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Rugby’s back! The Houston SaberCats have started their 2020 season at Aveva Stadium. Here’s the team’s schedule and roster

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Houston, TX (KTRK) — The Houston SaberCats 2020 season is here!

The Houston SaberCats are an American professional rugby team, founded in 2017. The SaberCats are one of seven original teams of Major League Rugby (MLR). The MLR has expanded to nine teams in 2019 and will expand again in 2020 to 12 teams – or more. Since playing their first game in 2018, the Houston SaberCats have made their mark as one of Houston’s top sports teams.

In 2019, the Houston City Council approved the construction of a $3.2 million rugby stadium – Aveva Stadium. The SaberCats are excited to have played their first game at their new stadium on January 25 against their biggest rival, Nola Gold.

After the approval of Aveva Stadium, the SaberCats named JT Onyett as President of the organization in June 2019. When appointed he commented, “I look forward to building on what the great SaberCats staff and players have already started as we look toward the future. Sport is about bringing people together and AVEVA Stadium will be a community stage year-round. We will work hard to not only make SaberCats matches exciting events but also fully utilize AVEVA stadium 365 days a year to bring more sports and entertainment to Houston.”

The SaberCats will play 17 games this season, competing again teams from all around the world including Seattle Seawolves, Utha Warriors, Colorado Raptors and Toronto Arrows.

Want to go to a game? Here’s the Houston SaberCats schedule. The Houston SaberCats encourage Houstonians to learn more about rugby and to check out one of their 2020 games.



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Autumn Nations Cup Is Rugby’s Biggest Event In 2020

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To say Covid-19 flipped the world upside-down is to beat an already-dead horse, but we can acknowledge once more how it’s made sizable waves across the rugby universe. 

Watch the entire Autumn Nations Cup LIVE & On-Demand on FloRugby

After a challenging four-month hiatus of rugby, New Zealand’s Super Rugby Aotearoa competition breathed life back into the wonderful sport. The excitement, the passion, and the entertainment reminded us the importance of finding a way to get the players back on the field. Oh, and having fans helped too. 

Soon after, Super Rugby Australia followed suit by treating fans to a robust and hard-hitting ten-week season that offered a glimpse into the new wealth of riches Wallabies coach Dave Rennie would be inheriting. Not long after that, the Premiership, the Pro14, and the Top14 resumed their truncated seasons, and now seven months into the pandemic rugby is alive and well. 

All this brings us to into fall, a time where international rugby takes precedence. In the Southern Hemisphere, New Zealand and Australia have kicked off the Rugby Championship with a thrilling pair of Bledisloe Cup encounters, while Argentina prepares its squad to join the fray in the coming weeks (South Africa has opted out of this year’s Rugby Championship due to Covid-19 concerns.)

But we’re not here to talk about the Rugby Championship. In the other hemisphere, the Six Nations, Georgia, and Fiji are poised to commence the unprecedented Autumn Nations Cup (ANC), which will be a hot presser of 16 international test matches over a four-week period from November 13 to December 6. 

It’s without question the best thing to happen to rugby in 2020. Given South Africa’s absence from the Rugby Championship and given the manner in which the Six Nations Championship was unceremoniously cut into two parts, the Autumn Nations Cup serves as the pinnacle of test rugby in this wild and unpredictable year. 

What’s At Stake?

Immediately before the Autumn Nations Cup begins, the Six Nations will finish off the final round that was left un-played in the spring. One of Ireland, England, or France will be crowned the winner, but their ruling of the roost will last only a short couple of weeks before the slate is wiped clean and the teams begin anew. 

Watch the entire Autumn Nations Cup LIVE & On-Demand on FloRugby

The Autumn Nations Cup is perfect tournament to establish which teams are the best following rugby lockdown. 

It is also a massive proving ground for the Georgians and Fijians. 

For over a decade, cries for Georgia to be included in the Six Nations in place of Italy have fallen on deaf ears. Despite Georgia’s continued dominance over the rest of Tier-2 Europe, they have been repeatedly rejected the opportunity to join Europe’s top competition. They believe they belong, and all they want is a shot to show it. 

If there was ever a chance to prove the doubters wrong, it’s now.

Fiji, meanwhile, has produced as many world-class players as any nation, but time and time again see those players leave home to ply their trade overseas. The shortage of money is one obvious reason for player exodus, but another could be the lack of high-level test match rugby. Fiji has never been a part of the Rugby Championship, and competitions like the Pacific Nations Cup against Tier-2 teams don’t pull the top Fijian talent out of the French, English, and other domestic professional leagues. 

