Mathew Brown – The Rugby Channel Column
DUBAI 7s, ENGLAND, AND PRO12!
The Rugby Channel has some awesome action on tap this week as we present the first round of the 2016/17 HSBC Women’s Sevens Series from Dubai, the fourth and final England Autumn International versus Australia, and two Guinness Pro12 matches from Round 10.
All this delicious rugby can be yours, either LIVE or on Demand, for less than a single dollar per week!
Plus, the Rugby Channel will bring you LIVE coverage of the USA Rugby Collegiate Fall Championships from Furman University on Saturday and Sunday.
In case you missed any rugby over the long Thanksgiving weekend, check out the highlights from the Eagles two tests against France, a couple of Pro12 Round 9 battles, a Greene King IPA Championship upset, and a highly atypical England vs. Argentina clash by clicking on the link to TRC Report #29 and getting all caught up.
Let’s take a look at what’s in store this week.
The United States is drawn in Pool A with Russia, South Africa, and defending Women’s Sevens Series champions and Olympic gold medalists Australia. The Eagles begin play against the Russians in the fifth match of the tournament. Next up it’s the South Africans in match eleven and the Australians at the end of day one in match eighteen.
Coach Richie Walker has selected five new caps for his twelve-woman squad that also includes members of the Eagles fifteens team who are joining up from the recent tour to France. The blend of youth and experience will give the team a chance to better last year’s sixth place series finish.
With the 2016 Olympics in the rearview mirror, Coach Walker seems to be building a squad that can learn together and hopefully grow into a powerhouse over the next several seasons in the Series and beyond.
There is going to be some outstanding sevens rugby to be watched in the knockout rounds on Friday. In order for the USA to have a chance to advance and get into a Cup quarterfinal they are probably going to need to win two of their three pool fixtures on Thursday.
The most likely candidates for the United States to beat will be Russia and South Africa, but neither will be easy. Russia made it to the Cup Final last year in Dubai and South Africa are determined to regain their core status in the series.
Things did not go well for Cardiff last week as they lost a close match to Connacht in Galway. The Blues threated to make it a closer match throughout the evening – especially in the second half – but could never seem to fully break the home side’s defense before turning over the ball or committing untimely penalties.
Back at home at Cardiff Arms Park and bolstered by the return of more of their national team players, the Blues will treat this as a critical fixture as they look to get back into the playoff hunt in the Pro12.
They currently sit in seventh spot, five points behind fourth, but one of the teams directly ahead of them is their opponent on Saturday.
Ulster had an unexpected week off in Round 9 as a cold snap blew into Belfast and made the pitch at Kingspan Stadium unplayable for their match against Zebre.
On the plus side, there will definitely be fewer bumps and bruises as they head down to the Welsh capital. On the negative, a home match against Zebre might have been just the ticket to snap them out of their recent doldrums, a three-match Pro12 losing streak.
Ulster opened the competition hot with five consecutive wins and were the last unbeaten team but their recent run has been downright chilly, losing to Connacht, Munster, and Edinburgh in succession.
Ulster are in sixth with twenty-three points but a road win added to their game in hand would get them right back into the thick of the race for a postseason berth.
Leinster needed a win last Friday to keep pace with Munster but instead they ran into the hottest team in the competition, Scarlets, who have won their last six matches after dropping three to open the campaign.
Leinster got steamrolled in the first forty at Parc y Scarlets, going down three tries to one before really putting themselves under pressure when Barry Daly was red carded right after the start of the second half. They fought back valiantly but could never overcome the Scarlets scoring and numerical advantage.
For any other team, second place and only one point behind the leaders would be great at this stage of the season but for the four-time Guinness Pro12 champions, it’s not good enough and they’ll want to take out their frustrations on Newport at the RDS this Saturday.
The Dragons are playing their best rugby of the year so far, having beaten Connacht and Edinburgh in their last two outings, both at Rodney Parade. Getting a win in Dublin will be a step up in class for them, which they will absolutely have to do if they want to even entertain the possibility of contending for the semifinals.
Newport is in ninth place overall with only fifteen points to show for their three wins. It’s now or never in terms of making a move towards the upper rungs of the ladder.
This is the one we’ve all been waiting for!
England had a bit of a scare last week against Argentina after wing Elliot Daly was red carded before five minutes had run off the clock in the first half. Instead of panicking, they maintained their composure, adjusted their game plan on the fly, individually dug deep, and came away with the victory.
It certainly helped that Argentina arrived with one of their weakest teams in years - a side that entered the England match with back-to-back losses to Wales and Scotland – which then failed to capitalize on their opportunity and let what would have been a historic win slip through their grasp.
Having gotten over that unpredictable hurdle, this England team now has a chance to tie their 2003 Rugby World Cup champion countrymen with fourteen wins in a row.
There are lots of intriguing storylines to pick from in this matchup.
There’s the 2016 June Tours 3-0 sweep of Australia by England, home losses that did not go down well with Wallaby fans, staff, or players.
Or the obviously entertaining back-and-forth between two Australian coaches who were once teammates about perceived slights, press coverage, legacy, and scrummaging mind games. So far, I think Eddie Jones is winning this battle hands down against Michael Cheika but the week’s not over yet!
Ireland – with wins over New Zealand, South Africa, and Australia in 2016 – beat the tourists last week and negated their chances of a rare Fall Grand Slam but that won’t lessen the ardor of the occasion for anyone.
Set your alarm clock, get up early, and enjoy what promises to be one of the matches of the year.
USA RUGBY COLLEGIATE FALL CHAMPIONSHIPS
Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina will host the USA Rugby Collegiate Fall Championships this weekend and The Rugby Channel will bring them to you LIVE.
We’ll deliver four semifinals on Saturday and four finals on Sunday at the times specified below.
Saturday, December 3
Men’s DII Semifinal – Norwich v UW Whitewater – 9:00 am ET
Men’s DII Semifinal – Furman v UM Duluth – 11:00 am ET
Women’s DII Semifinal – Davenport v Vassar – 1:00 pm ET
Women’s DII Semifinal – Coast Guard v Winona State – 3:00 pm ET
Sunday, December 4
Men’s DIAA Final – Bowling Green v Notre Dame College – 9:00 am ET
Women’s DI Final – Air Force v UConn – 11:00 am ET
Men’s DII Final – TBD v TBD – 1:00 pm ET
Women’s DII Final – TBD v TBD – 3:00 pm ET
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