Western Province back Pat Howard has reportedly signed a deal with English Premiership club Northampton Saints.
While the news is yet to be officially announced, it is reported that Howard will leave the Cape union later this year.
The 23-year-old Howard, who can play wing and centre, is contracted with WP until 31 October.
This means he will in all likelihood be asked to stay until the end of this year’s Currie Cup.
With 3 of the 4 quarterfinals taking place on french soil, and all 3 of those against English opposition it could feel somewhat like the Hundred year war for the Premiership sides.
In the only non Anglo-French encounter, Bath travel to Leinster while the remaining fixtures sees Clermont Auvergne take on Premiership table-toppers Northampton Saints, Racing Metro will play last year’s finalists Saracens, and finally champions Toulon will face Wasps.
The record books show that in 72 quarterfinal encounters in Europe’s top flight, 54 have been won by the home club – a staggering 75% success rate for those sides on home soil.
Premiership clubs make up half the Champions Cup quarterfinalists, although all have to play away from home.
English teams have a 20% success rate away from home in the tournament, winning only 4 times in 20 quarterfinal games to date.
For the 9 away matches against French opposition, the success rate is as low as 11%, with only 1 win – Northampton Saints’ 7 / 6 victory over Biarritz Olympique in San Sebastian in 2007.
The only other English away victories in the last 8 have been Leicester Tigers over Leinster Rugby at Lansdowne Road in 2005, Bath at Leicester in 2006 and Saracens against Ulster at Kingspan Stadium last season.
The 3 French clubs in the Champions Cup quarterfinals have never lost at home in the last 8 of Europe’s top flight.
Toulon and Clermont have won home quarterfinals in the past 2 seasons, while Racing Metro have reached the knockout stage for the 1st time in their history.
The odds are definitely stacked against the English clubs, but that does not mean that any of the French teams will take them lightly.
Saracens produced another stunning comeback to beat Northampton Saints 24 / 20 in a tense and nervy LV Cup semi-final.
Trailing 13 / 5 at half time, Saracens flew out of the traps to run into a 21 / 13 lead with Mike Ellery’s stunning solo effort a particular highlight as Saracens march on to next weekend’s LV Cup final at Franklin’s Gardens.
Ben Spencer was in typical metronomic form from the kicking tee, kicking 14 points in blustery conditions in north London.
Jake White’s Montpellier bounced back from their comprehensive loss away from home to Glasgow Warriors last week by beating fellow French team Toulouse in their final European Rugby Champions Pool 4 match on Sunday. Montpellier won a closely contested match by the narrowest of margins with a final score of 27 / 26 in their favour.
This victory for Montpellier meant that Saracens qualified for the last eight of the Cup in spite of losing their last Pool 1 match against pool winners Clermont Auvergne. The score in that match Clermont Auvergne 18 / 6 Saracens.
The 5 pool winners along with the 3 best second placed team advanced and Saracens made it through as the last qualifying with the lowest amount of points from their 6 matches (17). Had Toulouse won they would have qualified as Pool 4 winners along with Bath who won their Pool 4 match against Glasgow Warriors. Toulouse also ended the pool stage on 17 points but Saracens got through via a superior points difference, +14 versus Toulouse’s +2.
George North has insisted he is not planning to return to regional rugby any time soon but backed the new dual-contract system which has attracted Dan Lydiate to return from France.
The Northampton wing hailed Welsh union and regional bosses for finally agreeing a “feasible option” that will boost chances of top stars remaining in the domestic game.
Lydiate capitalised on the new contracts by return from Racing Metro to the Ospreys and will make his debut against Ulster this Saturday.
North believes more top stars could follow suit but stressed his current situation at Northampton suits him “down to the ground”.
The Saints release North for all his Wales commitments, a situation he admits allows him to gain the best of both worlds.
England hooker Dylan Hartley has rejected a mega offer from Top 14 club Montpellier to sign a new deal with Northampton.
The 28-year-old has revealed that he was given a ‘very generous offer’ by the club to move to France.
However, Hartley has opted to remain with Premiership champions Saints and outlined his reasons today.
