It’s time for our wrap of who has their name in lights and who is making the headlines for the wrong reasons.
This week’s edition is slightly delayed to account for the majority of the festive fixtures in the books over a busy last few days – Ed.
They’re on fire!!
Tom Varndell: A man in phenomenal form, stepping up again for Bristol with a hat-trick as the Premiership’s bottom side won their first league game of the season against Worcester. Varndell has contributed superbly throughout the season and at 31 is still a hugely effective weapon out wide at this level. His tries must just keep Bristol up, which didn’t seem possible a few months ago. Now they are two points behind the Warriors.
Gabriel Lacroix: Four tries for the La Rochelle speedster during their big away win over Bayonne was hugely impressive. He now has nine this season in eleven matches, making him the top scorer in the league by one, above Clermont’s Noa Nakaitaci. Undersized in a Top 14 which is fond of big wingers, the 177cm former France U20 international is starting to catch the eye. La Rochelle too are now up to third.
Grenoble: What an excellent, season-changing win that was over Toulouse to give Grenoble a lifeline in the Top 14, and it took a crazy final ten minutes to put a bow on just their third win of the campaign. Jonathan Wisniewski, the fly-half, needs to keep that form up if they are to survive.
Christian Wade: The second try against Bath on the weekend was one part soft tackling, one part Wade brilliance. International rugby might not be in his future but Wade might go down as the Premiership’s greatest finisher. He now holds the record for the most Premiership tries in a calendar year – 18 – and at 25 is now ninth on the all-time Premiership try scorers list with 59. Mark Cueto holds the records, with 90, but Wade has time on his side.
Munster: Bonus-point win and a ninth of the season to move Rassie Erasmus and his side five points clear at the top of the PRO12 following Monday’s victory over Leinster. The outcome wasn’t a shock, with Leinster resting top stars, but this was a professional job. Next up? A visit to champions Connacht…
Having a blue Christmas…
Zebre: Problems on the field, losing the Italian derby to Treviso over the weekend, and now with reports suggesting that this season could be Zebre’s last. A move from Parma to the Italian capital Rome is on the cards, according to Midi Olympique, which would mean playing at the Stadio Flaminio. How such a move would affect the current coaching staff or players is unclear.
Worcester: Sucked into a relegation scrap after that away loss to Bristol, which we were quietly expecting. All is clearly not well at the Warriors, keeping in mind Ben Te’o’s frank interview with the Daily Mail that suggested the club wasn’t quite showing the ambition he was hoping for. Must respond at home to Harlequins on New Year’s Day.
Leicester: Make that 79 points conceded in Leicester’s last two away games, following a 31-10 thumping at Sandy Park, as they continue to stumble through the season. Not a result that will dampen speculation over Richard Cockerill’s future.
Stade Français: Odd looking back that Stade were within a point at the Stade Marcel Michelin after 20 minutes before the floodgates opened. Efforts like that suggest the season is over already for Gonzalo Quesada and his players before we even reaching the new year, but here’s the thing; Stade have a ton of talent, were champions as recently as 2015, and despite being in 11th place are only eight points off the top four. Time to wake up.
North concussion saga: And on it rumbles, with World Rugby weighing in on Friday that forget whether North needed a Head Injury Assessment – if he was showing any signs of concussion then he should have immediately come off the field. You sense the last hasn’t been heard of this. None of it looks good.