Who’s hot… and who’s not!

Date published: November 23 2015

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It's time for Planet Rugby's weekly round-up of who has their name in lights at the moment… and who is making the headlines for the wrong reasons.

They're on fire!

Saracens: Nine points out of games against Toulouse and Ulster (away)? That’s seriously impressive. It’s early days but maybe Saracens, also top of the Premiership, are Europe’s best team. Good power and good finishing, plus two stunning tries in the second half by Alex Goode and Duncan Taylor. Owen Farrell looked sharp too.

Northampton: We’ve been waiting for Saints to come good this season, after three Premiership defeats and a scrappy win over the Scarlets. Saturday’s win away to Glasgow – not many teams come away from Scotstoun with a victory – was built off a mighty performance from the Saints pack, who bullied Glasgow in the scrum all game long.

Wasps: A 33-6 win over three-time European champions Leinster in Round 1 was followed by a 32-6 win over triple champs Toulon on Sunday. You couldn't ask for better.

George Ford: Nerves of steel to land the match-winning penalty against Leinster at The Rec for Bath. Under massive pressure, Ford sent it straight down the middle, capping off a good day for England’s number ten.

Zebre: Big winners in the Challenge Cup over Worcester – Zebre have definitely started the season better than Treviso. 27-3 until the closing stages is noteworthy score, plus we’re big fans of fly-half Carlo Canna.

Olly Woodburn: The Exeter wing capped off his first start for the club with two tries against UBB, but it was his try-saving tackle on Nans Ducuing that capped off a man-of-the-match outing.

The Clermont band: All games played across Europe this weekend were preceded by La Marseillaise in a show of solidarity following the terrible recent events in Paris. But what happened during Sunday's Champions Cup showdown at Stade Marcel-Michelin took the spirit of rugby to a new level as Clermont's band got themselves into a position to serenade the travelling Ospreys supporters with a rendition of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau, Wales' national anthem. What a wonderful gesture from those involved and thankfully it was broadcast on our screens.

David Strettle: Should he have been at the World Cup with England? On this form there is only one answer to that question. Strettle was outstanding against the Ospreys as he scored two tries and looked so dangerous with ball in hand. Clermont's fans have a new favourite.

Argentina: All the pre-match talk had been about the show the Barbarians might put on at Twickenham after their impressive showing against Gloucester earlier in the week. Instead it was Argentina who were the talk of the capital as they went over for seven tries in a 49-31 win that saw them out Baa-baa the Baa-baas. They were superb in the recent World Cup and showed again the Pumas' future is bright.


Brrrrr someone get these guys a warm cup of soup!

Toulon: Looked anything like champions in their European Champions Cup opener against Wasps at the Ricoh Arenah on Sunday. Bernard Laporte's charges generated very little on attack and were left tryless in their 32-6 defeat. They committed error after error with ball in hand and were poor on defence allowing their English hosts to cross for four tries.

Leinster and Ulster: Save for Munster, whose match this weekend with Stade Français was postponed, it’s not looking good for the Irish provinces in this year’s Champions Cup. Leinster’s loss at Bath leaves them needing four wins plus bonus points to have a hope of making the last eight – oh, and their next matches are a double header against Toulon. Ulster meanwhile had far too many lapses of concentration and looked blunt in attack against Saracens, while their defence was soft.

Treviso: Yet to win this season, with seven losses in the PRO12 and two in the Champions Cup. If this keeps up then director of rugby Marius Goosen and head coach Umberto Casellato might be looking for a new job.

Scarlets: Their early-season form in the PRO12 was not replicated on home soil as the Scarlets suffered back-to-back losses in the Champions Cup pool stage. After losing narrowly at Northampton, the Welsh region were hammered by Racing 92 as a 26-0 half-time margin put them in an awful position coming out for the second-half. Although the game ended 29-12, the mini-revival came against 14 Racing players.

Two stamps: Matthew Rees' stamp on Nick Easter was ugly to say the least in Thursday's Challenge Cup fixture between Cardiff Blues and Harlequins. The former Welsh international struck the eye of Easter with a stud and while a citing or judgment has yet to be decided, the pictures don't look good for Rees. On Saturday, Racing 92 flanker Bernard le Roux also received a red card for his stamp on Scarlets prop Phil John. While this looked less dangerous, the intent was definitely there, so both players will be facing a nervous wait this week.

 

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