Top 14 Final A Proving Ground For Players On The World Cup Roster Bubble

French Top 14 SF: Clermont vs Lyon

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This Saturday’s Top 14 Final is not just about raising the trophy, it’s the last chance for players to earn a spot on France's World Cup squad. 

France head coach Jacques Brunel announced a 65-player World Cup training squad just a couple of weeks ago. He set a June 18 date for the 31-player squad to be named citing fitness standards as a crucial component to selection. 

Watch The French Top 14 Final LIVE on FloRugby Saturday, June 15, KO 2:45PM ET  

Last Saturday in Bordeaux, Brunel made several cameos on the FloRugby broadcast of Toulouse’s Top 14 semifinal victory over La Rochelle.

Brunel will be in the building for the final and he'll go to sleep on Saturday night with Guitoune, Raka, and Penaud on his mind.

Good Chance For Guitoune

Last Saturday, Jacques Brunel got to see Sofiane Guitoune’s masterful performance from the outside center position. Guitoune danced through the La Rochelle defense to touch down the first try of the match, and later set-up Cheslin Kolbe with the try that put Toulouse into the final.

Top 14 SF Highlights: Toulouse v La Rochelle

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Brunel watched as Guitoune smiled and wave to the Toulouse fans as his replacement, Romain Ntamack, came onto the pitch with only eight minutes left in the match.

Remember, Ntamack was one of Brunel’s surprising selections this Six Nations, and Guitoune was one of the shocking snubs.

Both were named to the preliminary squad and will compete with each other for selection.

Guitoune only has five caps for France to date, but he found his stride at outside center after playing the majority of his career at outside center. Mathieu Bastareaud has been the household name at outside center for France, but he's recently signed to Rugby United New York after a poor season with Toulon.

This weekend is Guitoune's chance to pass Ntamack and Bastareaud.

The Raka & Penaud Show

Clermont’s Alivereti Raka and Damien Penaud were both named to France’s extended training squad.

Raka has been a wrecking ball since coming to Clermont in 2014, while Penaud plays the finesse role on the opposite wing.

In 2017, Raka scored Clermont’s only try in their Top14 final victory.

Who assisted that try? Damien Penaud.

Jacques Brunel has waited patiently for Raka to come available for France. In December of 2018 Raka was granted French citizenship and out came the January rumors of a possible Six Nations appearance. 

Instead, a mosquito bite infection delayed his hand surgery and selection. 

Damien Penaud was selected however. At only 22 years old Penaud has racked up 11 caps.  

Finally, the time has come. Raka and Penaud are healthy and thriving. Last week in the Top14 semifinal against Lyon, Raka gave Penaud a try and Penaud gave Raka one right back.

Just because Raka enters the fold doesn’t necessarily mean Penaud should disappear from Brunel’s eye. These guys serve each other.

Huge Pressure For Huget

With 58 caps for France Yoann Huget is the incumbent wing. 

He wants to win the Top14 title for France like he said in his post-match interview for Toulouse last weekend, but there’s more at stake. 

He can’t let Raka and Penaud put on a show. 

Huget is going to make the World Cup squad, sure. But the Top14 final in Paris is a national stage. Play poorly in front of your country and Jacques Brunel has to start answering questions from now until September.

Round 4: Super Rugby Aotearoa/AU Team of the Week

Codie Taylor, Crusaders

With the Australian Super Rugby teams entering the fold this week, the Super Rugby Team of the Week selection just got a whole lot tougher. There were plenty of great performances over the weekend, and a few names on the sheet that continue to show up week in and week out. 

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MLR Nationality Breakdown By Position: New England Freejacks

New England Free Jacks

The other day I was thinking about fly-halves in the MLR -- since that is my position -- and I got to thinking how few American players there are playing fly-half in Major League Rugby. The only ones I could think of off the top of my head were Ben Cima (SEA), Scott Dean (SEA), Tadgh Leader (NE) and Zinzan Elan-Puttick (AUS) -- and it's worth noting that both Leader and Elan-Puttick grew up playing rugby in Ireland and South Africa respectively. 

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10 Monday Notes: Hot Seats In NZ, Super Rugby Kicks Off In AUS

Reds, Harry Wilson

The gifts keep on coming, as Super Rugby AU's new season just got underway this past weekend with two scintillating matchups, while Super Rugby Aotearoa once again dazzled fans. 

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MLR Nationality Breakdown By Position: Houston Sabercats

Houston Sabercats

The other day I was thinking about fly-halves in the MLR -- since that is my position -- and I got to thinking how few American players there are playing fly-half in Major League Rugby. The only ones I could think of off the top of my head were Ben Cima (SEA), Scott Dean (SEA), Tadgh Leader (NE) and Zinzan Elan-Puttick (AUS) -- and it's worth noting that both Leader and Elan-Puttick grew up playing rugby in Ireland and South Africa respectively. 

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More Rugby! Super Rugby Australia Kicks Off With Reds vs Waratahs

Waratahs

Much to the delight of many rugby fans all around the world, Super Rugby began a New Zealand-only competition three weeks ago, giving spectators something great to feast their eyes on after a long rugby layoff since the start of the pandemic. Well, starting this weekend the rugby universe will be treated to another great competition, as Super Rugby now begins its Australian-only league. 

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TWO UNBEATENS REMAIN: Super Rugby Aotearoa Round 4 Preview

Richie Mo'unga, Crusaders

Through three rounds of Super Rugby Aotearoa, it's the Blues and the Crusaders who still remain unbeaten, while the Chiefs and the Hurricanes are still in search of a first victory on the season. The Highlanders, meanwhile, sit at 1-1 after two heart-stopping fixtures against the Chiefs and the Blues. 

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Date Set For New Zealand's North vs South Island Battle

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For the first time since the mid 1980's, New Zealand is set to reintroduce the famous North vs South Island match on August 29th, pitting players from each of the two parts of New Zealand against one another to settle where the best rugby players in the country truly come from. 

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MLR Nationality Breakdown By Position: Colorado Raptors

Colorado Raptors

The other day I was thinking about fly-halves in the MLR -- since that is my position -- and I got to thinking how few American players there are playing fly-half in Major League Rugby. The only ones I could think of off the top of my head were Ben Cima (SEA), Scott Dean (SEA), Tadgh Leader (NE) and Zinzan Elan-Puttick (AUS) -- and it's worth noting that both Leader and Elan-Puttick grew up playing rugby in Ireland and South Africa respectively. 

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Could New Zealand Be Hosting The Entire 2020 Rugby Championship?

New Zealand v South Africa - Rugby World Cup 2019_ Pool B Warren Little Getty Images For World Rugby.jpeg

With much of the world shut down still thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, rumors are swirling that New Zealand could be home to the entire 2020 Rugby Championship. The past three weeks have seen the beginning of the Super Rugby Aotearoa, a competition involving just the four New Zealand Super Rugby franchises. 

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MLR Nationality Breakdown By Position: Austin Gilgronis

Gilgronis vs Toronto Arrows

The other day I was thinking about fly-halves in the MLR -- since that is my position -- and I got to thinking how few American players there are playing fly-half in Major League Rugby. The only ones I could think of off the top of my head were Ben Cima (SEA), Scott Dean (SEA), Tadgh Leader (NE) and Zinzan Elan-Puttick (AUS) -- and it's worth noting that both Leader and Elan-Puttick grew up playing rugby in Ireland and South Africa respectively. 

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