Planet Rugby

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

23rd June 2014 08:23

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Hot or not 23June

Smokin': All Blacks - Jokin': Italy

It's time for Planet Rugby's 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!

New Zealand: The first 40 minutes against England were off the top shelf as the All Blacks blew the tourists away in an uncompromising fashion. We doubt any side in the world could have lived with them. New Zealand are now level with the Tier One record on 17-straight wins. Next stop, Sydney.

Australia: The Wallabies won their seventh straight match to sweep their three-Test series against France in Sydney on Saturday. Ewen McKenzie's team cleaned up les Bleus five tries to one in another one-sided affair in front of a record crowd. It was also refreshing to see Wycliff Palu put in a thunderous shift. June has been kind to the Aussies.

England U20s: While much of the attention was placed on the Baby Boks and the hosts, defending champions England got the job done at the Junior World Championship in New Zealand. We like the depth coming through for Stuart Lancaster and the likes of Danny Hobbs-Ayowemi, Maro Itoje, Nathan Earle, Billy Burns and more could all be RWC bolters.

South Africa: They say the hallmark of a great team is that they win even when playing badly. The Springboks were poor for large parts of the second Test against Wales but, when it mattered most, they kept their cool, stuck to their guns and squeezed out a positive result. The character shown by his side prompted Heyneke Meyer to label the result his "best win yet" as Bok coach. He couldn't have asked for a better test of his team's mettle.

USA: The Eagles overturned a 10-point half-time deficit to narrowly beat Canada for the first time since 2009 in front of a sold-out crowd in Sacramento.

Will Skelton: The giant lock made his presence - all 6ft 8'of him - felt on debut as he scored a try and laid on another for Israel Folau with a deft pass. The towering 22-year-old received a standing ovation from the home crowd as left the field midway through the second half.

All Black wings: Julian Savea and Cory Jane were in top form in Hamilton. A second Test hat-trick for Savea came courtesy of some great work from Jane, who turned Marland Yarde inside out on many an occasion in his best outing for some time.

Willie le Roux South Africa's saviour. Just how valuable is the Cheetahs full-back to the Bok cause? He has been at the centre of almost every successful attack from the Springbok backline this month and his try at Mbombela stadium was the turning point.

Tusi Pisi: Samoa's kicking star punished Fiji into submission in Suva, putting down the highly-rated hosts with six penalties. He bagged similar figures against Italy a week earlier. While Samoa aren't scoring many tries, Pisi keeps producing the goods.

Handré Pollard: South Africa's fly-half was the star of the show at the JWC and was rightly named the IRB Junior Player of the Year. Heyneke Meyer has made it clear that he is part of the senior team's plans for the future. Already called into the squad to face Scotland this weekend, expect to see him feature prominently in the November tour to Europe.

Japan: Ten wins in a row now for the Brave Blossoms.


Broken Thermostat

Wales: Utter heartbreak in Nelspruit as Warren Gatland suffered what he described as the 'toughest defeat' of his career. The missing ingredient? Composure. A no-arms tackle when the pressure was on and two rushed drop-goal attempts at the death cost them what would have been an historic victory. Their terrible record against Southern Hemisphere giants continues, but they played brilliantly and bravely. That's a stinger.

Scotland: Vern Cotter's side may be unbeaten after their three-game tour of the Americas but their performance against a young Argentina side was hardly convincing. A date with the Springboks on Saturday could be unpleasant.

Marland Yarde: Equally brilliant and liable, Yarde was England's best attacking threat against the All Blacks - scoring a try and breaking the line on countless occasions to the extent where he should have had a second. But in defence he was bamboozled by Cory Jane, a sign of inexperience in what was only his fifth cap. England's best wing, he has work to do.


Someone get these guys a warm blanket!

England: Credit to Stuart Lancaster's men for shoring up ship in the second half, one which they seemed destined to win 7-0 until Savea completed his hat-trick. But in the first half England were appalling; their defensive system split open, they made uncharacteristic errors, they missed 13 tackles and watched the All Blacks ran riot. It felt unusual to watch given the previous two Tests. Lancaster was rightly furious. A disappointing end to a good tour.

France: Outscored 12 tries to 3 by Australia in June, les Bleus were quite simply terrible on tour. Thierry's Dusautoir's 43rd Test as captain (a new French record) turned into a fiasco with over 30 tackles missed by his team-mates. It's hard to see how Philippe Saint-André could possibly turn their fortunes around. Calls for the coach's head are set to fall on deaf ears but the FFR need to think long and hard about who gets the job after the 2015 World Cup. It's about time a French coach was appointed on the strength of his track record alone.

Italy: Winless in 2014 after Saturday's defeat in Tokyo, Jacques Brunel's stated ambition of winning the 2015 World Cup looks more ridiculous than ever.

Liam Williams: As mistakes go, the Wales full-back's shoulder charge on Cornal Hendricks was a doozy. He had to make the cover tackle but his lack of arms handed the Boks a match-winning penalty try. In hindsight, Wales perhaps might wish that Hendricks had scored to hand Morné Steyn a touchline conversion...

Chris Ashton: Defence is clearly still a problem but England's narrow formation give Ashton a torrid time, his sprints infield to try and block off the pass appearing almost comical as Savea galloped into space. Three times Savea found his way into that area early on and he should have had a hat-trick in 14 minutes.

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