It’s time for Planet Rugby’s 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!
England: An impressive tour for the Six Nations champions after securing a 3-0 whitewash over last year’s World Cup finalists. England’s defensive discipline throughout the series has been a remarkable feat. Eddie Jones’ men made a total 401 tackles compared to Australia’s 221, an average of 60 tackles per game more than their hosts. However they also used their possession and territory to good effect and converted them into a total of 106 points in three games. There’s no arguing that over the series England were the better side, as they became the first side to win a three-Test series in Australia since South Africa in 1971.
Racing 92: After losing out to Premiership champions Saracens in the Champions Cup final, Racing were aching for silverware and they did it against the odds in the spectacular setting of Barcelona’s Nou Camp stadium on Friday. Fine kicking form off the tee from All Blacks legend Dan Carter and Johan Goosen kept Racing within reach of their opponents after being reduced to 14 men in the first quarter when Maxime Machenaud saw red. Jacky Lorenzetti, Racing’s owner, at last has a trophy to show for his efforts.
Georgia: Completing an undefeated tour of the Pacific Islands is a massive achievement from Georgia, who defeated Fiji on Saturday to go with their draw against Samoa and win over Tonga. Really impressive. Should they be added to the Six Nations? Discuss below…
Owen Farrell: The England back has been in outstanding form not only with ball in hand but on defence as well in Australia. However it’s his kicking form that has stolen the headlines. The Saracens playmaker succeeded with 23 out of his 26 kicks across the three Tests. Points win prizes.
Faf de Klerk: The Springbok number nine was instrumental for the Boks in the third Test when they managed to clinch the three-match Test series 2-1 after losing the opening match in Cape Town. Known for his sniping around the fringes it was the Lions scrum-half’s defensive prowess that single handedly won the final Test for South Africa. Pounced for a vital interception to thwart an Irish overlap and then made that crucial tackle with the game on the line. A real bright spot for new head coach Allister Coetzee.
Beauden Barrett: In fine form both with ball in hand and from the tee, the Hurricanes playmaker ran rampant against the Welsh defence. The All Blacks fly-half scored 26 of his side’s 46 points in the third and final Test in Dunedin, including a brace of tries.
England U20: A third title in four years for England then after comfortably beating Ireland 45-21 in Saturday’s final. Harry Mallinder, a breakout star in the Premiership this season, scored two of their tries to cap off an excellent month for English rugby after the success of the senior side and Saxons.
Maxime Machenaud’s red card: The Racing 92 scrum-half saw red in the 18th minute for a dangerous tip tackle on Australia fly-half Matt Giteau in the Top 14 final – but should he have been sent off? Many feel the reaction of referee Mathieu Raynal was a little harsh and we’re inclined to agree. See for yourself.
Willie le Roux’s yellow card: Tiernan O’Halloran fell awkwardly on his back after he and Le Roux went up for the ball with the Ireland full-back coming off second best. The Sharks full-back copped a one-week ban after a citing commissioner found him guilty of contravening Law 10.4 (i).
Get these guys a cup of soup!
Toulon: Over an hour with a man advantage, in a major cup final, and you lose? We’ve touched on this before already this season with the Kings and South Africa, and Toulon are just as guilty. Machenaud’s red card should have boosted their chances but instead Toulon completely lost their discipline, offering up easy meat for Carter and Goosen. Toulon might have won three European Cups in recent times but that’s now another Top 14 final defeat after losing to Toulouse in 2012 and Castres back in 2013. When you combine the departures from last season and this season, it feels like a changing of the guard at the Stade Félix Mayol.
Argentina: A strong first Test performance against France in the two-match Test series last week in Tucumán was overshadowed by this week’s poor display at the same venue. After the 80 minutes Los Pumas failed to add any points against a depleted France side. Despite enjoying most of the possession and territory during some stages of the match the home side could not get any points on the scoreboard. 0-27? That’s a huge shock.
Wales: They gave everything in the first two Tests but this was the thrashing that we all feared. It doesn’t get any tougher than touring New Zealand as Wales learned in their mid-week disaster against the Chiefs. Their legs finally gave up on them in Dunedin.
Australia: Much improved in some areas in Sydney but for the Wallabies it’s still a 3-0 series defeat on home soil, and most depressingly for all Australians, a 3-0 series defeat to England. Michael Cheika’s side are far from a disaster and will be boosted significantly by the return of some senior heads for the Rugby Championship. But they were outplayed over this series and that will sting.