Kruger to join Scarlets after Super Rugby 2016

The Blue Bulls Company (Pty) Ltd on Tuesday confirmed the release of Werner Kruger, who will join the Scarlets in Wales at the completion of the Vodacom Super Rugby competition in July. The prop signed a three year deal with the Welsh team.

“Werner is a true stalwart for the Vodacom Bulls and Vodacom Blue Bulls over many seasons,” said Xander Janse van Rensburg, High Performance Manager of the BBC.

“He has played over 100 Currie Cup matches and over 100 Vodacom Super Rugby matches so far for us, the only player ever to do that. We can only thank him for many years of loyal service. We know he will still give his best till his last second on the field for us, but also want to wish him the best in the next stage of his career.”

Kruger said he is looking for a different challenge in his career.

“I achieved so much with this special team and hopefully can win another Super Rugby title with them this year. I played all my rugby here since leaving school, became a Springbok, won Super Rugby titles and a Currie Cup and made friends for life, but the option with Scarlets is the right one for me at this stage of my career. I always wanted to play abroad and this offer comes at the right time. I know I still have something to offer the Bulls this season and then help Scarlets in their drive to improve as a team.”

Bio

Werner Kruger (31) made his Vodacom Super Rugby debut for the Vodacom Bulls in 2008 against the DHL Stormers and has played 113 matches, scoring eight tries (40 points) up to date. He played in 107 Currie Cup matches for the Vodacom Blue Bulls. He also represented the South Africa Under-21 team in 2005, the Emerging Boks in 2009 and played in four tests and one tour match for the Springboks. His international debut was on 23 July 2011 vs Australia in Sydney aged 26.

Pulse Energy Highlanders to play the NSW Waratahs in Queenstown

The Pulse Energy Highlanders will play the NSW Waratahs in Queenstown this Friday,the game will complete the Highlanders three match preseason.

So far the record is a loss and a draw, one week out from the opening fixture against the Blues the team will be looking for a strong performance against last year’s semi-finalists.

Head coach Jamie Joseph has named a strong combination to take the field with all three World Cup All Blacks taking the field for the first time in 2016.Also having their first matches for 2016 as will be Fumiaki Tanaka and Hayden Parker, back from their championship winning efforts with Panasonic in Japan.

Parkers return will see Marty Banks rested this week.

In his debut for the Highlanders powerful Canterbury midfielder Rob Thompson will combine with Malakai Fekitoa and the All Black pairing of Aaron Smith and Lima Sopoaga will be the pivots. Dan Pryor has recovered from his knee injury and will take his place on the bench with co-captain Shane Christie taking a break this week.

Pulse Energy Highlanders v NSW Waratahs, Queenstown Recreation Centre, Fri Feb 19th 6.00pm

1. Daniel Lienert-Brown
2. Liam Coltman
3. Josh Hohneck
4. Tom Franklin
5. Joe Wheeler
6. Luke Whitelock
7. James Lentjes
8. Liam Squire
9. Aaron Smith
10. Lima Sopoaga
11. Patrick Osborne
12. Rob Thompson
13. Malakai Fekitoa
14. Waisake Naholo
15. Ben Smith (c)

Replacements:

16. Ash Dixon
17. Brendon Edmonds
18. Ross Geldenhuys
19. Mark Reddish
20. Gareth Evans
21. Fumiaki Tanaka
22. Elliot Dixon
23. Jason Emery
24. Teihorangi Walden
25. Matt Faddes
26. Hayden Parker
27. Dan Pryor

Head Coach: Jamie Joseph
Assistant Coaches: Tony Brown, Scott McLeod
Manager: Paul McLaughlan

Western Force U20s set to compete in new national competition

The Australian Rugby Union (ARU) has announced a revamped National Under 20’s competition to replace the old National Championships format.

The competition will run in coordination with the Asteron Life Super Rugby season with each Australian franchise fielding a team. The competition will run for five weeks with each side playing each other once before a final between the top two sides. The majority of the matches will be played as curtain raisers for Asteron Life Super Rugby matches.

