Planet Rugby

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

26th November 2013 10:12

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Hot: NZ ... Not: Those kits

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!

All Blacks: Things were looking a tad shaky at half-time in Dublin as the Kiwis trailed Ireland 22-7, but they showed exactly why they're the most ruthless team in the world with a sensational last minute try and conversion to complete the first "perfect year" in professional rugby history.

Bath: Bath, under Gary Gold and Mike Ford, have built upon a solid start to the season with a fine run of seven wins from seven fixtures in all competitions. With Semesa Rokoduguni and George Ford racking up the points, could they be contenders for a Premiership semi-final spot come the business end of the year?

Georgia: Georgia caused a big upset at Mikheil Meskhi Stadium as they battled past Samoa 16-15 on Saturday, a team sat 11 places above them in the rankings. The result was some turnaround from last week's 25-23 loss at home to the USA, as the Georgians left nothing in the tank against the islanders. Merab Kvirikashbili was the hero with eleven points on the day as the Tbilisi crowd enjoyed a memorable triumph, bouncing back from losing to USA.

Nigel Owens: Two international games stand out this year and both were refereed by Owens. A coincidence? We don't think so as the Welsh official let both the South Africa v New Zealand and Ireland v New Zealand matches flow to a point that blotted out some of the tiresome rubbish that other games had produced on terrible pitches. Owens has the respect of players because he is clear with instructions and not pedantic when it comes to the set-piece. Two excellent displays of officiating that allowed those teams to flourish.

Jacques Burger: The Saracens flanker smashed the Premiership record for tackles in a single game on Saturday by making 36 hits against Exeter Chiefs, according to the club's statistics, bettering the previous record of 27 held by Lewis Moody. The Namibian hardman also hit 17 rucks and made eight carries at Sandy Park. An incredible performance.

Fiji: Fiji ended Romania's unbeaten run in 2013 on Saturday with a 26-7 victory at Stadionul National Arcul de Triumf in Bucharest. Tries came via Metuisela Talebula, Nemani Nadolo and Timoci Nagusa as the islanders ended their year with a memorable win. Keep an eye on Nadolo for the Crusaders in the upcoming Super Rugby term as the centre or wing has already been compared to Jonah Lomu by head coach Todd Blackadder. Roll on February.

Southern hemisphere tourists: For the third week in a row, the SANZAR giants got the job done. And this time Argentina joined the party to make it 4/0 for Rugby Championship sides.


Broken thermo

Ireland: Argument for hot: The closest anyone has come to beating the All Blacks this year. Argument for not: Blew a 19-point lead and let slip the chance to claim the biggest scalp in world rugby and end a 109-year losing run. It may take time for Ireland to get over that loss.


Get these guys a cup of warm soup!

France: 2013 has been an annus horribilis for Les Bleus who finished the year with only two wins from eleven Tests played. Those victories - against Scotland and Tonga - were hardly impressive and Philippe Saint-André must be feeling the heat. They will have to show considerable improvement in the upcoming Six Nations or he could finish without a job.

Italy: The Azzurri have regressed since completing their most successful Six Nations since joining the tournament in 2000. They finished their campaign during the November Tests with a defeat to an under-strength Argentina side in Rome at the weekend. And in their other encounters they hardly impressed, in an ill-tempered victory over Fiji in Cremona and were thrashed by Australia in Turin. Coach Jacques Brunel will have to go back to the drawing board before the start of the Six Nations.

Millennium Stadium, Stade de France and Murrayfield: You know the drill by now...

Unnecessary 'alternative' kits: Obviously, it is necessary for teams to have a second strip when kits clash. And yes, we understand the commercial need for team to occasionally play in alternative jersey. But having BOTH teams play in changed strips, as was the case for Wales v Tonga when neither team in traditional red...well that's just odd.

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