European rugby was back last week, and the quarter finals are now set, the champions cup sees Clermont vs Racing, Leinster v Saracens, Munster vs Toulon and Scarlets vs La Rochelle, some potential barnburners in that lot!
The Challenge cup see's Connacht vs Gloucester, Edinburgh vs Cardiff, Newcastle vs Brive and Pau vs Stade.
Overall, the Top 14 and Pro 14 dominate the qualifiers in what has been a below average year for the Premiership sides in Europe, although double champs Saracens will be looking for a three-peat and Gloucester have pedigree in the second tier trophy (plus Falcons look capable of beating anyone on their day). Pretty much any of the French sides have the ability to win and especially in the Champions cup, the Pro 14 sides have looked sensational at times (Scarlets and Leinster especially) so they're still anyone's trophies to win!
A timely comeback from injury at Scotstoun as Stuart Hogg helping his Glasgow Warriors to a superb victory over Exeter Chiefs, he scored on try and was pivotal in not just one, but two contenders for try of the weekend https://twitter.com/twitter/statuses/955112636936372224 I highly recommend clicking that link and checking it out!
With the Six Nations almost upon us, the performances from the key men in the Scotland camp will definitely be a boost to the Tartan Army, they looked capable of ripping teams apart from anywhere on the field!
A couple of sides are strengthening at the half way point of the season. One confirmed new face is Heinrich Brussow making his way to Northampton Saints, the South African back row bruiser arrives after a stint in Japan to fill the Louis Picamoles shape hole at the back of the Saints pack.
A rumoured signing is that of Santiago Cordero, but his destination maybe not Welford Road as expected, with Exeter now looking likely to be his new home. Depending on the news resource, this may be a signing for NEXT season, but a few sites are reporting this as a done deal immediately.
One player not making an expected move is Stephen Donald who will now no longer be moving to Ulster following a failed medical, following the departure of Christian Lealiifano, this leaves the province still in need of a front line fly half.
A move to keep an eye on for next season is Nathan Earle moving to Quins from Saracens. A definite international quality prospect!!
Well, not quite everyone, but 9 new faces and 4 academy players tied in. With a great Social Media campaign using the #SignedUpSaturday tag, Bristol added some real firepower to a side already committed to having names like Charles Piutau and Steven Luatua on board next season, they can now add props John Afoa and Yann Thomas, lock Aly Muldowney, talented scrum half Nic Stirzaker, hookers Shaun Malton and Harry Thacker, flanker Jake Heenan, fly half Tiff Eden and versatile Samoan Jordan Lay to the playing roster.
They are still being linked with every player coming to the end of the contract and are apparently favourites to get James Haskell's signature for next season....
Now all they have to do is get promoted.....
Ospreys poor season has led to them saying farewell to head honcho Steve Tandy, ending a long time relationship between Tandy and the region. It's the unfortunate side of professional sport that bad results now mean a lot of early exits from coaching teams, we wish Steve well in his next steps, and hope to see him back in top level rugby soon.
Confirmation at last!
I'm not linking all the squads, but all the 6 nations have now announced their squads for this season's tournaments. most sides will be missing some big names, England and Wales are certainly likely to have some positional strength in depth tested, with Wales potentially without both Biggar and Priestland in the 10 jersey (pending finding out the severity of a couple of injuries) and both Wales and England missing some key back rowers. Neither nation will allow the reduced squads to be an excuse for failure, though and will be looking for some of the fan favourite fringe players to step in and make their mark this season.
Keep an eye on @rugbyunited and @RichC_K
You may have noticed a few spoilers, clues and teasers thrown out about our (non-functioning) #090618 hashtag lots of pics of buzzing insects and clues laid out in emoji form as well as the token meme's and cryptic posts. Over the next few weeks, we plan on delivering more and more spoilers until we can officially announce our plans! They're worth the wait! Heck, there may even be a clue in this blog! (DM me if you spot it!)
Until next week!