The new competition will provide a direct link for U20’s to their respective Asteron life Super Rugby sides and with an increased number of matches compared to the old system it will drive up standards and get players accustomed to playing in a professional environment. The National competition will also be a valuable scouting exercise for coaches and Australian selectors to identify the nation’s most promising talents.

The Western Force Under 20’s will play three home games and one away match in the national competition, with two of the home matches serving as curtain raisers for the Western Force’s matches against the Melbourne Rebels on Saturday, 27 February and the ACT Brumbies on Friday, 11 March.

Western Force Under 20’s coach, Dwanye Nestor has praised the ARU for the establishment of the new competition.

“The new competition is fantastic,” he said. “Previously New South Wales and Queensland have played against countries like Fiji and Tonga as well as the Australia Barbarians, but now we have a truly national competition. I think it is really well done by the ARU in terms of creating a pathway in the form an Under 20’s National Championship.”

“It really does complete the pathway right the way up from Junior Gold Cup to Western Force Under 20’s then the Perth Spirit and ultimately the Western Force. Any young player coming through can see a clear pathway right to the top if they work hard enough.

“Playing in a competition like this where you travel for games, get national exposure and to play directly under the name Western Force name is a huge opportunity for these young guys. There is an opportunity to perform well in this competition and potentially further their rugby career towards (Asteron Life) Super Rugby and even earn selection in the Australian Under 20’s team.”

Western Force Under 20’s captain and scrumhalf Angus Taylor is looking forward to running out in the new competition.

“The whole group is very excited about kicking off this new competition,” he said. “I think we have a really nice mix of guys who have played in a lot of state teams previously and some guys who will be getting a taste for it.”

Taylor stressed the huge opportunity that the new format provides for every player and the pathway it lays out as they continue their rugby careers.

“This competition gives us great exposure on the national scale and puts us in almost a professional environment, with travelling and playing in big stadiums. We are going to relish the opportunity to play at that level and the fact we get to play some curtain raisers for (Asteron Life) Super Rugby matches is something that the boys are really looking forward to.”

The Western Force Under 20’s will kick-off their season with a curtain raiser against the Melbourne Rebels Under 20’s before the Western Force’s first game of the 2016 season on Saturday, 27 February.

NSW Gen Blue U20s to contest new-look 2016 Super Championship

The NSW Gen Blue U20s are set to compete in a new-look regular weekly U20s competition, together with all five Australian Super Rugby teams, in a bid to be crowned Super U20s Championship in 2016.

Announced today, the competition kicks off on Saturday 27 February, and will see NSW play each state side across the country, with the final between the top two ranked teams to decide the inaugural Super U20s champion. 

The NSW Gen Blue U20s are one of the five teams who will participate in the competition, together with the Queensland U20s, Brumbies Colts (U20s), Melbourne Rebels U20s and the Western Force U20s.

The competition will bridge a vital gap in the elite development pathway, creating more depth for NSW rugby and showcasing the next generation of Waratahs stars coming through the ranks.

Waratahs Rugby General Manager of Pathway Services, Tim Rapp said “This competition is the perfect opportunity for our Under 20s players in NSW’s Gen Blue Academy to test themselves against the rest of Australia’s elite rugby players at this age.

“It will be a good chance for them to learn what is required in preparation for potentially becoming a Waratah one day.”

The NSW Gen Blue U20s will kick off their campaign on Saturday 27th February against the Queensland U20s. The game will act as the curtain raiser to the NSW Waratahs’ round one Super Rugby clash against the Queensland Reds. Tickets are available at http://www.ticketek.com.au/waratahs.

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Queensland Under-20s to compete in the Super U20s Championship in 2016

The Queensland Under-20s will in 2016 compete in a regular weekly Under-20s competition with all five Australian Super Rugby teams, following the Australian Rugby Union’s announcement of the Super U20s Championship this morning.

Kicking off on Saturday, 27 February, the six-week competition will see each side play each other across the country, with a final between the top two ranked teams to decide the inaugural Super U20s champion. 
The five teams competing will be Queensland Under-20s, NSW Gen Blue U20s, Brumbies Colts (U20s), Melbourne Rebels U20s and the Western Force U20s.

