Rugby heaven for some, would be back-to-back games. An endless supply of code, and over the next five weeks, some fans will feel they have found Nirvana.

Not the grunge rock band, but a grouping of International XVs and 7s matches that are of the highest calibre. And with the 2019 Rugby World Cup only 15 months away, the onus is now on selection and performance.

Next five weeks of Rugby Heaven: Finals, Internationals, U20s, Sevens

Teams are now being selected. This weekend, the Springboks will name their squad. England already have, so those two nations are preparing for Week one and two fixtures, before their test series.

The All Blacks squad was announced Sunday, and this week the French responded. Their battle in New Zealand will be greatly anticipated, and the most watched contest; Australia v Ireland will see a challenge of form (at each end of the scale).

Plus, many teams will tour Europe, the Pacific and the Americas. There is the Nations Cup and the Pacific Nations Cup see invited teams fight it out. The Asian Rugby Championship continues to be competed for, in the growth-bed of rugby union.

There is the World Rugby Under 20s Championship, with the world’s best U20 teams playing across three venues in host nation France.

Plus, let us add in the final legs of the HSBC Sevens Series for both men and women. You then have a full plate to digest, as fans enjoy ‘rugby heaven’ in 2018.

Week One: Grand Finals, and Barbarians

Less matches at the beginning of rugby heaven. But there are two key fixtures worth noting.

AVIVA PREMIERSHIP 2017/18 FINAL

Exeter Chiefs reach their second consecutive grand final, as Saracens repair their poor strategy of 2017. It should be a classic, with good weather predicted for Twickenham on Saturday afternoon.

GUINNESS PRO14 2017/18 FINAL

Meanwhile, across the Irish Sea is the Celtic League final. An as anticipated fixture, with the European champions Leinster hoping to ‘make it a double’. The challenge comes from Scarlets, as they hope to restore Welsh pride – a hold off the Irish rugby wave of form [see later as the Irish head to Australia].

Two big club finals, and as ever, the fan following will extend across TV’s and bars, clubs and social media from the British Isles to all rugby loving regions.

ENGLAND v BARBARIANS – Quilter Cup

In a warm-up match that has much more significance for the England squad, they invite the Baabaas to Twickenham, for a full weekend of rugby in London. The ‘kaleidoscope of stars’ will wear the black and white hoops, as they face down Eddie Jones’ men – preparing for their trip to South Africa.

As well, in French Rugby, the Top14 semi-finals will be played. Two matches in Lyon, to determine next weeks competitors in the 2017/18 Top14 grand final.

The Asia Rugby Championship continues. Fixtures have been played by Hong Kong, South Korea and Malaysia in this critical series, that will see one team ultimately qualify for the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

Week Two: Under 20s, London 7s, Top14 Final and RSAvWAL

Beginning Wednesday May 30, the World Rugby annual Championship tournament for the U20 ‘stars of tomorrow’ is a stage where the stars of today have featured. Hosted by France, the Pool fixtures begin with many tasty ‘tests’. 12 teams are matched in three pools of four.

U20 World Championship: Round One – England v Argentina | Scotland v Italy | South Africa v Georgia | New Zealand v Japan | Australia v Wales | France v Ireland
HSBC LONDON SEVENS – Twickenham enjoys more action, as it is London’s Calling for all the stars of the men’s Sevens Series to the fore. And with just two legs remaining, any team wanting to challenge Fiji will need to halt their sequence of tournament wins.

FRENCH TOP14 2017/18 Grand Final – teams to be confirmed.
World Rugby Nations Cup –  Argentina XV v Emerging Italy | Fiji Warriors v Uruguay

SOUTH AFRICA v WALES – scheduled in the week prior to the International series fixtures, this match will be played at Robert F Kennedy Stadium, Washington DC, in an example of the importance placed on the US rugby market.

Week Three: It’s Test Time!! U20s continue, Party at the Paris 7s

Several key International test series will begin on June 9. These will bring six of the top ranked sides together, in the continuance of longstanding rivalries.

  • SOUTH AFRICA v ENGLAND – Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg
  • AUSTRALIA v IRELAND – Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
  • NEW ZEALAND v FRANCE – Eden Park, Auckland
  • Argentina v Wales – San Juan
  • Japan v Italy – Oita
  • Canada v Scotland – Edmonton
  • United States v Russia – Denver

The Pacific Nations Cup opens: Tonga v Georgia | Fiji v Samoa
World Rugby Nations Cup continues: Fiji Warriors v Emerg Italy | Argentina XV v Uruguay

Sunday June 3 and on Thursday June 7, the U20 championship plays Round Two and Round Three fixtures. This will then complete pool play, to reveal the top qualifying teams for the semi-finals scheduled for Tuesday June 12.

HSBC PARIS SEVENS – The finale to the 2017/18 Sevens Series for both men and women. Look for some thrilling action. Specifically, the New Zealand women are looking to challenge the Australians, who can win the title by just making the Cup final.

Week Four: 2nd test fever and U20 final

The 2018 Rugby Africa Gold Cup begins, with teams all competing in a schedule that runs from June to August to determine the final Africa qualifier for the 2019 RWC.

  • Argentina v Wales – Estadio Brigadier Estanislao López, Santa Fe
  • Japan v Italy – Noevir Stadium, Hyogo
  • Canada v Russia – Twin Elm Rugby Park, Ottawa
  • Tonga v Samoa | Fiji v Georgia – ANZ Stadium, Suva
  • NEW ZEALAND v FRANCE – Westpac Stadium, Wellington
  • AUSTRALIA v IRELAND – AAMI Park, Melbourne
  • SOUTH AFRICA v ENGLAND – Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein
  • USA v Scotland – BBVA Compass Stadium, Houston

The culmination of the U20 Championship occurs on Sunday June 17. With the finalists to be confirmed, the schedule is for play-off matches from 11th to 3rd place, prior to the Cup final; 19:00 local time, at Stade De La Mediterranee, Béziers.

Week Five: Conclusion to ‘Rugby Heaven’

The third test for some, and for others the perfect opportunity to play for pride and for important bragging rights (prior to Autumn/November tests, and the World Cup)

  • Japan v Georgia – Toyota Stadium, Aichi
  • Canada v USA – Wanderers Grounds, Halifax, Nova Scotia
  • Fiji v Tonga – ANZ Stadium, Suva
  • NEW ZEALAND v FRANCE – Forsyth-Barr Stadium, Dunedin

  • AUSTRALIA v IRELAND – Allianz Stadium, Sydney
  • SOUTH AFRICA v ENGLAND – Newlands, Cape Town
  • Argentina v Scotland – Estadio Centenario, Resistencia, Chaco
The Asia Rugby Championship and Africa Gold Cup continue from June to July and into August.

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There you have it. Rugby heaven. A plethora of matches, series and championships to absorb. Enjoy.

Right, I need a comfy chair and batteries for the remote. Cheers

 

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