It is time for our 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!
Bath: What a performance in Toulouse! Four well-taken tries and an impressive display at scrum time saw Bath added to the list of contenders for the European Champions Cup title… assuming they can make it out of Pool 4 next week! Jonathan Joseph and Kyle Eastmond in particular were outstanding, doing their England selection chances a power of good.
James Haskell’s Wasps: How do you win a game with just 30 percent territory and possession? Hard graft, taking your chances and boxing smart. Haskell led the way with a mammoth defensive effort at The Stoop as Wasps derailed Harlequins’ European campaign. A massive date with Leinster this weekend awaits.
Toulon: Putting 60 points past Ulster confirmed the defending champions’ status as favourites for a third-straight European title. Even the flu virus that took down most of their backline didn’t slow RCT’s charge into the quarter-finals.
Saracens: Munster’s European reputation has been hard earned, so when they ship 33 points, you should take notice of the opposition. Sarries’ showdown in Clermont with weekend should be a classic.
Leinster: 50 points at the RDS. That’ll put a spring in the step as they head to Ricoh Arena.
Chiefs: Do we all remember Rocky Balboa chasing the chicken many years ago? Well, the Chiefs have gone down the lamb route for a spot of pre-season fun. Jamie Mackintosh led the afternoon on the mic as New Zealand’s Crowd Goes Wild programme covered all the fun. Dave Rennie clearly enjoyed himself as the former Super Rugby winners showed it doesn’t always have to be serious faces at training. Definitely worth a watch.
Steffon Armitage, Dimitri Szarzewski and DTH van der Merwe: The best way to respond to being left out of your country’s Six Nations squad? A hat-trick for Racing made sure the France selectors don’t forget about Szarzewski. How much longer can Stuart Lancaster leave out Armitage? Three tries in 20 minutes is hard to ignore. Meanwhile, Canadian international Van der Merwe scored all three of Glasgow’s tries against Montpellier.
Noa Nakaitaci: The Clermont winger has been included in France’s squad for the Six Nations after catching the eye for Clermont. The Fijian finisher, who was part of the Bleus squad that toured New Zealand in 2013 but did not feature, is enjoying an impressive season and will hope to see off two of Sofiane Guitoune, Yoann Huget and Teddy Thomas for a start against Scotland.
Cardiff Blues: Granted they were facing the competition minnows, but running sixteen tries (!!) past Rovigo surely deserves a few pats on the back.
Brrr….. someone get these guys a warmmmm cuppa soup.
Yoann Huget: He scored a great try against Bath but the French international left fans with a bitter taste in the mouth in Sunday. The Toulouse winger’s dive after being brushed by a hand was pathetic. Play-acting has no place in rugby. He should be cited. Not only is it bad for the sport, but it does nothing for his team’s credibility. After seeing Huget flop to the deck for no good reason, one has to wonder if the officials took Jean-Marc Doussain’s rolling around on the floor with a pinch of salt following a genuine high tackle from Matt Banahan later in the game. Doussain was hit squarely on the jaw… but we all know the story of the boy who cried wolf.
Maxime Mermoz: The French coaching staff confirmed this week that the Toulon centre’s omission from their Six Nations squad had nothing to do with his form in the Top 14 – where he has been excellent – but rather with his attitude. Essentially, they don’t appreciate the way Mermoz sulks when he doesn’t make the starting XV. His attitude does nothing for the atmosphere in the camp and with the World Cup campaign set to last a few months, he is not the sort of guy they want around.
Treviso: The only club in the Champions Cup to still have a ‘0’ in their points column after five rounds. 67-0 away to Saints in Round 4 before conceding nine tries at Racing on Sunday, they’re just not up to scratch. It’s frustrating because European rugby needs a strong team from Italy. We’re not sure what the solution is, but a bigger piece of the financial pie could be a start. It’s not an idea that’ll go down well in England, but the competition will have a richer flavour with a competitive Italian side.