It is time for our weekly wrap up of who has their name in lights right now…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!
Blitzbokke: Over the weekend, South Africa were the best team competing at the Las Vegas Sevens tournament and deservedly lifted the title after beating Argentina, Samoa and finally New Zealand in the knockout stages. Led by Kyle Brown, the likes of Branco du Preez and Frankie Horne stood out along with pace man Seabelo Senatla, who topped the try chart with six scores. A mention also for Werner Kok, an impact player who came off the bench superbly well in Nevada. He showed glimpses of having a big future at centre in the fifteens game so is definitely one to keep an eye on. His match-winning try against the All Blacks Sevens secured them the crown and with it they moved to the top of the Series chart ahead of the Wellington leg.
Canada: That was some performance from the Canadian Sevens side. Coming out of a pool that contained Wales, Kenya and South Africa, they went on to compete for big Series points in the Cup. Their last-eight clash saw them face France in the Cup quarter-finals where they went 0-14 down before coming back to win 17-14. It was then the mighty New Zealand in the semi-finals where they took an early lead but then were edged out 7-26 in a scoreline that didn't reflect the competitiveness of the game. But then, in their final fixture in Las Vegas, a third-place play-off against Samoa was probably the most dramatic of all. For the third time that weekend, Canada went behind early on, this time by a 0-19 scoreline, before an incredible fightback saw them level the match and then Phil Mack dropped a match-winning penalty on the hooter. The result gave Canada 17 World Series points, with two of their players, John Moonlight and Mack, being selected in the Vegas Dream Team.
FranÃ§ois Trinh-Duc: The Montpellier fly-half is the man with the biggest smile in France this week after being recalled to the national squad for the first time since March last year. Called in from the cold = hot.
Ian Madigan and the Ireland Wolfhounds: Guided by the fly-half, the Wolfhounds outplayed the Saxons at Kingsholm. In a performance reminiscent of their first-team counterparts, the Wolfhounds defended well and dominated at the breakdown to avenge last year's loss. Madigan got the better of a struggling Freddie Burns from the tee in tricky conditions and crossed for a tenacious try off a quick tap. Though there was a more experienced and disciplined feel to the Irish squad than their opponents, it was nonetheless a good win.
Bayonne, Brive and Stade FranÃ§ais: Brive and Bayonne enjoyed fine weekend wins over Top 14 giants Toulon and Clermont respectively – both triumphant by more than seven points. Though the pair sit in ninth and twelfth position in the league table, wins such as these will come as big morale-boosters. Meanwhile, Stade FranÃ§ais rose to the top of the domestic pile with an excellent 32-6 defeat of defending champions Castres.
Get these guys a cup of warm soup!
Toulon, Clermont and Toulouse: By contrast, one of the Top 14's notorious big-spenders now languish outside the top six on the leaderboard. Toulon have stumbled to defeats to the likes of Oyonnax and Grenoble so far this season, prompting questions to be raised over the future of coach Bernard Laporte, whose own boss Mourad Boudjellal a few weeks ago wondered if he would turn up on Monday. With the money spent, surely they shouldn't be lying in seventh place, with a small comfort being that only four points separates them from third spot. It doesn't look good anyway. Meanwhile, Toulouse were well beaten by Racing Metro while an injury-hit Clermont fell at Bayonne as they dropped off the Top 14 league summit. While Six Nations call-ups can hamper these two giants of the French game, performances like their ones over the weekend do not sit well with their supporters.
Abuse of Sam Warburton: Social media abuse of players, coaches, and anyone in the game does not sit well with us. Warburton, who this week signed a central contract with the Welsh Rugby Union, has copped plenty of flak from 'rugby fans' (we use that term in the loosest possible sense) on social media site Twitter. Such personal attacks are seen in other sports but this has been creeping into rugby of late. Go outside and get a life, trolls.
Bottle top blunder: We're sure you have all seen those quick quiz questions underneath your beer bottle top for whichever sport. However, there was one on a Carlton Draught top in Australia pictured as asking: what number does an openside flanker usually wear? The answer given? Eight. Pictures, as they do, hit social media but credit to the beer company, who saw the funny side of this, as they put out a new bottle top saying: in 2014, which beer famously apologised to Australian rugby fans? The answer? Carlton Draught. All good fun.