Planet Rugby

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

01st May 2013 15:34

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Hot or not May 1 2013

Hot: Captain Sam - Not so much: Western Force

It's time for our weekly wrap up of who has their name in lights at the moment...and who is making headlines for the wrong reasons.

They're on fire!

Sam Warburton: At 24, Warren Gatland's chosen skipper is the youngest Lions captain for more than 50 years. It's a far cry from being left on the bench in Rome by Rob Howley earlier this year. Wales have 15 representatives in the squad, the most since 1977 - the same year the Lions were last led by a Welshman.

Joe Schmidt: In any other week, Schmidt's appointment as the new head coach of Ireland would have dominated headlines for days. But being overshadowed by the Lions squad announcement takes nothing away from the magnitude of the task facing Ireland's first (permanent) foreign head coach since...a certain Warren Gatland.

Bryan Habana and the Stormers: Wallowing in eleventh place before their first game on tour, last year's Super Rugby table-toppers had their backs against the wall in Wellington as they faced the in-form Hurricanes. But Habana's conversion-stopping charge down on the stroke of half-time proved to be pivotal as the Stormers went on to win - by two points - and stay in the hunt for the play-offs.

Leicester and Leinster: With six Lions each, the Tigers and Leinster are the biggest contributors to the squad heading Down Under.

French clubs in Europe: With five out of the eight semi-finalists and three out of four finalists in Europe's two competitions, French clubs are putting their hefty budgets to good use. As a result, there will be seven French teams in the Heineken Cup next season.

Brumbies: Back on top in the Super Rugby standings after demolishing the Force, the side from the Aussie capital look like the team to beat. They're set to provide a few Wallabies for June too.

Lucky Lions: The Lions selectors have admitted there was some "robust debate" over a number of places in the squad. The likes of Dan Lydiate, Mako Vunipola, Conor Murray, Ian Evans, Stuart Hogg, Richie Gray and Tom Croft are the beneficiaries of those discussions.

Willie Le Roux: It seems the Cheetahs flyer is a wanted man after his impressive performances this year. It's unlikely that Griquas will have pockets deep enough to keep him. Where will he go?

Napolioni Nalaga: The top try-scorer in both the Top 14 and the Heineken Cup crossed the whitewash again as Clermont rumbled into the European Cup final. The only man who could possibly overtake the Fijian flyer in the charts of either competition is team-mate Wesley Fofana.


Broken Thermostat:

Controversial Lions: You can't please everyone all the time but a few Lions selections have really caused a stir. Dylan Hartley tops the list and the Kiwi-born hooker shouldn't expect any Christmas cards from Belfast this year. Sean Maitland probably won't be going on holiday to Edinburgh (nor Holland) either. He's more likely to visit Hamilton Boys' High School along with fellow Old Boy...Warren Gatland. Matt Stevens, who missed the last Lions tour after testing positive for cocaine, retired from international rugby last year. Let the debate begin...


Bbbrrr....someone turn the heater up!

Lions absentees: Left out in the cold by the Lions selectors, we'd understand if Rory Best, Tim Visser, Kelly Brown, Greg Laidlaw and Danny Care were a bit grumpy in June.

Old Lions: Players on the 2009 Lions tour that were available but didn't get selected in 2013 - Ross Ford, Matthew Rees, Euan Murray, Andrew Sheridan, Nathan Hines, Donncha O'Callaghan, Simon Shaw, Stephen Ferris, Ryan Jones, Andy Powell, James Hook, Ronan O'Gara, Gordon D'Arcy, Keith Earls, Luke Fitzgerald, Ugo Monye and Lee Byrne.

Jason Woodward: The Rebels were on the verge of causing a massive upset in Christchurch on Sunday until Woodward's touch-finder from a penalty rolled over the Crusaders deadball line. It was a howler that ruined an otherwise solid performance. From that moment, it was all downhill for the Rebels as a penalty from the ensuing scrum gave the lead back to the hosts in the dying minutes.

Western Force: The team from Perth are conceding an average of almost 25 points per game. On the wrong end of a six-try drubbing at the hoofs of the Brumbies last weekend, they remain rooted to the bottom of the Aussie conference.

Crusaders: Yes, they may have banked a narrow win, but the seven-time Super Rugby champs are playing well below the standard to which we've become accustomed. With a visit to Canberra and then a string of tough Kiwi derbies on the horizon, the bookies' pre-tournament favourites could struggle to make the play-offs.

Compiled by Ross Hastie

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