Planet Rugby

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

19th November 2013 12:08


Hot or not feature image2

Hot: Le Roux - Not: Eastmond

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!

SANZAR Giants: Another November, another demonstration by the Big Three from the southern hemishpere with six victories from seven games. After their mishap at Twickenham, the Wallabies have bounced back with eleven tries in two games while the Boks and All Blacks have beaten the Six Nations champions and the northern hemisphere's top-ranked side respectively. Can France upset the apple cart on Saturday?

Romania: All the noise is current around the All Blacks' quest to finish the year unbeaten, but Romania have also yet to lose in 2013. Saturday's 21-20 win over Canada mean the Oaks have now won nine out of ten having drawn against Georgia in March.

Wales: The Six Nations champions, despite their poor record against the SANZAR trio, are definitely a team to fear when the Rugby World Cup kicks-off in 2015. They have developed depth in almost every position - which will be key in a Pool that includes England and Australia - and will be difficult to defeat in the coming years. The young back-line is playing much the better rugby than their Irish and English counterparts and their most recent 40-6 victory over Argentina was evidence of that. One has to remember they're without the injured duo Jamie Roberts and Alex Cuthbert. It hasn't shown one bit.

England: They may have lost, but Stuart Lancaster's charges certainly made a good impression against the world champions at Twickenham. They had their more illustrious opponents under the cosh, on several occasions, and for a little while their supporters were thinking a repeat of the 2012 result was on the cards. Going into the final quarter of a match with a lead over New Zealand is something which no other country has achieved in 2013 and the All Blacks had to dig deep before eventually securing the victory.

Test centurions: The past weekend's Tests was of great importance for New Zealand's Dan Carter, Gethin Jenkins of Wales and Italy's Sergio Parisse and Martin Castrogiovanni, who all played in their 100th Tests for their countries. All four players were on the winning side in their respective matches which was a fitting way to celebrate such significant achievements.

Willie le Roux: The full-back position is one the Springboks have struggled to fill since the retirement of Percy Montgomery, but they look to have finally uncovered the man to nail down the number fifteen jersey. After a dazzling Rugby Championship campaign, Le Roux was outstanding in the Murrayfield rain on Sunday. He scored one himself from a Scottish error, then set up another for JP Pietersen with a typically incisive break, and a beautiful kick to the corner.

Get these guys a cup of warm soup!

The Irish scrum: With the Irish pack so dominant at the set-piece against Samoa, and the Wallabies' scrum woes well documented, many expected the hosts to bulldoze their counterparts up front. Not so, as it turned out, with the visitors very much in the ascendancy, winning ball and penalties in equal measure. Mike Ross, in particular, was out of sorts for the Irish, and found himself bested at scrum time by Wallaby James Slipper.

Wallaby boozers: So, it seems the booze culture among Australian ranks continues to linger after the exile of James O'Connor. Though no incidents were recorded nor complaints lodged against the squad members, their behaviour obviously fell below that which is expected of a professional sports team the week of a Test. Coach Ewen McKenzie has quite rightly stamped his authority with firm but fair sanctions to those involved - hopefully putting a stop to any future misdemeanours. Mind you, the night out in Dublin didn't seem to do the Wallabies any harm on the pitch, as they turned in one of their best performances of the season.

Italy v Fiji: The prize for the worst game of November so far goes to Italy's woeful display against Fiji. So poor were the Azzurri that at one stage, even though Fiji were down to 11 players, they chose to kick at goal. The Islanders mixed the fantastic with the ridiculous, scoring five tries, but conceding as many yellow cards - a new world record. Referee Leighton Hodges and TMO Eric Gauzins didn't exactly cover themselves in glory either with the stop-start first half lasting well over an hour.

Kyle Eastmond: So the story goes that rugby league convert Eastmond walked out on his Bath team-mates at half-time during their win at Sale Sharks on November 8. Bath have publicly cooled the event by saying "it's all done and dusted" and is "up for selection this weekend." This isn't football, Kyle, and he'll need to mend some bridges not just with his team-mates but also the Recreation Ground faithful if he pulls on the shirt against Wasps on Sunday.

Argentina: It's been a long old year for Los Pumas, and these November Tests appear to be doing a clearly fatigued side few favours. Despite failing to register a maiden Rugby Championship win in 2013, they turned heads with a number of their performances, and were unlucky not to claim victory in at least two of their fixtures. Indeed, they played some great stuff in the early part of their defeat to Wales on Saturday. After a change of coach last month, and rumours of dressing room unrest, it was perhaps telling that Argentina's standout performer in Cardiff was a man - Santiago Cordero - new to the international arena. A break from Test duty will surely do this talented side the world of good.

Ross Ford: Oh, how he has fallen. Considered unlucky not to be chosen in Sir Ian McGeechan's original 2009 British and Irish Lions squad, Ford has slowly but inexorably succumbed to a huge loss of Test form ever since. At present, he's a hooker who can neither hook nor throw, and after Scotland's shambolic early display in the line-out last weekend, his position in the squad is becoming untenable. Where before the Scots had precious few options at hooker, his below-par performances went unpunished. Now, Scott Johnson can call upon an in-form and more than capable alternative in Pat MacArthur.

Scotland: Scotland turned in one of those performances against the Springboks on Sunday that, every so often, fans have come to loathe and expect in equal measure. Their attack was blighted and stifled by error after error, and they failed to generate more than a handful of scoring opportunities despite boasting over 70% of second-half possession. This time, though, things got worse, as the hosts were unable to score any points on their home turf. As top sides do, the Boks capitalised on Scottish mistakes to rapidly rack up an unassailable lead, and seldom looked troubled for all the Scots' bluster.

The Murrayfield pitch: Let's be clear, here - the Murrayfield turf normally provides an excellent international playing surface. But through a recent infestation of naturally-occurring parasitic worms, it has been tarred with the same brush as its counterparts in Cardiff and Paris. As the rain tumbled down on Sunday, scrummaging became ever more difficult and unsafe, and the breakdown resembled something akin to trench warfare, with the ball filling the role of hand grenade.

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