It's 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.
Harlequins and Clermont: Hats off to seeds one and two heading into the Heineken Cup knockout stages. Both won six out of six games in the Pool rounds and now face Munster and Montpellier respectively in the quarter-finals. With Clermont's home route to the final, they are now clear favourites.
Montpellier: What a performance it was from Fabien GalthiÃ©'s team. Following the passing of coach Eric BÃ©chu, the French side put in an excellent effort that saw Toulon come off distinctly second best. It was a showing that possessed immense power from their pack while Benoit Paillaugue was exceptional.
Simon Zebo: The second of his three tries against Racing-Metro was something out of the top drawer. Zebo's stocks continue to soar in Ireland and Europe so expect to see a good deal more of him in the Six Nations. We expect to see him in an Irish back-three with Rob Kearney and Craig Gilroy.
Tigers v Toulouse in the snow: Quote of the week, heard from Ed's wife as the players took the field at Welford Road: “Rugby is epic. If they were soccer players they'd be in their pyjamas at mommy's house.”
King Carlos: Spencer will be in South Africa for a while yet after agreeing to help out at the Sharks in the upcoming Super Rugby season. He'll primarily work with the backline and that obviously includes Bok fly-half Pat Lambie. Invited by coach John Plumtree, Spencer is delighted to be there.
Someone turn up the heater…!
Lionel Beauxis and Guy NovÃ¨s: More than a few pundits questioned the logic behind shifting Luke McAlister (who had won 10 out of 12 games for Toulouse starting at fly-half) into midfield to accommodate Beauxis's boot in Leciester. The move backfired badly as the recently-returned-from-injury former France pivot looked totally out sync and not very keen to be on the park. A bad situation was compounded by what we can only interpret as the Toulouse manager's failure to swallow his pride and change his plan. Yannick Jauzion was injured before the game but NovÃ¨s still had two other options: Clement Poitrenaud could have moved to 12 or Jean-Marc Doussain could have shifted to 10. Isn't hindsight wonderful?
Heineken Cup semi-finals draw: Is it fair that the Heineken Cup semi-final hosts are decided by a draw rather than ranking? Harlequins are the top seeds after the Pool stages but if they win their quarter-final they will have to travel to either France or Ireland for their semi-final. There is some merit to the argument that not all pools are equally strong, making the rankings lopsided, but then surely it would make sense to have legitimately neutral venues for the semi-finals?
Edinburgh, Scarlets and Zebre: Winless after six games, which was expected from Zebre but not from last season's quarter-finalists, Edinburgh are without doubt the biggest disappointment of the European season. A big fat zero in the points column is not happy reading for fans of Scottish rugby. Scarlets could only manage two bonus points.
Antoine Battut: The Racing-Metro flank shouldn't book a holiday in Dublin any time soon, as there are a few Leinster fans who might have a few choice words for him after his stupid red card against Munster paved the way for a bonus-point win for the hosts at Thomond Park and sealed the champions' fate in the process.
Ronan O'Gara's one-week ban: We have a few problems with Judge Jeff Blackett reducing the prescribed suspension for ROG's kick from four weeks to one. Firstly, the good judge found that act was “out of character.” Don't forget that one next time you get pulled over: “Sorry officer, I don't normally run red lights, it's wholly out of character. Best you reduce my fine by half.” He also accepted that “O'Gara had intended to trip rather than to kick Cox.” Did he watch the reply? And since when was tripping OK? Then he decided that, in his opinion, “a two-week suspension would be wholly disproportionate to the level of offending”. What is the point of having guidelines if they can be ignored by those appointed to implement them?
Zac Guilford: News broke on Sunday that the 23-year-old All Blacks wing was under investigation after an alleged late-night incident at a residential home in Christchurch. A few hours later the NZRU released a statement saying Guildford had voluntarily stood down from involvement with the Crusaders, who “were very disappointed to learn of this incident”. Hopefully the finisher can sort himself out and work his back into professional rugby.