The Queensland Under-20s will begin their campaign against traditional rivals NSW, ahead of the St.George Queensland Reds opening Super Rugby clash against the NSW Waratahs on Saturday, 27 February.

The Queensland Under-20s coaching staff will be led by head coach Jason Gilmore, who coached the side last year as well as Bond University Queensland Country in the Buildcorp National Rugby Championship (NRC). He will be assisted by former Rugby World Cup Winning All Black Brad Thorn as forwards coach.

Gilmore believes the new competition format will be beneficial to the players.

“The new week-to-week format of the competition is an exciting development for the Under-20s age bracket in Australia and will showcase the next generation of talent to Super Rugby fans in each province,” he said.

“Players will also have the opportunity to compete for the Super U20s Championship Cup, as well as selection in the Australian U20s side.

“The program will allow younger members of the Reds squad to gain valuable match experience, while also offering players coming out of club and school Rugby the chance to test themselves at a representative level in the hopes of progressing their Rugby further.

“The Queensland Under-20s forms a crucial element of our development pathway in Queensland.  The program allows us to work with the best group of young players in the state and help prepare them for the next stage in their development whether that be the Australian Under-20s, NRC or Super Rugby with the Reds.”

Gilmore will also be part of the Australian U20s coaching set up in 2016 as assistant coach, with fellow Queenslander Adrian Thompson entering into his third year as head coach.

From the Reds squad, there are still a number of players eligible to compete for the Queensland Under-20s in 2016 including Campbell Magnay, Taniela Tupou, Izaia Perese, Lukhan Tui, James Tuttle, Izack Rodda, Mack Mason, Maclean Jones and Alex Mafi.

The competition will bridge a vital gap in the elite development pathway between the former Australian U20s Championship and the Australian U20s team, creating more depth for the national side as well as showcasing the next generation of Australian Super Rugby stars coming through the ranks.

All but two matches in the inaugural Super U20s competition will be played as curtain raisers to Asteron Life Super Rugby matches, adding to the match day experience for fans.

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Melbourne Rebels welcome back experience for Samoa trial

The Melbourne Rebels welcome back Lopeti Timani, Sean McMahon, Adam Thomson and Tamati Ellison for the final pre-season game against Samoa at AAMI Park, Melbourne, on Thursday.

Melbourne Rebels Head Coach Tony McGahan has named a 27-player squad on Wednesday for the final trial match ahead of next weekend’s opening round of the Asteron Life Super Rugby season.

“We expect nothing less than a big, fast and powerful Samoan team to provide us a real physical test heading into the start of the season,” McGahan said.

“The trial against Samoa gives us an important opportunity to give competitive minutes to those players returning from stints on the sideline and a chance to put into practice our learnings from the Blues trial.”  

The inclusion of Timani, McMahon and Thomson will bolster the Rebels forward pack while Ellison’s return to outside centre adds more than 100 games of Super Rugby experience to the backs.

Thomson, an 83-game Super Rugby veteran and Rugby World Cup winner with the All Blacks, will make his first appearance in Rebels colours after moving to Melbourne. 

After their first pre-season trial against the Blues in Auckland two weeks ago, the Rebels return to AAMI Park for their first competitive fixture at home in Melbourne. 

The Melbourne Rebels will get take on Samoa in the final pre-season trial at AAMI Park, Melbourne, on Thursday from 6.30pm (AEDT). Rebels members receive free entry to the trial. Tickets, from just $12.00 for adults and $6.00 for kids, are available from Ticketek.

Rebels squad for trial v Samoa

Forwards

Cruze Ah Nau, Ryan Cocker, Steve Cummins, Colby Fainga’a, Scott Fuglistaller, James Hanson, Luke Jones, Pat Leafa, Sean McMahon (captain), Jordy Reid, Culum Retallick, Siliva Siliva, Toby Smith, Adam Thomson, Lopeti Timani, Laurie Weeks.

Backs

Jack Debreczeni, Tamati Ellison, Tom English, Mike Harris, Dan Hawkins, Reece Hodge, Mitch Inman, Ben Meehan, Jonah Placid, Dom Shipperley, Mick Snowden.

