Planet Rugby

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

17th December 2013 10:54


Hot or not feature image2

Hot: Leigh Halfpenny

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!

Leigh Halfpenny and the British and Irish Lions: Halfpenny backed up being named BBC Cymru Wales Sports Personality 2013 and also - whether he wants to admit it or not - Sexiest Man in Wales 2013, with finishing runner-up at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards evening. Those not privy to the prestigious event will know that rugby often struggles for recognition so congratulations must go to Halfpenny and also Warren Gatland and the Lions, who won the Coach of the Year and Team of the Year respectively.

Munster and Leicester: If you had to sell the Heineken Cup to a newcomer, it would be around the promise that on at least one weekend you will witness a nerve-shredding finish that has you shouting. This weekend we had two. Munster had led pretty much throughout at the Stade Aimé Giral until Tomasso Benvenuti's score in the corner put the Catalans ahead. Munster though love a dramatic win in this competition more than must, so when Denis Hurley and Tommy O'Donnell combined to send JJ Hanrahan racing away down the touchline it almost wasn't a surprise. That's just what Munster do. Leicester, not to be outdone, made sure that they left things as late as possible too away to Montpellier. Vereniki Goneva's try set up new signing Ryan Lamb for an easier conversion, and the Premiership journeyman came good when it mattered to keep the Tigers in the hunt in Pool 5.

Northampton: A week is in a long time in rugby, sure, but you're a liar if you expected Saints to do that to Leinster after the hammering they copped the week before. Through a showing of raw power Northampton kept their Heineken hopes alive. Dylan Hartley, Courtney Lawes, Christian Day, Tom Wood and Samu Manoa were all monsters in the pack, while the combination of Luther Burrell and George North might not be subtle - but who cares when they're that effective. After hitting rock bottom, this was a huge high for Jim Mallinder's men.

Danny Cipriani: We have been keen for Cipriani and his advisers to avoid any form of media and solely concentrate on his rugby for at least one year and he seems to be doing just that. Previously it seemed like a couple of solid performances and we would see the England bandwagon come out of the garage, which was hugely frustrating. But, England head coach Stuart Lancaster surely can't help but be impressed by his showings this season, the most recent being a 28-point haul against Oyonnax that included two tries. Keep it up.

Luke Arscott: Arguably the performance of the weekend as the Exeter full-back stood out against Toulon, making plenty of carries for close to 200 metres. His opposite number was Drew Mitchell and Arscott made the former Wallaby look pretty ordinary in comparison as he, Tom James and Jack Nowell stood out. Eleven defenders beaten against the reigning Heineken Cup champions definitely warrants a place in our hot list this week.

Get these guys a cup of warm soup!

Gary Gold: Bath have done very well this season which meant their director of rugby leaving "with the very best wishes and thanks of all at the club" came as a surprise. No solid reason has been given for the former Springbok assistant coach's exit, which makes his departure confusing and subsequently there are more questions than answers to the whole saga.

Sébastien Chabal: The former France number eight is almost certain to be suspended after knocking out Agen's Marc Giraud over the weekend. After being held back at the side of a ruck by Giraud, the Caveman lost his cool and decided to floor the Agen man. The 36-year-old former Sale and Racing player has been cited, with suspensions for striking an opponent range from two to 52 weeks. Hopefully it's not the end of his rugby career.

TMO call at Toulon: As has become a weekly occurrence, there was a contensious decision made that affected a fixture. This time it came at Stade Felix Mayol when Matt Giteau's pass looked for all money forward for David Smith's second try, which made it 10-7 to the home side after a good start from Exeter. Watching the hands and whether they went back or forward was the commentators' talking point and from the replays we're convinced Giteau's went forward, as did the ball. Meanwhile, Glasgow Warriors fans are also still irked by Niko Matawalu being denied a try on Friday due to a forward adjudged to have opened a path.

Davit Khinchagishvili: The Racing Metro prop had a rush of blood to head when he punched Harlequins' Joe Marler during the first-half of their Heineken Cup clash at the Stoop. Television replays showed his blow to Marler's face clearly but, bizarrely, the Television Match Official recommended a yellow instead of a red card for his indiscretion.

Zebre and Treviso: It's been a nightmare couple of rounds for the Italian duo as they leaked a combined total of 186 points against Ulster and Saracens. Yes they met arguably the top teams in the PRO12 and Premiership but should they now be done with such stuffings?

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