleta signed an extended contract to keep him at Oyonnax for another season.  

4. Final Try and tackle Podcast for 2013
In what is arguably the leading podcast in North American rugby Canadian Patrick Johnson hosted countryman Jeff Hull, American Curtis Reed and the New York based ex-pat Brit Martin Pengelly for the final show of the 2013. The four rugby experts discussed issues from 2013 in review in an effort to come to an agreement over specific questions such as player of the year, team of the year and try of the year. In addition to delving into Canadian and U.S. issues they were also bold in covering the game in the old continent and elsewhere. 

5. Punta del Este Sevens
The 2014 Punta del Este Sevens tournament is now just a few weeks away as Uruguay is set to host its most prestigious Sevens event of the year. The tournament is to feature teams international sides from Brazil, Chile and Uruguay in addition to provincial sides from Buenos Aires, Córdoba, Rosario and Salta. Also competing from Argentina will be club sides such as Hindú, Newman, Jockey de Salta, La Plata and the home of Los Pumas captain, Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe, Liceo Naval. Uruguay is also going to have a host of club sides involved including Old Christians, Carrasco Polo, Trébol de Paysandú, Old Boys and Moby Dick. The two biggest name sides though will arguably be the South African Academy and Los Pampas 7s. The tournament will be played on January 3 and 4 in the Uruguayan resort city of Punta del Este. 

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