It’s time for Planet Rugby’s wrap of who has their name in lights at the moment…and who is making the headlines for the wrong reasons.
They’re on fire!
All Blacks: Switch flicked. Argentina did a cracking job of frustrating the world champions for the first 50 minutes in Hamilton but the injection of a fresh front row, Ardie Savea and TJ Perenara completely changed the dynamic of the contest. Absolutely ruthless. Good luck to the Boks next week, because New Zealand look unstoppable right now. One interesting twist, with no Sam Cane next week, the younger Savea gets his chance for a first start. We expect a big impact.
Ben Smith: Plenty of praise so far this year for Beauden Barrett, and rightly so, but Ben Smith on Saturday was something else. The kick through for Barrett’s try couldn’t have gone better, and his finish for his second try was quite something too. There is arguably no more complete back on the entire planet.
Bernard Foley: Australia weren’t great but they did at last break their losing run in Tests, and huge credit has to go Foley for producing his best game of the year in either Waratah blue or Wallaby gold. His well-taken try settled a nervy contest and put a seal on the Wallabies’ first win since last year’s Rugby World Cup semi-final.
Wasps and Jimmy Gopperth: Hats off after a first win at Welford Road since 2008, some achievement for Dai Young’s men. Yes, Charles Piutau and George Smith are gone, but this season’s squad is far deeper and stronger – Nathan Hughes and Joe Simpson both started on the bench – and that’s before Kurtley Beale and Willie le Roux lace up their boots. Jimmy Gopperth meanwhile has started the season on fire, outshining Danny Cipriani. He might as well have knocked over that final touchline conversion blindfolded.
Saracens: Scoring 30 points plus over the Exeter Chiefs away from home is mighty impressive, and they did so without either Owen Farrell or George Kruis. Depth aplenty for the reigning champions who brushed off last season’s fellow Premiership finalists with ease at Sandy Park. Two tries as well for new signing Sean Maitland.
Clermont: Dished out a Grade A walloping to Racing on Saturday to suck out some of the sting still lingering from last year’s extra-time semi-final loss. Winning 47-10 is good medicine. France international Noa Nakaitaci chipped in with a hat-trick.
Tommy Seymour: Four tries – four! – for the Scotland flyer on Saturday as Glasgow carried on from that impressive win over Connacht by seeing off Leinster in Scotstoun. Gregor Townsend’s squad are flying right now in the PRO12 which definitely ups the ante ahead of their Champions Cup opener against Leicester in October.
Argentina: Praising a side who shipped close to 60 points feels a little strange, but, Argentina’s attitude and execution in Hamilton deserves to be commended. Super slick hands and running for Santiago Cordero’s try, and their efforts at the breakdown too kept the All Blacks honest. It then all fell apart in the final half hour, but this team, and especially the young back row of Pablo Matera, Javier Ortega Desio and Facundo Isa, are really going places.
Trapped in the frozen aisle!
South Africa: A bright start in Brisbane and then it all came apart. That’s now back-to-back losses for the Springboks ahead of facing New Zealand this weekend. New leadership needs to emerge but for now here are three quick tips: 1) Don’t send high balls consistently the way of Israel Folau. He quite enjoys gobbling those up. 2) Lood de Jager’s injury will now force this to happen, but start Pieter-Steph du Toit. Once again he made a huge impact off the bench. 3) Build a new attacking framework around Elton Jantjies by setting him free. Whatever the game-plan is right now, based on the lack of creativity in Brisbane, it isn’t working.
Mathieu Ugalde: The Brive centre looks to be in big, big trouble. We will leave this one to the LNR disciplinary committee to sort out but if found guilty, then he could well end up in the Top End range for breaking Law 10.4 (m), meaning a suspension between 24 and 208 weeks.
Brive’s Mathieu Ugalde could be in real trouble for this apparent gouge attempt on Grenoble’s Armand Battle. pic.twitter.com/9gz5mjR9Qy
— Murray Kinsella (@Murray_Kinsella) 11 September 2016
Newcastle: Absolutely slaughtered away to Bath, who were missing a high number of starters including recently injured back row stars Taulupe Faletau and David Denton. Newcastle’s win over Sale in Round 1 felt like a step forward. This result? Conceding eight tries and 58 points? Consider us concerned. Leicester’s visit next Sunday will be a big test.
Connacht: Speaking of concern, the defending champions are bottom of the PRO12 after two rounds with a points difference of -57. This feels like more than just a bad start but there next Saturday’s trip to Zebre comes at the right time. We’re expecting a big response from Pat Lam’s men.
Dragons-Zebre: If you were at Rodney Parade, all credit to you, because this one sounded like an absolute snoozefest. Dragons edged it 11-6. You don’t need to watch the highlights.