French Top 14
Today is almost Groundhog Day in France as Toulon once again take on Castres in the Top 14 final, but this year there is one crucial difference. Jonny Wilkinson, as the rugby world and his wife is well aware, will hang up his boots on Saturday evening having played the final 80 minutes in his glittering career. Worryingly for Castres, it would be hard to imagine that Wilkinson’s Toulon team-mates will allow him to sign off with an anti-climax.
It’s not just Wilkinson that Toulon will be aiming to win for – the whole team have a score to settle with their opponents. Castres upset the applecart last season by defeating Toulon 19-14 in the final to claim their first league title in 20 years. Having become the first French club to secure back-to-back Heineken Cups last weekend, Toulon are now aiming to secure a league and cup double that will send their already devoted fans into absolute pandemonium.
Defending champions Castres will play European champions Toulon in a repeat of the 2013 French championship Final, after they edged Montpellier 22-19 after extra-time in an engrossing encounter in Lille on Saturday.
For Castres it was the third successive time they had beaten Fabien Galthie’s Montpellier in the play-offs, after their opponents had got the better of them on their way to the Final in 2011.
While Castres’ South African scrumhalf Rory Kockott scored 14 of their points, it was 35-year-old Fijian centre Seremaia Bai who dropped a rare goal on the stroke of half-time of extra-time that made the difference in the end.
On Friday night Toulouse locked horns against Racing Metro in the Top 14 playoffs for a much-anticipated game at the Stade Ernest-Wallon.
Nineteen minutes in, with Racing Metro 6-3 up, Toulouse’s centre Florian Fritz was tackled and as a result made contact with the onrushing knee of Racing Metro’s Francois Van Der Merwe.
It was a sickening blow, with the results clearly shown on television, as Fritz had blood pouring down his face and splattered on his arm. As play stopped and Toulouse’s medics tended to Fritz, it was clear he was visibly dazed. He had to be escorted off the pitch and stumbled onto the ground when he decided to walk off instead of being carried off on a stretcher.
As we bid farewell to 2013 and move into 2014, the European rugby circuit is still active, albeit less active than normal.
We take a brief look at the appointment of referees and match officials till 5 January 2014.
Australia winger Digby Ioane will make his much-anticipated Stade Francais debut against Perpignan on Sunday, his club said Saturday.
Welsh rugby seems set to reach a new crisis point next week as the four regions are not expected to sign a new participation agreement. The Welsh Rugby Union had set a deadline of 31 December to sign a new agreement, replacing the current five-year deal that expires in June 2014.
All focus for big-spending Racing-Metro and 2009 champions Perpignan will be on the top six when the second half of the French Top 14 season gets under way this weekend.
Both Racing and Perpignan came into this season with heady ambitions both at home and on the European front.
The Premiership clubs have been dealt a huge blow in their quest for a new European competition as the French clubs today agreed to stay in the Heineken Cup for another season.
The season may have ended for International sides like the South African Springboks and the New Zealand All Blacks, but we still officially have one Test weekend left on the End Of Year Tours in 2013, and it is this weekend!
The Barbarians take on Fiji at Twickenham on Saturday afternoon at 16:30 SA Time (14:30 GMT), with a number of prominent Springboks and All Blacks in the Barbarians side and Wales host the Wallabies from Australia at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff at 19:00 SA Time (17:00 GMT).
But that’s not all folks, we have some quality Sevens Rugby on Friday and Saturday (HSBC Sevens World Series, Dubai Tournament) and we also have the Varsity Sevens on Friday, Saturday and Sunday… all broadcast live. In addition we have Aviva Pemiership Round 9 rugby betwwen Gloucester vs Leicester Tigers and French Top 14 Round 13 rugby between Perpignon vs Clermont Auvergne on Friday night and an Aviva Premiershpi Round 9 rugby match between Newcastle Falcons vs Harlequins on Sunday
Here are the broadcast times for Friday, Saturday and Sunday:
Rory Kockott was voted French Top 14 player of last season on Monday night at the awards ceremony in Paris.
When Toulon’s superstars roll into town for this weekend’s Heineken Cup semi-final they will find in their way a Saracens side who are the only English club left in the last four of Europe’s elite club competition.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button told the story of a man who lived his life backwards, being born an old man before dying many years later as a newborn baby. Johnnie Beattie is doing something similar with his rugby career.
Toulon are hoping to sign England veteran lock Simon Shaw as injury cover for South African Bakkies Botha in France’s Top 14.
A month into the season and the usual complaints are being tossed around. The moans have once again begun about matches being determined by penalty goals rather than tries, that the scrums are a mess and there are too many dead spots in games.
As the international season winds up, Greg Growden rates the top competitors before next year’s World Cup in New Zealand.
MONDAY MAUL – Greg Growden surprised me with this article. I thought everything he says is pro Australia and he never criticize his own team. Well read this article by him. He makes a few very debatable statements and hits the nail on the head with some others. Enjoy it..
Injuries have reduced the Wallabies to a make-shift line-up. If all players were available, they would look a vastly different side. Greg Growden reports from Bloemfontein.
Yes, the Waratahs do deserve to be in the Super 14 finals. They’ve certainly had their lucky moments and dead spots over the past three months, but showed against the Hurricanes they have the qualities to be a finals side.
A load of bull has been uttered about the Bulls. So what if they rest up to 13 top-tier players for the final round match against the Stormers this weekend? That is the privilege of finishing well ahead of everyone else. That allows them certain luxuries.
Article by Greg Growden on Rugby Heaven, Australia
With six rounds to go before the Super 14 finals, Greg Growden provides his half-term report and tells who are the finals contenders and pretenders.