It's time for Planet Rugby's weekly wrap up of who is setting the benchmark at the moment… and who should be dropped to the bench!
It's time for Planet Rugby's weekly wrap up of who is setting the benchmarks at the moment… and who should be dropped to the bench!
They're on fire!
Ross Ford: Captaining your national side is the highest individual honour to which any player can aspire. Our congratulations to Scotland's 112th Test skipper.
Munster: Six wins from six games. Number one seeds for the Heineken Cup quarter-finals. Five tries and 51 points on the road to last year's finalists….'nough said.
The Heineken Cup quarter-finalists: Some have been luckier than others. Top of the lucky list must be Toulouse: Expect an Airbus full of fruit baskets to arrive in Connacht shortly. Leading the not-so-lucky candidates are Edinburgh, whose reward for winning Pool Two is a quarter-final against a certain French team looking for their fifth title after a massive wake-up call. Doh!
The Pro12: With five of the eight HEC quarter-finalists coming from one league, it's hard to suggest that the Pro12 isn't setting the standard in the northern hemisphere. Food for thought indeed.
Simon Zebo, Takudzwa Ngwenya and Sitiveni Sivivatu: There were plenty of 'hot' wingers on show over the weekend with the flyers from Munster and Biarritz bagging hat-tricks along with places in our Team of the Week. But while they we're finishing off flowing moves, Clermont's All Black import was at the origin of attack after attack. It took Sivi a few games to find his feet, but he's firing on all cylinders now and must be considered one of the most dangerous wingers in Europe at the moment.
Stade FranÃ§ais: As the Amlin Challenge Cup top seeds after finishing the group stages with a points difference of +155, the Parisians are the bookies' second favourites (behind Toulon) to go all the way.
Treviso: Three cheers for Italy's top side after they came within a hairsbreadth of toppling the champions of England. Sarries can consider themselves somewhat lucky after the Benetton Boys had a try turned down in the dying minutes by the TMO with a controversial call.
Heyneke Meyer: As the Springbok coach rumour mill continues to turn, it's been reported that South Africa's administrators have finally decided to appoint the Bulls' main man as Peter de Villiers' successor. Meyer, who narrowly missed out on the position in 2008 following the SARU's decision to place a bigger emphasis on transformation than results, has been tipped to be unveiled as the new national coach on Friday. Given Meyer's impressive coaching record at Currie Cup and Super Rugby level, his rare ability to bring out the best in his players in high-pressure matches and his professional communication skills, it's no surprise the top brass at SARU are impressed.
Ewen McKenzie: The Wallaby Head Coach position isn't up for grabs – yet – but McKenzie was given a mighty big compliment by ARU chief executive John O'Neill, after revealing the Reds mentor would be a “fantastic candidate” to be the next Australia boss. The Super Rugby-winning coach, who has extended his Reds contract until 2014, is widely regarded as one of the leading candidates to replace Robbie Deans if and when the Kiwi leaves his post. No pressure then Robbie!
Cecil Afrika: The IRB Sevens Player of the Year was unveiled as the new IRB Keep Rugby Clean Ambassador for Sevens Rugby. He follows Samoa's Uale Mai and Kenya's Humphrey Kayange in becoming Sevens rugby's third anti-doping ambassador.
Someone turn on the heater…!
The European semi-final draws: Why is that the ERC insist on the semi-final venues for the Heineken and Challenge Cups being decided by pulling a little plastic ball out of a drum? Surely it makes more sense for the higher ranked teams to get home (country) advantage? As it stands, Leinster – ranked second after the pool stages – will have to travel to England or France if they make the semi-finals….eh?
Bryce Lawrence (in South Africa at least): The controversial Kiwi referee, who became public enemy number one in South Africa after being blamed by more than a few for ending the Springboks' reign as World Champions, will not travel to the Republic to officiate Super Rugby matches. It's understood that SANZAR are fearful that fans might take matters into their own hands if he controls any games in the Rainbow Nation.
Toulon's retirement village: So Andrew Sheridan is the latest 30-something to head to Toulon. The soon-to-be former Shark is 32, the same age as Bakkies Botha, Jonny Wilkinson, Carl Hayman and Dean Schofield. Simon Shaw is 38 while Sebastien Bruno is 37, just like Kris Chesney. Bernard Laporte might have to make provision for afternoon naps in his training schedule. Not exactly building for the future, is it?
Harlequins: Quins started the season with and bang and a fizz, but are struggling to produce much more than a muffled fart these days. A 21-point hiding at the hands of Saints followed by that defeat in western Ireland has put a damper on spirits at the Stoop to say the least. At least they have a chance to defend their Amlin Challenge Cup title, starting with tricky trip to Toulon.
Aironi: In six rounds of Heineken Cup competition, Italy's not-so-new franchise were the only team who failed to pick up a win. In fact, they didn't even get a point in Pool Four. Not a single one. Some fans are now questioning whether they deserve an automatic place in Europe's top competition. It's a tough call because they have the playing personnel to make an impact and Treviso have shown that with a bit of time Italian teams can be competitive. But just how much time do they need?
Welsh private parts: This one has nothing to do with form. While former Wales U20 player Steven Shingler is training in relative 'warmth' with Scotland, his brother and the rest of the Welsh Six Nations squad are in Poland climbing into frozen chambers for more cryotherapy sessions. We believe the expression goes: cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey. i.e. Not hot, coooooooooooold!