Planet Rugby

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

16th January 2013 13:11

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Hot or not feature 16 Jan 2013

Ice cold: ROG - Burning up: Clermont

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!

Clermont, Ulster and Harlequins: Already qualified for the Heineken Cup quarter-finals, unbeaten Clermont must now be considered the outstanding favourites to claim their first European title. Of course, there is still plenty of rugby to be played and fellow early-qualifiers Ulster and Quins are looking pretty sharp too.

Saracens: When any team is outscored three tries to one, yet still wins, you must lay part of the blame on the losers for coughing up so many penalties. But Sarries deserve a lot of credit for forcing Racing into those mistakes and young Owen Farrell gets a tip of the hat for slotting all 11 of his shots at goal.

Eli Walker: Another wing sensation emerges from Wales! 20-year-old Walker was in blistering form for Ospreys last week and looks set to make a splash on the international scene during the Six Nations after getting called up to Rob Howley's squad.

Wesley Fofana's try against Exeter: Do we have our Try of Year already? Fofana provided the finishing touch but it was a wonderful team effort from Clermont. If you missed it, check out the best tries of the Heineken Cup weekend here.

Toulon's Springbok old boys club: Bakkies, Habana, Rossouw... and if RCT skipper Joe van Niekerk's Twitter feed is be believed, a certain World-Cup winning former Bok skipper will soon join the mix on the French south coast.

Coaching in Ireland...if you're a Kiwi: The appointment of Auckland-born Pat Lam at the helm of Connacht means that the head coaches at all four Irish provinces hail from the Land of the Long White Cloud. It seems that the front row isn't the only area where southern hemisphere imports are popular in Ireland.

Perpignan and Worcester: The Catalans have scored 36 tries in five Amlin Challenge Cup games this season while Warriors have touched down 40 times! It's a pity they can't both qualify for the quarter-finals from Pool 2. Level on points, the French side are set to progress by virtue of a superior try count of 3-1 from the head-to-head matches between the clubs.


Brrrrr....it's cold in here!

Suspect Saracens recruiting: A team whose activities within the salary cap have always raised a few eyebrows, Saracens' confirmation of the arrival of Harlequins prop James Johnston and England number eight Billy Vunipola for next season created plenty of reaction on Monday, with not all of it positive. The departure of John Smit and Carlos Nieto has no doubt freed up valuable cap room but the disappointment shown from Wasps and Harlequins has once again opened up the question - just how do Saracens have all of those players in their squad for only £4.5m? Sarries aren't making any friends with the way they're going about business either. Part of the blame must obviously lie with the players involved but we can sympathise with Wasps, who were a bit peeved to only officially be informed that Vunipola was leaving the afternoon before the news went public.

Ronan O'Gara: We'll be massively surprised if the Munster fly-half escapes without a hefty suspension for his cowardly kick on Edinburgh lock Sean Cox, even if he was provoked. ROG, only girls and soccer hooligans kick people in the shins. If you're going to take your frustration out on someone, at least look him in the eye before you give him a knuckle sandwich.

Scottish Heineken Cup sides: The numbers tell a sorry tale. Zero wins and only six tries...from ten games.

Welsh Heineken Cup sides: Two wins - both for the Ospreys - from fifteen games. The paradox is, one of those victories came against mighty Toulouse.

Juan Martín Hernández: El Mago was in vintage form in the first half of Racing's loss to Saracens, before things turned sour. Loose passes, poor decision-making and a horrendous missed kick to touch with time running out in the second half saw the critics round on the Argentinian fly-half. His future in the 10 shirt with Olly Barkley waiting in the wings remains to be seen.

Sale Sharks: There is no worse time to be playing in the Heineken Cup than when you're bottom of the league - just ask Sale. Friday's home defeat to Montpellier was just the latest demoralising chapter in a tough season for Premiership strugglers, who will now be without Scotland duo Richie Gray and Richie Vernon during the Six Nations.

By Ross Hastie and Ben Coles

@RossisHastie and @bencoles_

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