Who’s hot… and who’s not!

Date published: September 22 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!

Eddie Jones and his Brave Blossoms: Eight years after helping South Africa lift the World Cup for the second time, Jones came back to haunt the Springboks, masterminding the greatest upset in rugby history. In many way it’s still beyond belief – that a side who had only ever won one World Cup game could take down the Springboks. But it was so deserved. Japan stuck to their systems devised brilliantly by Jones, never shied away from the physical battle and proved proved that size and power isn't everything, but most importantly believed it could happen when so many others didn’t. A number of the supposed tier one side would love to have produced the sort of backline moves Japan were capable of, while their set-piece has also been transformed. Leitch, Goromaru, Tanaka and the replacement Mafi were all phenomenal. It was a special moment for sport, not just rugby, and an unforgettable one at that. Let's just hope they can produce a similar display against Scotland off a four-day turnaround. Bravo Brave Blossoms!

Tim Nanai-Williams: The clear choice for Man of the Match in Brighton on Sunday, Nanai-Williams is a class act at full-back for Samoa. The more he becomes integrated into the side, the more dangerous they will become. Took his try well and left the USA for dead with his footwork. 84 metres and three clean breaks to his name too. Check out the video.

Jonathan Sexton and Iain Henderson: Two shining lights for Ireland in their 50-7 win over Canada. Sexton only played 55 minutes but won the man-of-the-match award as his distribution and kicking game put his side into the red zone. He capped his 14-point showing with a try wide out before being wrapped in cotton wool. Meanwhile, Henderson was outstanding at lock and has put real pressure on Devin Toner for his jersey.

Nicolas Mas: After 12 years and 81 Tests, Mas finally broke his Test duck with a debut try against Italy. The veteran tighthead has been one of the world's very best, and in what will likely be his last international tournament, it was great to see him get a first Test score.

World Cup crowds: The ethos of rugby cannot be beaten. When the fan train pulled into Victoria from Brighton on Saturday, all the Bok fans formed a guard of honour and applauded the Japanese fans off the train and allowed them to go through the barriers first. Whether it was the huge Argentinian support for the Pumas at Wembley or Twickenham turning French on Saturday, the crowds have been fantastic. London being so cosmopolitan has no doubt helped and the teams certainly haven't been lacking for support from their compatriots. While we're at it, the helpers at the grounds have also been brilliant. Just as they did three years ago at London 2012, the organisers seem to have nailed it.

Wayne Barnes: Referees get a lot of stick, so when they perform well, it's only right that we give them the praise they deserve. To say Barnes and the All Blacks haven't had the easiest of relationships would be an understatement, but despite sin-binning both Richie McCaw and Conrad Smith, even Kiwi journalists admitted he'd had a great game. The match at Wembley was a cracker, Barnes played a major part in that.

Mamuka Gorgodze and Georgia: Japan's win stole the spotlight from Georgia, but the Lelos pulled off their greatest World Cup performance with a 17-10 win over Tonga. Dominant up front, as expected, they also managed one fantastic long-range try, started by full-back Merab Kvirikashvili and finished by Giorgi Tkhilaishvili. The first try came from Gorgodze, and the skipper was inspirational, making an incredible 24 tackles while also making eight (yes, eight!) offloads. Sergio Parisse and Agustin Creevy have competition for the world's most inspirational captain.


Broken Thermostat:

TMOs: The jury is still out on the increased influence on the television referees, who have gotten a lot of important decisions right, but have also interrupted play far too often with pedantic interventions. It's a difficult balance to find but when a half last almost an hour because of stoppages, the fans are the losers. 


Get these guys a cup of warm soup!

Heyneke Meyer and Jean de Villiers: The Springbok coach and captain now have the dubious distinction of having led South Africa to historic defeats to both Argentina and Japan. Impressive as the Japanese were, the Boks' tactics were painfully predicable (again), their defence was shaky, their execution was poor and their discipline was worse. Meyer has a lot to answer for. Most telling is that of the four tries they scored in Brighton, not one was the result of outmanoeuvring the opposition defence, creating or exploiting space. If all the Boks are capable of is mauling and trying to barge their way through defenders then they may as well back their bags now. The gamble of backing the experience of recently-injured veterans like De Villiers, Willem Alberts, Fourie du Preez and co. over in-form players clearly did not pay off. As for the captain, some very serious questions now need to be asked about whether he should be in the starting XV while Damian de Allende watches from the sidelines. JDV is a great guy, but with South Africa lining up the most experienced team in their history, his contributions as captain – on the field at least – should not be overvalued. The best players must start in every position, this is a lesson South Africa should have learnt from the last World Cup. 

Canada: Granted, the Canucks were never expected to cause Ireland much trouble, but they were so comprehensively outplayed by Joe Schmidt's side that we are worried about how the rest of the tournament will go. They've won just two matches since 2013, and on this form, they might not improve that mark during the World Cup.

Italy: Things are looking pretty grim for the Azzurri, and their dire injury situation isn't helping matters. It says something about how bad things are that France were roundly criticised after a 32-10 victory in their World Cup opener. Jacques Brunel has also come under fire from a former international and it's hard to see things changing any time soon.

Currie Cup schedulers: Currie Cup games overlapping Rugby World Cup fixtures? What a joke. The whole world is rugby crazy at the moment, why not capitalise on the vibe rather than force fans to choose? There are seven days in a week, matches do not have to take place on a Saturday afternoon.

Trains out of Cardiff: Two hours after full-time at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday, our reporter headed for Cardiff Central train station. He couldn't see it. No, he wasn't rubbing his eyes after checking the Japan v South Africa result, it was due to thousands of supporters queuing from the station to about 30 metres from Vue Cinema (attached to the stadium). Then began over two hours of waiting as fans missed connecting trains and according to one man, flights home to Ireland. The line given on the tannoy was "unusually large passenger flow". Sorry, but how many international games has the Millennium Stadium hosted since it opened 1999? We fear for when kick-offs are at 20:00 as it will be chaos.

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