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!
Wasps: It was a perfect debut at their new home for Wasps as they eased past London Irish 48-16 at the Ricoh Arena. Over 28,000 fans were there to cheer on the Premiership club as tries from Joe Simpson, Andy Goode, Elliot Daly and Andrea Masi helped them to five points. Goode was particularly impressive, kicking 28 points to go with that try as the Coventry man thoroughly enjoyed playing in his home city.
Toulon: Another decent week for the French and European champions as either side of their come-from-behind 30-6 win over Lyon, they announced the signings of Ma’a Nonu, Napolioni Nalaga, Samu Manoa and Salesi Ma’afu. Don’t be surprised if a handful more big names follow.
Bath: There is a lot to feel good about if you are a Bath supporter. Second spot in the Premiership – two points behind Northampton – and playing a brand of rugby that teams are struggling to live with, they are certainly serious contenders for the domestic crown. Their performance against Gloucester once again mixed brawn with brilliance as a penalty try and two from Matt Garvey saw them prevail 39-16 at Kingsholm. George Ford was also in good form off the tee with a nine from ten record while Francois Louw and company impressed up front.
Wayne Smith: Highly thought of not just in New Zealand but around the rugby world, Smith was on Sunday confirmed to have taken on the defence coach role at the All Blacks and will work alongside Steve Hansen, Ian Foster, Mike Cron and Mick Byrne in the World Cup year. Hansen believes Smith, who was part of the Webb Ellis winning coaching team of 2011, is sure to add “another dimension” to the All Blacks.
Edinburgh: We all know Treviso are struggling but credit where credit is due, Edinburgh were rampant against the Italians on Friday as they ran in six tries to win 48-0. Sam Hidalgo-Clyne scored 17 points in a result that sets them up nicely for their 1872 match against Glasgow before the return leg on January 2. The Warriors will be no mugs though after Saturday’s come-from-behind victory over Munster.
Someone fetch these guys a warm cuppa soup!
Dylan Hartley: The Northampton and England hooker is in hot water once again after elbowing Leicester centre Matt Smith in the 17th minute of their Premiership fixture at Franklin’s Gardens. Fortunately his team recovered well despite being a man down and went on to win 23-19 but for Hartley a worrying week awaits as his previous offences are sure to be a factor in the upcoming hearing. Eye-gouging, biting and swearing are now joined by the elbow strike as one fears that a hefty ban could be sanctioned by a Rugby Football Union disciplinary panel.
Leicester: Speaking of that Premiership fixture, the Tigers have no excuses for not winning that game. A numerical advantage for 63 minutes – barring Tom Croft’s ten minutes in the sin-bin – did not result in a much-needed victory on the road as again their away form is a concern. They are now seventh in the table going into the Christmas period with a Boxing Day trip to Sale Sharks their next assignment.
Leon MacDonald’s jersey thieves: The former All Black has this weekend had up to fifteen international rugby jerseys stolen from his home in Blenheim. MacDonald and his wife were returning home in the early hours of Monday morning and disturbed the teenage intruders, who then ran away from the garage where the shirts were being stored. MacDonald is particularly upset to have lost his 2005 British and Irish Lions jersey, which holds a special place in his collection, so any locals with information should please phone Blenheim police on 03 578 5279.
London Welsh: That’s now 490 points conceded by the club as Saracens cruised to a 78-7 win at Allianz Park. Eleven tries were scored in all as a somewhat weakened home side cut loose, with Richard Wigglesworth running in three tries in thirteen minutes in the second-half. One fears that only similar hefty scorelines will follow in 2015 as their lack of depth in the squad will become more and more apparent.
Julien Bardy: There are some actions which you just won’t get away with in rugby, and a headbutt is near the top of the pile. We’re not sure how much contact Bardy made with Yannick Caballero, but it was a red card all day long and could have cost his side dear. Having just returned from a five-week ban for knee on Billy Vunipola, Bardy is likely facing another long spell on the sidelines.
Castres: On the subject of Saturday’s game at the Stade Marcel Michelin, Castres were given a golden opportunity to kickstart their season when Clermont were reduced to 14 for the whole of the second half. Instead they went from leading 7-6 to failing to pick up even a bonus point in a 19-10 loss. R