It's time for Planet Rugby's wrap of who has their name in lights this week … and who is making the headlines for the wrong reasons.
It's time for our wrap of who has their name in lights at the moment … and who is making the headlines for the wrong reasons in rugby this week.
They're on fire!
Wallabies: We have ourselves a series decider. Australia did not deserve to lose this series 2-0 and rightly we have a winner-takes-all clash this weekend. We, like everyone, cannot wait for Saturday's kick-off as these two sides look set for another closely-fought game. Credit to centre Christian Lealiifano who, arguably on his Test debut after his short appearance in Brisbane, took to international rugby like a duck to water.
Tamati Ellison: That pass out the back door can be watched over and over again. As commentator Scotty Stevenson said in the aftermath, “Israel Dagg just watched Ben Smith go past him like he couldn't believe he had the ball”. It was quite simply magic and despite watching their outfit lose to the Crusaders, Highlanders fans definitely got their money's worth thanks to this. Check it here – you won't be disappointed!
New Zealand Sevens: The All Blacks' Men's and Women's side lifted the Rugby World Cup Sevens trophy on Sunday after defeating England and Canada respectively in their finals. New Zealand are now world champions in both forms of the game AND in the IRB Sevens World Series, leading their chief executive Steve Tew to sum up the teams' achievements as “an extraordinary moment in time for New Zealand rugby”. We couldn't agree more. While we are on the Sevens, congratulations to Portia Woodman and Gillies Kaka, who took the tournament's top player awards while Tim Mikkelson and Kayla McAlister won the IRB Sevens Player of the Year awards for 2013. Not a bad weekend for the country.
Dan Carter: With very strong performances from Beauden Barrett and Aaron Cruden on Friday, Carter had to step up didn't he? One try, four conversions and four penalties were amassed by the New Zealand pivot, keeping the aforementioned duo in check as the Rugby Championship fast approaches. The All Blacks truly are blessed with talent in the ten jersey.
Siya Kolisi South Africa's loose forward factory just keeps on churning out world-class flanks. After an up-and-down start to the season, the 22-year-old Stormers charger has been outstanding, winning the Man of the Match award in his last two starts – for the Springboks against Scotland and last weekend against the Cheetahs. Kolisi made a whopping 11 carries at Newlands, beating five defenders on the way and was rewarded with a try. It's a great shame that his season has been cut short by torn ankle ligaments.
Chiefs and Bulls: The pair wrapped up their respective conferences with victories over the Hurricanes and Kings last weekend. Dave Rennie's side continue to show their pedigree and are favourites for what would be back-to-back titles. Squad depth has been key for the outfit from Waikato this season – shown again by being able to bring Sam Cane, Andrew Horrell, Mahonri Schwalger off the bench last Friday. Can they be stopped in 2013?
Decisions, decisions: One gripe we have about the Lions is the call to go for the 55 metre penalty attempt at the death. Surely a goal-kicker knows his limits, especially with tiredness being a factor. Yes, it would've be a gamble to tap and go – possibly getting the team into better territory to force another penalty or drop-goal – but surely that's worth the roll of the dice instead of, well, you know what happened next. Hindsight is a wonderful thing isn't it.
Brrrr….someone turn the heater up
British & Irish Lions: What a difference a week makes. Just like in 2001, the British & Irish Lions tour of Australia is going down to the wire in Sydney. Spin it however much you like, the Lions did not deserve to win the second Test after shutting up shop early in the second-half, allowing the hosts enough opportunities to strike. And they finally did through Adam Ashley-Cooper's score leading to Christian Lealiifano's extras to make it 16-15.
Ma'a Nonu: Super Rugby and Ma'a Nonu just don't seem to go marry up well do they? He wasn't in his best form for the Hurricanes towards the end of his time in Wellington, struggled to fire at the Blues last term and this year has been off the boil at the Highlanders. What makes it all the more puzzling is that as soon as he slots into the All Blacks midfield, his form shoots back up to what we know he is capable of. Case in point, he was in very good for this June before returning from international duty, coming off the bench and promptly being sent off for a tip tackle. Jamie Joseph must have been pulling his hair out.
Richard Cockerill: Banned for the first nine matches of the new season, you can imagine the Leicester boss probably using the same “obscene and inappropriate” language that landed him in the dock in the first place. Cockerill insisted after the final that he was allowed to speak to the officials because he was “protecting his players”, but it seems he almost certainly overstepped the mark. It leaves Leicester without Cockerill for all matchday coaching from September 7 to November 2, with the relatively inexperienced duo of Paul Burke and the recently retired Geordan Murphy calling the shots. Had Matt O'Connor not left to join Leinster this might not be such an issue, but Cockerill, who has the right to appeal, has almost certainly damaged his side's start to the season. Given that Leicester never truly get going until Spring and no crowns are won in November, perhaps it will prove irrelevant.
IRB farce: And so we waited. And waited. Until the IRB made the conclusion that had already been decided by an ARU judiciary meeting before the second Test – that James Horwill was innocent. Whether that's right or wrong seems to be down to interpretation (and geographic location), but given the outcome of Horwill's hearing the whole revisitation of the original sentence is utterly pointless. Horwill has been under unnecessary stress over whether he would be able to play in what he has described as “the biggest game in Australia since the World Cup final”. Deans has had to wait to see if his captain would be available. It has all been an unnecessary disruption and taken away from should be rampant hype ahead of the third Test, and also an excellent British & Irish Lions tour.