Planet Rugby

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

21st May 2013 15:29

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Hot or not feature may 21 2013

Not: Wilko - Not so much: Armitage

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

They're on fire!

Toulon: Love them or hate them, you can't deny that the new European champions have assembled a mightily impressive team. Long dismissed as nothing more than a rabble of mercenaries, the work ethic and fighting spirit in the side, embodied by the likes of Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, has left the critics eating their words. An elusive Euro-French double is now the challenge.

Cheetahs: No, it isn't a dream, the Cheetahs are still in the mix for a Super Rugby play-off berth. Last weekend's win over the Reds leaves the boys from Bloem 10 points clear of the Stormers - an amazing feat considering the massive difference in budgets. The best part about it is Naka Drotské's team are scoring bucketloads of tries along the way. All together now: Cheetaaaaaaaaaaaahs!

Israel Folau: The biggest thing to hit rugby since Sonny Bill? After just 11 matches in the 15-man code, the Waratahs full-back was named in the Wallabies' first 25-man squad for the Lions series on Sunday. Already a serious threat with ball in hand, the former League star gets better with every game.

Napolioni Nalaga: Clermont's try machine was the only player to play the maximum 720 minutes over the course of the Heineken Cup. His touchdown in the final also cemented his spot at the top of the try-scoring charts.

Julien Bonnaire and Kelly Brown: The Heineken Cup's top tacklers this term with 92 hits each. Brown only missed four in 617 minutes of game time while Bonnaire missed just six in 705 minutes.

Jonny Wilkinson: Toulon's favourite (adopted) son made it 17 successive kicks at goal in the knock-out stages of the Heineken Cup as he continued his 100 percent success rate in the final. The European Player of the Year scored 56 of his side's 61 points in the wins over Leicester, Saracens and Clermont.

Sebastien Bruno: At 38 years, 8 months and 23 days, the Toulon hooker overtook Leinster's Brad Thorn as the oldest player to take home a Heineken Cup winners medal.

Brive: After a single season out of the top flight, Brive have won promotion back into the Top 14 - alongside Pro D2 league champions Oyonnax - after beating Pau 30-10 in their play-off last weekend.

Matt Giteau, Bakkies Botha and Danie Rossouw The Toulon trio joined the elite group of players to have won both Heineken Cup and Super Rugby titles, joining Rod Kafer, Doug Howlett and Brad Thorn.


Broken Thermostat:

Graham Henry's rant: We're normally first in line when it comes to jumping to the defence of match officials because publicly slamming referees is seldom a productive exercise and it isn't really in line with the ethos of the game. But when Sir Graham, who is normally pretty good at biting his tongue, starts venting steam like this, it's probably worth taking note. And to be fair, he makes a few solid points. The question now is, will he get away with it? Coaches and players have been disciplined for far less in the past.


Bbbrrr....someone turn the heater up!

Aussie scrum-halves: Robbie Deans obviously doesn't think much of the current crop of number nines Down Under after picking just one in his preliminary squad to face the Lions. Sure, Will Genia is probably the best player in the world in his position but he is, after all, just a human being, a species known to be susceptible to injuries when involved in high speed collisions with other human beings.

Clermont: Clermont finished the Heineken Cup with the best stats in almost every department. They scored two excellent tries in the final, in a wonderful display of attacking rugby after enjoying 68 percent possession and 75 percent territory. They also made 166 carries compared to Toulon's 66 and beat 24 defenders to Toulon's 9....but they lost. Losing finals, a Clermont specialty, is not hot. The difference between the sides in end? Tournament top points-scorer Morgan Parra's missed conversion.

Delon Armitage: In his own words, that wave at Brock James was "stupid" and left an unpleasant taste in the mouth after an otherwise great game of rugby.

Super Rugby TMOs: You would think that with a decent screen, proper footage, a variety of camera angles, and a law book nearby Television Match Officials would be able to make the right call almost all of the time. Evidently not... After another weekend of inexplicable decisions from the guys upstairs, we're going to join Super Rugby coaches like Michael Cheika, Dave Rennie, Graham Henry et al in venting our frustration. Unlike heat-of-the moment calls on the field, there should be no margin for error from experienced officials with multiple opportunities to view the evidence. Get it right!

Compiled by Ross Hastie

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