Well, expect to see Fiji at full force in the ANC, and don’t be surprised if a successful outing leads to more inclusion at the Tier-1 level. 

Changes Across The Six Nations

Following last autumn’s Rugby World Cup, the Six Nations teams have transformed in varying degrees. France, Wales, Ireland, and Italy all underwent coaching changes, and all six squads have seen a great deal of roster turnover as veteran players make way for young up-and-comers in the next World Cup cycle. 

Watch the entire Autumn Nations Cup LIVE & On-Demand on FloRugby

France looked well-and-truly back to its old self in this year’s Six Nations, showcasing a disgusting depth of talented youth. If not for one only-France-could-do-this moment of bone-headedness against Scotland, France would be staring down the barrel of a Grand Slam title. The French will be co-favorites for the ANC. 

After reaching extraordinary heights in last year’s World Cup semi-final win over New Zealand, to experiencing a full-blown crash in the subsequent final against South Africa, England’s 2020 must have felt like waking up with the world’s worst hangover only to find out you do indeed still have work the next day. The World Cup grog sure got to them in their Six Nations opener, as the Red Roses fumbled their way to a first-round loss to France. Eddie Jones’ men did however right the ship and look the odds-on favorite to win the Six Nations after all. They too will be co-favorites. 

Ireland was blasted out of the World Cup quarters by the All Blacks, despite having beaten them in two of the previous three meetings before then. 2020 began on a much different note than 2019 ended, with the Irish taking its first two games of the Six Nations over Scotland and Wales before losing to England in Round 3. Ireland still has a shot to win the Six Nations, but will likely need a bonus point victory over France to do so. Look for the Irish to make some noise at the ANC. 

Wales began life in the post-Gatland era with a shutout victory over Italy, but have stumbled to three consecutive defeats to Ireland, France, and England since. With healthy bodies back in action, Wales hopes to regain its outstanding 2019 form in the ANC. 

Scotland failed to get out of its World Cup group last October, then came out of the gates in the Six Nations with two close losses to Ireland and England. However, two straight wins over Italy and France have the Scots feeling optimistic moving forward into the Autumn Nations Cup. 

It’s been business as usual for the Italians, who once again look like they’ll take the Wooden Spoon in the Six Nations. Italy has not won a Six Nations game since 2015, which only raises the volume on shouts to replace them with Georgia. They need to put in a strong showing at the ANC, particularly if they are to face Georgia on Finals Weekend. 

Don’t Forget About Lions Tour

It sure doesn’t seem like three years since that epic British & Irish Lions tour to New Zealand culminated in a draw, but here we are. In less than 10 months, the Lions will be on a plane to South Africa to challenge the reigning world champions, and what better way to assess the talent in Britain than staging a marquee tournament like the Autumn Nations Cup in the fall?

Watch the entire Autumn Nations Cup LIVE & On-Demand on FloRugby

Although Warren Gatland left his post at Wales after 12 years to move back to New Zealand, the Kiwi legend will take the British Lions on his third tour. The last two have been an overall success, with the Lions defeating Australia in 2013 and splitting with the mighty All Blacks in 2017. 

Gatland will have plenty of difficult decisions ahead, so you can bet the house he’ll be fixated on the ANC as he starts building his squad for South Africa. For the players, there’s no mistaking the gravity of this event for their British & Irish Lions chances. As one of the greatest honors in rugby, the opportunity to represent the Lions should bring the absolute best out of each and every player from the British Isles this autumn. 

We’ll Have A True Championship Game

Unlike the Six Nations and the Rugby Championship events, the Autumn Nations Cup will stage a true title bout between the winners of Pool A and the winners of Pool B. Whereas a typical international tournament (sans the World Cup) would simply be a round robin crowning the team with the most points in the standings, here we’ll get to actually play out a grand final between the top two teams. 

Watch the entire Autumn Nations Cup LIVE & On-Demand on FloRugby

It’s no secret that title matches bring out a different kind of beast. That same championship pressure that causes some to crumble turns others to diamonds. It’s a rare treat to see two heavyweights go at it with everything on the line, and the ANC will give us just that. 

There is optimism that this tournament could salvage a tumultuous 2020 for rugby and possibly lay a framework for future tournaments in the fall. There will be no shortage of pulsating action, drama, and passion in the next six weeks, and remember you can watch each and every match from the inaugural ANC right here on FloRugby.



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Rugby League news: Leeds eye double, Clint Gutherson on Bevan French, Jake Connor praised

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Grand Final venue up in the air

A working party has been set up to secure a new Grand Final venue as Super League prepares to break with tradition.

