Planet Rugby

Who's hot...and who's not!

04th March 2014 10:26

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Hot and Not for March 4

Burger and Sarries are hot!

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!

Waratahs: How about them 'Tahs? With Israel Folau leading the show thanks to five tries in two games, Michael Cheika's squad are top of the Australian Conference with ten points in the bag from two games and having already scored 75 points. The best bit though, is it hasn't all been about Folau (incredible as he is to watch.) Bernard Foley is playing with assurance at fly-half, Kurtley Beale looks sharp while the big runners in the pack - Wycliff Palu, Kane Douglas, Will Skelton - are all on fire. It's an exciting time in Sydney.

Sarries and Saints: Sure Bath and Leicester are in the play-off spots in the Aviva Premiership, but everyone is expecting a Saracens-Northampton final. The best two teams in England this year continued their run with victories over the weekend. Saracens outmuscled Bath at The Rec on Friday before Saints responded with a handsome 39-13 bonus-point win over Gloucester. Both look like champions, but there can only be one.

Irish provinces: Ireland dominating the PRO12 is not exactly a new story - Irish provinces combined have won the league seven times, with Leinster and Munster winning three each - so it's not a huge surprise to see those two teams and Ulster occupying the top three spots with only a few rounds to go. The Ospreys are hanging in there in fourth and battling with Glasgow to make that final spot, but the gap between the Irish sides and the rest is a little alarming. The provinces, including Connacht, have won 41 games this season. The four Welsh regions have only won 26.

Rebels: We're huge fans of how the Rebels started their season against the Cheetahs last Friday. It wasn't a perfect performance, but the attacking rugby on display in Melbourne from the hosts is very promising for this season. Luke Burgess seems to have added the necessary direction at scrum-half while the Rebels now have a genuine number ten in Bryce Hegarty. Five tries against the struggling Cheetahs and limiting the South African side to only 14 points is a fine start. Kudos to Jason Woodward, who excelled. Scott Higginbotham is leading the way.

Toulouse: This was better from the four-time European champions. A 37-9 win at home to Perpignan included five tries, one each from France internationals Vincent Clerc and GaŽl Fickou, as Luke McAlister returned at fly-half to steer the ship. Interestingly, Hosea Gear started at inside centre and played effectively. The spurned Louis Picamoles also stuck his hand up to keep USAP pinned down to the bottom of the Top 14 and not quite safe from relegation.

Simon Zebo and Tommy Bowe: Ireland's depth on the wings is arguably better than ever. Dave Kearney and Andrew Trimble hold the starting jerseys but Simon Zebo now has five tries in his last six matches for Munster since returning from injury back in January. Then to top that, Bowe returned from a stint on the sidelines himself by bagging a brace of tries in the first half against the Dragons - the first a classic blindside Bowe line cutting infield. Having two British and Irish Lions in reserve is a real luxury for Joe Schmidt.

Blues and Chiefs: With the Crusaders looking way off the boil following the first two rounds, perhaps it's the Blues who will challenge the Chiefs at the top of the New Zealand Conference this season. They certainly hinted at it on Friday, coming from behind and scoring some stunning tries through the likes of Tevita Li and George Moala while new fly-half Simon Hickey stole the show. The two-time champions meanwhile did enough to see off a spirited Highlanders' outfit 21-19. They're not at their best, yet, but sit two wins from two.


Broken thermostat

Broken thermostat: 24-0 (three tries) up on 54 minutes against the Force and the Brumbies opted to go for goal from approximately 40 metres out. At the time it seemed an odd decision, particularly as the they had gone down to the Reds in the previous week without a point in the bank. Hindsight certainly is a wonderful thing but there was always that concern when they made the call, with the game surely already won with 26 minutes remaining.


Get these guys a cup of warm soup!

Stormers: That narrow win over the Hurricanes doesn't even start to paper over the cracks in Cape Town. The lack of attacking ideas against the Hurricanes was simply frightening in this day and age as we witnessed one-out runners taking the ball up time after time after time. This begs the question - what has been worked on at the Newlands outfit during the off-season? If they don't improve then more defeats than wins will be recorded in 2014.

Western Force: Nine tries leaked in their opening two Super Rugby fixtures doesn't make for pretty reading for the Western Force as the free-running Waratahs cut loose in the run-in of their first fixture in 2014 before the Brumbies raced out in front early on in the most recent round's action. 'The Force Field', as nib Stadium in Perth has been labelled for this campaign, needs a team living up to its name when the Rebels arrive this Saturday.

Crusaders and Reds: Two former champs in trouble. While the Crusaders lost their opening two games in 2013, at least they picked up two points in the process. This year's start sees them stone last following defeats to the Chiefs and Blues is rather un-Crusader like performances. The absence of Dan Carter and the now Chief Robbie Fruean are possible reasons for their slow start but with the personnel still at coach Todd Blackadder's disposal, they should climb the ladder soon enough. Meanwhile, the Reds were thrashed by the Waratahs on Saturday in a result that certainly would have landed a psychological blow in the Australian Conference. 32-5 - a record score in a NSW-Queensland fixture - is a real hammering.

London Irish: Just as the Exiles start to look as though they're turning the corner, they go and fail to score a single point down at Sandy Park. Recent away wins over Saracens and Wasps alluded to greater things but it seems as though Irish's small squad has let them down, with Brian Smith mentioning the loss as a "game too far." Given Exeter had only won once in their last eight games, this was a golden chance to move up to ninth position.

Biarritz: The positives of their 22-20 win at Grenoble were quickly chalked off as Biarritz went down 11-8 at home to Bayonne in the Basque derby - the one game this year they HAD to win. The result leaves BO thirteen points off Oyonnax and a further seven away from Perpignan in the current standings as the Top 14 goes into hibernation for the next couple of weeks. They travel to USAP next up in what is, again, another vital game in a season that is surely ending only one way.

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