Sunday, April 5, 2015

European Champions Cup: Americas Players Quarter Finals Review

Photo Rugby Rama
The importance of the Americas to European professional rugby was clear this weekend at the Quarter Final stage of the European Rugby Champions Cup. The four matches all featured players from the Americas with Argentina, Canada and the USA being represented. All three are to play in the Rugby World Cup in September and October in England and Wales. It is to be the fourth World Cup in Europe with England hosting matches for a third time and Wales for a fourth. The tournament has never been played in the Americas but Argentina is interested in hosting in 2023. 

Leinster 18-15 Bath
The first Quarter Final saw Leinster hosting Bath in Dublin and relying on goalkicking to secure victory. In far from being the first time this season that this has occurred both Leinster and Ireland appear to be lacking the attacking flair of the past that teams featuring Brian O'Driscoll were famous for. Despite being eliminated Bath scored the game's two tries. Starting on the right wing was Horacio Agulla a Puma looking to appear in a third Rugby World Cup. 

Clermont Auvergne 37-5 Northampton Saints
In a match billed as the clash between the leaders of the Top 14 and Aviva Premiership the central French side dominated their English visitors in humiliating fashion. It saw England's team's unsuccessful on Saturday and made it possible for Twickenham to host a European club final without an English team. Both Clermont and Northampton featured North Americans in their starting lineups with second-rowers Jamie Cudmore and Samu Manoa playing opposite one-another. They are expected to play in the World Cup for Canada and the USA respectively. 

Racing Métro 11-12 Saracens
More players from the Western Hemisphere likely to feature in Rugby World Cup 2015 were involved in the first of two Sunday Quarter Finals. French side Racing Métro was playing in a first ever European play-off and in holding a late two point advantage with time up an all-French Semi Final in St. Etienne had all but been confirmed. Racnig Métro though dived into an uncontested ruck giving referee Nigel Owens no choice but to award Saracens a penalty. Puma Marcelo Bosch lined up the long range attempt and succeeded to book a place in the final four. He was partnered in the mid-field by USA fullback Chris Wyles while Juan Imhoff (pictured above) started on the wing for Racing Métro. All are expected to play in the World Cup this year. 

Toulon 32-18 London Wasps
The extensive resources of Toulon saw the French side fielding a number of players whom have not been regulars this season. Despite this the team still managed to complete a home win to set up a Semi Final against Leinster in Marseilles. Involved from the bench was former Pumas captain Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe who ought to start the Semi Final. Fernández Lobbe is in line to appear in a third Rugby World Cup. 

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