Game Details

Melbourne Rebels v Samoa
Thursday 18 February 2016
AAMI Park, Melbourne
Kick off: 6.30pm (AEDT)
Rebels Members free entry
Ticket prices start from just $12.00 for adults and $6.00 for kids
http://www.melbournerebels.com

England squad update

The 23 players named in England’s matchday squad which beat Italy on Sunday at the Stadio Olimpico have been retained for training this week in London.

Ollie Devoto (Bath Rugby) will also remain with the squad as injury cover for Alex Goode (Saracens) who has sustained a minor ankle injury.

Forwards (14)

Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers)
Jack Clifford (Harlequins)
Jamie George (Saracens)
Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints)
James Haskell (Wasps)
Paul Hill (Northampton Saints) 
Maro Itoje (Saracens)
George Kruis (Saracens)
Joe Launchbury (Wasps)
Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints)
Joe Marler (Harlequins)
Chris Robshaw (Harlequins)
Billy Vunipola (Saracens)
Mako Vunipola (Saracens)

Backs (10)

Mike Brown (Harlequins)
Danny Care (Harlequins)
Ollie Devoto (Bath Rugby)
Owen Farrell (Saracens) 
George Ford (Bath Rugby) 
Alex Goode (Saracens)
Jonathan Joseph (Bath Rugby) 
Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs)
Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby)
Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers)

USA to host “The Rugby Weekend”

USA Rugby and TLA Worldwide announced the greatest stars in professional rugby will again return to Chicago, IL for “The Rugby Weekend” on Friday, November 4th and Saturday, November 5th for two separate, yet both spectacular, international rugby matches.

“The Rugby Weekend” will open on Friday, November 4 at Toyota Park as the USA Rugby Eagles take on the Maori All Blacks. The following night, fans will witness the current defending World Cup Champion New Zealand All Blacks against the defending RBS 6 Nations Champions, Ireland. The day-two match will be played on Saturday, November 5th at historic Soldier Field.

Tickets for “The Rugby Weekend” will go on sale April 1, but it is recommended that fans visit “The Rugby Weekend” to sign up for early ticket alerts.

“We are looking forward to another fabulous weekend for rugby in the United States with our return to Chicago in November,” said USA Rugby CEO Nigel Melville. “The city and its fans have shown the world how passionate they are about the sport, and we think this weekend will again take the game’s popularity to another level.”

The last time the All Blacks took to the pitch in the United States, a record crowd of over 61,500 filled Soldier Field on November 1, 2014, in what was unquestionably the biggest rugby event in the history of the United States. This will mark just the fourth time since the team’s inception that the World Champions will play in America and the latest since it became the first international rugby team to go back to back as World Cup Champions in October 2015.

“We have very fond memories of playing in Chicago in 2014,” said New Zealand Rugby Chief Executive Steve Tew. “We really appreciated the efforts of the city in rolling out the welcome mat for rugby. We know American fans had a very special experience and we expect a whole new group of fans to enjoy what will be a unique showcase of top class rugby over consecutive days.

“The Maori All Blacks play an exciting brand of rugby and are fantastic ambassadors for our culture and our country, so this is a great way to kick off “The Rugby Weekend” before the All Blacks take on Ireland the following day,” he said.

The Irish Rugby Football Union is the reigning RBS 6 Nations champions, a title the team has held twelve times outright and shared eight times.

“We are delighted to be involved in “The Rugby Weekend” and look forward to playing the World Champions in the great city of Chicago,” said IRFU Director of Commercial and Marketing Padraig Power. “Irish Americans will relish seeing the Ireland Rugby team contribute further to the development of the game of rugby in the U.S., complimenting the wonderful growth of the game to date.”

The Maori All Blacks are an elite rugby union team from New Zealand. A prerequisite for playing for this team is that the player is to have Maori whakapapa or genealogy. This will be the fourth time the USA Eagles will face the Maori All Blacks, the last time being in Philadelphia in September of 2013 before a sold-out crowd of 18,500 attendees.

“We at TLA Worldwide are pleased to be a promotional partner of this historic weekend in Chicago. We have taken great pride in working for the past two years with USA Rugby, the All Blacks, the great city of Chicago and the Chicago Sports Commission, to bring unprecedented rugby matches to the pitch in Soldier Field.” said Bart Campbell, TLA Worldwide Group Chairman.