Hartley stated that the move would have had no impact on his England career ahead of next year’s World Cup, while turning down the possibility of ‘300 days of sunshine’ was not easy.
“It’s no secret I was offered a deal to join one of the leading French sides, Montpellier, which would have been worth significantly more. But money isn’t everything,” Hartley wrote in his column in a newspaper.
“I don’t want to come across all ‘holier than thou’ over this, but I do believe the world loyalty has gone out of fashion a bit – and for me that really means something.”
With the new English domestic season kicking off on Friday, we take a look at the prospects of each of the 12 clubs competing for the Premiership title. Let’s get started.
The pioneers of modern English rugby, Saracens have established themselves as one of Europe’s leading teams over the last few years.
Making three Premiership Finals in the last five years along with contesting Europe’s showpiece last season underlines their rise to the top of the game. Unafraid to experiment off the field, 2013/2014 saw Saracens revolutionise their play on it by throwing off the shackles and producing attacking rugby that was hard to resist. More of the same please.
Alex Waller’s try in the last minute of extra time won Northampton their first Premiership title with a dramatic victory over Saracens.
Saints led 7-6 at the break through Ben Foden’s converted try, with Owen Farrell replying with two penalties.
Farrell added a further penalty before George Pisi crossed for Northampton’s second converted try.
Marcelo Bosch’s try levelled the scores but Charlie Hodgson’s kick hit the post to send the game into extra time.
Northampton Saints have named captain Dylan Hartley among their replacements for Saturday’s Premiership final against Saracens at Twickenham.
But the hooker’s England team-mate Mako Vunipola is missing for Sarries having had surgery on a dislocated patella.
Saints are aiming for their first-ever Premiership title, after losing to rivals Leicester in last year’s final.
The build-up to one of Europe’s greatest sporting weekends is almost complete as the clock ticks towards the Cardiff 2014 finals kick-off.
With a galaxy of international stars ready to take the stage at the atmospheric Millennium Stadium for tomorrow’s Heineken Cup decider between RC Toulon and Saracens, and at Cardiff Arms Park for this evening’s all-English Amlin Challenge Cup confrontation featuring Bath Rugby and Northampton Saints, fans from all over Europe are flocking into the Welsh capital to savour a unique celebration of club rugby.
Both matches – which will feature players from as many as 15 nations including luminaries of the global game such as Jonny Wilkinson, George North, Matt Giteau, Schalk Brits and Bryan Habana – will be broadcast in more than 150 countries worldwide.
Saracens booked a place in the Aviva Premiership final at Twickenham when they beat Harlequins 31-17 in the Premiership Semi-final at Allianz Park.
Saracens gradually saw off Harlequins to keep their dreams of winning the double alive.
The lead was evenly shared up until the 60-minute mark, with the league’s best side stretching away in the late May sunshine as Harlequins faded in a bruising encounter. Saracens scored 20 unanswered points in the second half.
A total of 14 possible points went begging as kickers Owen Farrell and Marcelo Bosch toiled with the conditions and their accuracy, but they were not made to pay in the end.
Premiership Rugby have confirmed that four Semi-finalists for the 2013 /2014 Aviva Premiership Semi-finals later this month.
Now that the final Round of Premiership league matches have been completed the Semi-finalists have been determined.
Exeter welcome new father Ben Moon back to the front row for the LV= Cup final, while Don Armand will be on the bench. Backs Jason Shoemark and Fetu’u Vainikolo also come into the starting Chiefs side, replacing the injured Ian Whitten (calf) and Tom James (knee).
Northampton, who have used more than 40 different players en route to the final, make eight changes to their XV. There are starts for James Wilson, Jamie Elliott and Stephen Myler as well as Alex Waller and Salesi Ma’afu.
South African forward Gerrit-Jan van Velze is to join Worcester from rival English Premiership side Northampton in the European off-season.
Northampton have been fined £60,000 by a Premiership Rugby disciplinary panel for letting wing George North play for Wales against Australia on 30 November. The match, which Wales lost 30-26, took place outside of the International Rugby Board’s autumn window.