The Betfred Super League title decider has been held at Old Trafford every year since the inaugural Grand Final of 1998 but the coronavirus pandemic has forced organisers into a rethink.

The Rugby Football League stuck with Wembley for last Saturday’s Challenge Cup final after reaching what it described as a “good deal” with the national stadium but it is thought there are too many difficulties to enable Super League to proceed with Old Trafford on Saturday, November 28.

With the game almost certain to be played behind closed doors, cost is an obvious factor and, although Manchester United are away that day, the Champions League draw has caused complications.

European ties are scheduled for Wednesdays either side of the Grand Final and groundstaff say they need a week to properly prepare the stadium.

No official announcement has been made but a Super League spokesman confirmed to PA: “We are working through the different options.”

With less than six weeks to go to the final, the matter has become a priority for Super League.

A revamped Headingley, which has hosted a series of league double-headers behind closed doors since the resumption of the season on August 2, would be an obvious choice but not if Challenge Cup winners Leeds reach the final.

The working party are thought to be focusing on a northern football ground and the John Smith’s Stadium would be a natural candidate but Huddersfield Town are due to host Middlesbrough that afternoon.

PA understands that a change of day or a new kick-off time have not been ruled out but broadcasters Sky are likely to have a major say before a final decision is made.



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Ex-France centre Mathieu Bastareaud, infamous for his 2009 incident in Wellington, switches to the forwards

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Mathieu Bastareaud, the former French centre who infamously lied to New Zealand police about being assaulted, is now a burly No. 8 after packing on the beef.

Back playing in France for Lyon, Bastareaud, 32, is listed on the club’s website as a 125kg No. 8.

When he arrived in the US in preparation for the 2020 Major League Rugby season in what would be a short and unflattering stint playing for Rugby United New York, Bastareaud had reportedly blown out to 140kg before working his way down to around 130kg for the season opener.

Mathieu Bastareaud is now a burly No. 8 playing for Lyon in France.

LOU Rugby/FACEBOOK

Mathieu Bastareaud is now a burly No. 8 playing for Lyon in France.

Bastareaud, who is listed on the Lyon website as being 1.85cm tall, missed selection for France’s 2019 Rugby World Cup campaign in Japan because then-coach Jacques Brunel reportedly wanted more speed in his backline.

READ MORE:
* French star Mathieu Bastareaud signs for New York club
* Bastareaud feels ‘nothing’ on return to Wellington, nine years on from ‘bashing’
* France captain Mathieu Bastareaud returns to the scene of the ‘crime’
* Mathieu Bastareaud back in France team after two years for All Blacks test
* Mathieu Bastareaud: ‘I should have confessed I was drunk’

When filling in time for Lyon, after previously playing for Toulon, at the back end of 2019, Bastareaud played a handful of games at the back of the scrum before heading to the US.

Mathieu Bastareaud training with the Barbarians in November 2019.

Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Mathieu Bastareaud training with the Barbarians in November 2019.

He was tried in the midfield for Rugby United New York but reportedly struggled with the pace of the game and his fitness so was switched to No.8.

Five games into his New York stint, the global Covid-19 pandemic ended the Major League Rugby season and Bastareaud returned to France on a two-year deal with Lyon.

What wasn’t widely know at the time was he would play exclusively as a No. 8, where he has since excelled in recent months.

Mathieu Bastareaud, pictured playing against the All Blacks in 2018, was one of the bigger midfielders in world rugby throughout his test career.

Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images

Mathieu Bastareaud, pictured playing against the All Blacks in 2018, was one of the bigger midfielders in world rugby throughout his test career.

Back in 2009, Bastareaud then 20, lied to New Zealand police about being “bashed” by as many as five men at a taxi rank in central Wellington after a test between France and the All Blacks.

CCTV footage later showed Bastareaud returning to the team hotel uninjured.

He would later say that he lied and in fact had caused the injuries to himself when he was drunk and hit his head on a table.

Bastareaud was never small as a midfielder.

Mathieu Bastareaud was listed as being 111kg when he came to New Zealand as a 20-year-old back in 2009.

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Mathieu Bastareaud was listed as being 111kg when he came to New Zealand as a 20-year-old back in 2009.

When he lied to police about being “bashed” in Wellington as a 20-year-old he was 111kg.

He spent much of his test career playing at around 117kg and even as high as 120kg.

Bastareaud revealed details about his infamous night in Wellington in his 2015 book Head High: Confessions of an enfant terrible of rugby, in which he also talked about his battles with alcohol and depression.

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