Who’s hot…and who’s not!

Date published: November 25 2014

It is time for our weekly wrap up of who has their name in lights at the moment…and who is making the headlines for the wrong reasons.

It is time for our weekly wrap 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!

Steve Hansen, Brodie Retallick and New Zealand: Another good year for Hansen and the All Blacks as they completed a clean sweep in the end-of-year awards. Second-row Brodie Retallick won the World Rugby Player of the Year 2014 after an outstanding campaign for franchise and country while the All Blacks were Team of the Year for the eighth time and Hansen was named Coach of the Year for a third time in succession.

Ireland: Whisper it quietly but are we looking at serious dark horses for the World Cup? Granted they won’t be playing at the Aviva Stadium in the tournament but their form over the past month has seen their odds shorten. Led by the colossal Paul O’Connell and with the direction of Conor Murray and Jonathan Sexton, Ireland are ticking nearly all the boxes at the moment as they followed up wins over South Africa and Georgia with a victory against Australia. O’Connell isn’t getting ahead of himself but surely they are favourites for the Six Nations. And in Joe Schmidt, they look to have the best coach in the northern hemisphere.

Springbok bench: The win in Italy certainly didn’t come easy and the Boks were probably flattered by the final score. Still, the impact of their bench in the second-half showed the importance of having some game-changers to come on. While we’re talking about South Africa, a little hat tip to Bakkies Botha who called time on his international career after 85 caps.

Pumas: There’s something about playing France that inspires Argentina, and they stepped up their performance several notches in Paris. Playing with incredible intensity, and slotting four drop-goals to make the most of their dominance early on, los Pumas deservedly won in France for the first time since the 2007 World Cup. All that was done with a very inexperienced pack. This is a team on the rise.

Thomas Waldrom and Exeter: Should we continue to be surprised when Exeter beat one of the so-called big teams in the Premiership? Over the weekend they defeated a Wasps side coming in hot after smashing London Welsh the week before. But that didn’t faze the Chiefs, with number eight Waldrom once again leading the charge with a try in a 31-5 win. That’s seven in eight for Thomas the Tank, and the result provisionally lifted them to the top of the table before Saints won at Saracens on Sunday as they now sit in second, with the fine work of Rob Baxter and his staff deserving praise.

Sale: Another team in the Premiership definitely going in the right direction is Sale, who claimed their first victory at the Stoop in six years as they beat Harlequins 16-12 on Friday. While unlikely to push for league honours, the spine of their team is impressing as players like Marc Jones, Michael Paterson, Dave Seymour and Daniel Braid regularly stand out. Next is a trip to Newcastle for Steve Diamond’s men as they look to press on into the play-off places.

Someone fetch these guys a warm cuppa soup!

TMO troubles in Dublin and London: Once more the intervention of the Television Match Officials left something to be desired this weekend. Aerial replays of Bernard Foley’s try suggest that pass from Nick Phipps wasn’t forward but the interaction between Glen Jackson, the Irish players and Eric Gauzins raised a few eyebrows. Likewise, at Twickenham where Jaco Peyper and Simon McDowell seemed at odds, the lines between the protocols, common sense and the correct outcome all seemed a little blurry. The new trial whereby the TMO is not heard over the referee link seems to be creating more questions than answers. It’s also not clear on who has the final say on decisions as examples of refs overruling TMOs – and vice-versa – are becoming more frequent.

France: Just as it looked like les Bleus might be turning a corner, they were bullied off the park for 40 minutes at the Stade de France and never recovered. Add to that Teddy Thomas’ indiscretions that saw him dropped for the clash with the Pumas, and it was hardly an ideal week for Philippe Saint-Andr