For the third year in a row, Chicago-based Astellas Pharma has signed on as the Official Healthcare Partner of the weekend.

“As a global company on the forefront of healthcare change, Astellas is proud to once again be a part of bringing international rugby back to Chicago, a great sporting city and the headquarters for Astellas in the Americas,” said James Robinson, president, Astellas Pharma US. “We look forward to working with these great teams to use this rugby weekend as a platform to engage rugby fans around the world in a dialogue around the importance of living a healthy, active lifestyle.”

Astellas will be joined by Rugby Union team sponsors AIG, 3 and Emirates.

Historic double header of All Blacks and Maori rugby in Chicago in November

American sports fans are in for a feast of rugby when the All Blacks return to Soldier Field in Chicago to play Ireland for the first time on American soil, and the Maori All Blacks take on the USA Eagles.

The World Champions will play the 2015 Six Nations Champions on Saturday 5 November at iconic Soldier Field, home of the Chicago Bears. It’s the first encounter between the sides since the nail biting 2013 Dublin Test when the All Blacks pipped Ireland 24-22 in the dying seconds to complete a perfect unbeaten season. 

The Chicago Test is just the fourth visit to the USA by the All Blacks and also marks two years since the historic match between the All Blacks and the USA Eagles when a record USA rugby crowd of 61,500 fans packed out Soldier Field.

The All Blacks will play Ireland again on 19 November at Aviva Stadium, Dublin as part of the End of Year Tour which will also see them play Tests against France and Italy.

Dubbed “The Rugby Weekend”, the action kicks off on Friday, 4 November, at the 30,000 seat Toyota Park when the Maori All Blacks return to America for a re-match with the USA Eagles in only the fourth encounter between the two teams. In 2013 they defeated the USA Eagles 29-19 in Philadelphia.

Both matches were confirmed at a media conference in Chicago this morning, attended by All Blacks midfielder Ryan Crotty, who scored the winning try for the All Blacks in 2013 and Ireland international Tommy Bowe.

“We have very fond memories of playing in Chicago in 2014,” said New Zealand Rugby Chief Executive Steve Tew. “We really appreciated the efforts of the city in rolling out the welcome mat for rugby. We know American fans had a very special experience and we expect a whole new group of fans to enjoy what will be a unique showcase of top class rugby over consecutive days.

“The Maori All Blacks also play an exciting brand of rugby and are fantastic ambassadors for our culture and our country so this will be a great way to kick off The Rugby Weekend,” he said.

“We’re really looking forward to coming back to the USA where the game is growing rapidly and to a city which we know loves sport.”  

All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen said: “The match against the USA Eagles in 2014 was a huge success and we are excited to be returning to Chicago. It will certainly be a unique occasion for the team: playing Ireland in Chicago and then again in Dublin two weeks later. I’m sure All Blacks and Irish fans from all over North America and the world will descend on Chicago for what will be a truly historic match.”

USA Rugby CEO Nigel Melville said: “The city and its fans have shown the world how passionate they are about the sport, and we think this weekend will again take the game’s popularity to another level.”

Tickets for The Rugby Weekend go one sale on 1 April.

Go to Chicago with All Blacks Tour

As the official travel agency for New Zealand Rugby, All Blacks Tours will be offering a range of tour packages to help fans witness these historic matches. Tour packages will be available soon, but in the meantime fans can ‘Play Advantage’ and secure their place with a refundable payment of $200. All Blacks Tours will send all those that ‘Plays Advantage’ full details of available packages before they go on sale to the general public, and they can redeem their $200 against any of the packages on offer for this tour. Visit http://www.allblackstours.com to Play Advantage now.

Match schedule

4 November Maori All Blacks v USA Eagles, Toyota Park, Chicago

All Blacks End of Year Tour

5 November All Blacks v Ireland, Soldier Field, Chicago
12 November All Blacks v Italy, Rome, venue TBC
19 November All Blacks v Ireland, Aviva Stadium, Dublin
26 November All Blacks v France, Stade de France, Paris

Rugby (and other things) through the eyes of Dan Lombard