Planet Rugby

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

14th January 2014 09:39

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Hot or not jan 14 2014

Smokin': Toulouse - You're jokin': Newcastle

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!

Toulouse: The four-time champions produced their best performance of the season to comprehensively outplay Saracens on Sunday. The Premiership leaders have lost just three times in 17 starts this season, with two of those defeats now coming at the hands of les rouge et noir. Toulouse have blown hot and cold on the domestic front this term but Guy Novès and his team have a special affinity for European competition. Led by a sublime back-row trio, Toulouse were outstanding.

Clermont, Toulon, Munster, Leinster: Pool winners with a round to go, Europe's heavyweights have come to the fore once again. With Toulouse and Ulster also through, six of the eight quarter-finalists will come from Ireland and France.

Connacht: Still in with a shout - albeit strictly mathematical - of making the Heineken Cup quarters, Pat Lam's team have punched above their weight this campaign. Can they upset Saracens this weekend? It's highly unlikely but it won't stop them from having a go...

Paul O'Connell: It's normal for a coach to sing his own players' praises but when the opposition does the same, it's worth noting. After watching POC put in yet another vintage performance against Gloucester on Saturday, one had to agree with home head coach Nigel Davies' assessment - "phenomenal".

Rémi Lamerat: What a performance that was from the 24-year-old centre. Playing against Ireland veterans Gordon D'Arcy and Brian O'Driscoll, the Castres number twelve was superb throughout. His fend was lethal at times as the former Toulouse man beat nine defenders, made three offloads and accrued over 50 metres with ball in hand. Philippe Saint-André is surely keeping an eye on Lamerat as a possible back-up to Wesley Fofana.


Broken thermostat:

Ulster: Yes, they are through to the quarter-finals but missing the bonus point against a below-strength Montpellier side might come back to haunt the boys from Belfast. No time for regrets though, a massive clash at Welford Road awaits.

Victor Matfield: The former Bok lock's return to the playing field now seems a certainty with just a few administrative formalities to be settled before it is confirmed. The 36-year-old Bulls coach is set to be used sparingly during Super Rugby in a bid to keep him fresh for the national side and an assault on the 2015 World Cup. No one doubts Matfield's class, but is a comeback a good idea after two years on the sidelines?

The Caveman: Using your reputation to make some extra cash = hot. Fairy wings? Not so much...


Get these guys a cup of warm soup!

Italian Heineken Cup teams: After ten games, Italy's representatives have scored a grand total of...zero points in their respective pools. A combined tally of 62 points were amassed by the Italian duo, which makes it a group campaign to forget for both teams. Let us hope Treviso and Zebre can finish strongly this weekend against Montpellier and Toulouse respectively to bring a slice of respect to their European offerings.

Amlin Challenge Cup: Yet again the credibility of this competition comes into question after the latest round of action. London Irish won 79-3 against Lusitanos XV on Saturday while Mogliano were hammered by Bordeaux-Begles on Thursday. On that same day, Newcastle Falcons and Brive played out a shocking game of rugby that was devoid of basic skills. Of course we all applaud allowing nations outside the northern six platforms such as this but when margins of defeat aren't decreasing, and only 3,027 turn out to watch a dour Sale versus Worcester clash, what are we getting?

Ospreys: So often the bridesmaids of Europe, the Ospreys have again missed the quarter-final boat, with their last appearance coming back in 2009/10. Much - we think too much - was made of the 'Lions-filled' pack they had at their disposal - and having been grouped alongside French champions Castres, PRO12 holders Leinster and last year's Premiership finalists Northampton, it was always going to be hard. Ultimately they look set to finish bottom of Pool 1 as a trip to Leinster awaits them in Round 6. Next season their squad is missing Richard Hibbard and maybe more.

Fiji Rugby Union: Not the best week for Fiji as their head coach Ben Ryan told Fiji's One News that he had not been paid "a penny" of his salary since taking the job and was living off his savings. Then came the IRB's decision that it was to suspend all direct financial support to the FRU with immediate effect until the Union adopts key financial reporting, administration and governance reforms. Fiji have since pledged to get back on side with the IRB in four months, saying that the financial issues "were inherited" by the previous board.

Racing Métro: The woes continue for this star-studded group after a defeat at home to the Scarlets saw them fall to the bottom of Pool 4. It had all started so brightly for the hosts when Mike Phillips, playing alongside Jonathan Sexton, crossed for a 10-6 half-time scoreline, but back came the Welsh region for a memorable 19-13 win. Racing must go to Clermont this week and one suspects they will put out a weakened team.

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