Leinster (3) 9 / 18 (7) Northampton (Final Score)
Leinster and Northampton Saints did battle in the Heineken Cup at
Aviva Stadium, Dublin at 20:00 SA Time (18:00 GMT).
This was the live match discussion Article.
The match was broadcast LIVE on SuperSport 8 on TV in SA.
Exeter Chiefs might have just got one over local rivals Gloucester Rugby in their own back yard, but head coach Rob Baxter insists there is plenty more to come from his side this Aviva Premiership season.
Newcastle Falcons will be keen to prove they are worthy when they get the 2013/14 Premiership season underway against Bath at Kingston Park tonight. While the opening round has a number of intriguing fixtures – London Irish v Saracens, Gloucester v Sale Sharks, Northampton Saints v Exeter Chiefs, London Wasps v Harlequins and Leicester Tigers v Worcester Warriors – it is the Falcons that will hog most of the early limelight.
Marketing men rub their hands as Sevens format quickly gains ground around the world. “Get on the train and see where it takes you,” is how Mark McCafferty of the Aviva Premiership described this past weekend’s inaugural World Club Sevens.
Richard Cockerill, the Leicester Tigers director of rugby, was suspended for nine matches when he appeared before a Rugby Football Union disciplinary panel in Coventry this (sic Monday) evening.
Dylan Hartley will miss out on this year’s British and Irish Lions tour of Australia. The Northampton Saints captain was sent off yesterday during the Aviva Premiership Final against Leicester Tigers at Twickenham.
The culmination of many English players’ dream is to play at Twickenham and both Leicester and Northampton will be hoping to put on a spectacle in the Premiership final at HQ on Saturday.
This is Saracens fourth successive Premiership semifinal and their fifth overall, however they have lost their last three semifinal encounters in all competitions.
Guy Mercer is under no illusions about the importance of Bath’s final match of the season, and insists the players are ready to end their Premiership season on a high.
Bath second row Dominic Day admits that it is win at all costs when they welcome West Country rivals Gloucester to the Rec on Friday. Day and co will be itching to return to winning ways after their run of six straight victories in all competitions came to an end with their narrow 23-25 defeat at Northampton Saints.
Harlequins, Clermont Auvergne, Ulster and Toulon have all qualified for the quarterfinals of the European Cup, but who will join them in the last eight?
Unbeaten English champions Harlequins are the only ones so far guaranteed home advantage in the quarterfinals, so with plenty to play for in Round Six here is the state of the Pools going into the final weekend of group games.
Undefeated Harlequins and Clermont can book European Cup quarterfinals this weekend with Toulon also close to securing their spot in the last eight. English champions Harlequins, bidding to make the knock-out stages for just the fifth time, already have 19 points from four Pool Three wins and on Saturday tackle Connacht where just a losing bonus point will be enough to see them through.
Today we had 2 Aviva Premiership games on TV, and we had this Live Game Article… but with a difference.
We were more casual, giving updates whilst talking nonsense inbetween.
How’s that for a nice mix?
A bit late sorry but we take a look at an interesting weekend’s action in the Heineken Cup. This weekend saw some very close games as well as a few run away wins and perhaps most significantly saw Ulster lose their first competitive match of the season in one of the weekend’s close affairs.
Table-topping Harlequins will look to return to winning ways when they welcome Worcester Warriors to Twickenham Stoop in the opening Round 10 fixture on Friday.
England pair Dylan Hartley and Courtney Lawes are doubts for the November Tests after suffering knee injuries in Northampton’s defeat by Saracens.
After two emphatic European victories Worcestor Warriors will be keen to give their home crowd something to cheer about in the Premiership against Sale Sharks on Friday.
This weekend saw an action packed start to the Heineken Cup. All twenty four teams were involved in the round which started on Friday and ended on Sunday.
Wing Mark Cueto admits it is easy for Sale Sharks to get bogged down with the negatives of their start to the Premiership season, but he insists only a positive frame of mind will bring a change of fortune.
It is the fifth round of Premiership action this weekend and it sees Saracens make the trip across London to Harlequins to face the reigning champions at The Stoop.