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11th February 2014 09:56

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Hot or not 11 feb 2014

On fire: The All Blacks Sevens

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!

Ireland: Joe Schmidt's men proved too hot to handle for Wales and are now sitting at the top of the Six Nations table. Although still early in the tournament, Ireland are displaying the form which could see them clinching their first title since 2009. They are yet to let in a try and have scored 54 points while conceding just nine in two matches.

France: Philippe Saint-André would rather forget 2013, but he is certainly on the road to reversing the fortunes of this France side. Last week's late show against England was backed up by a three-try 30-10 win over the plucky Italians, ensuring les Bleus sit pretty with two wins from two ahead of their trip to Cardiff in Round Three.

London Irish: They went to Allianz Park on a mission impossible and did what no team has done yet by beating Saracens in their own backyard. Exiles boss Brian Smith rightly described the victory as their best result of the season. What made it extra special is that they played with 14 men for 20 minutes of the first half.

Morgan Parra: Back in action for Clermont, and surely nearing a return to Test rugby, Parra scored all 25 of his side's points at home to league-leaders Stade Français on Saturday as les Jaunards leap-frogged the Parisians to head up the Top 14 table. A converted try and six penalty goals comprised his points tally. On this form, it won't be long before we see Parra back for les Bleus.

New Zealand Sevens: The All Blacks Sevens were utterly dominant on home soil in the Wellington leg of the World Series, beating Canada, England and South Africa to nil in the Cup quarter-final, semi-final and final respectively. It was a sweet moment for the Kiwis, who avenged their loss to the Blitzbokke in the Las Vegas final with a 21-0 triumph, with captain DJ Forbes acknowledging the legendary Jonah Lomu, who gave the side a pep-talk in the changing rooms.


Broken thermostat:

England: If you didn't see England's 20-0 win at Murrayfield, you would expect them to be pretty happy with the result. If you did see the game, you'll probably agree that Stuart Lancaster's team should have put a lot more than two tries past Scotland. Failure to turn possession and territory into points is becoming a worrisome trend.

Toulouse: Tough times lie ahead for Europe's richest club, who are in danger of missing the Top 14 play-offs. Seventh in the standings and still winless on the road, they must travel to four of their next five fixtures. And if the FFR get their way, Toulouse are set to be without their Six Nations contingent for at least three rounds during a critical time in the season. The agreement between the French Federation and League that allows the national staff to rest players was sold to the clubs on the grounds that it would be done on a player-by-player basis. Now Philippe Saint-André has made a blanket request to rest all the players that started both games so far, irrespective of their current physical status and without consulting their club's medical staff. While we agree with the Toulouse bosses that the Top 14 season is too long and that Six Nations fixture clashes are downright unfair, we have to take their complaints with a pinch of salt. The starting XV that lost to Montpellier on home soil last weekend, in a dismal display, featured no less than 11 internationals, including three Springboks and the Heineken Cup's all-time leading try scorer. It's amazing what can be done with a positive attitude, they should give it a try.

Mike Phillips: The Wales scrum-half got into an unnecessary off-the-ball scuffle with Rob Kearney - when Paddy Jackson scored Ireland's second try - and was rightly sent to the sin bin for his trouble. It didn't end there though, as afterwards Phillips got into a war of words on Twitter with Niall Horan of pop group One Direction, who accused the feisty number nine of 'throwing his toys out of the pram.' Credit to Phillips for his retort though, 'inviting' the "big boy" down to a Wales training session along with "the rest of the Beatles" to sort it out...and having a beer with Kearney after the game.

Yorkshire Carnegie: With one of our writers based in northern England, yesterday's decision to change the name of Championship side Leeds Carnegie to Yorkshire Carnegie was one that raised an eyebrow. Of course growing the game in the counties such as Yorkshire and Lancashire is an important step in having teams threatening the West Country and southern heavyweights in the Premiership, but how does this name change go down with teams like Rotherham Titans, who are level on points with Leeds? Not very well if the noises from their fans on social media are anything to go by.


Get these guys a cup of warm soup!

Wales: The tournament's defending champions were never in the game in Dublin at the weekend. Wales looked like a shadow of the side that won back-to-back titles in 20012 and 2013 and were well and truly outplayed in every department. Coach Warren Gatland has a major task on his hands if he wants to turn things around against France in their next match.

Scotland: After an encouraging campaign last year, Scotland have regressed drastically under Scott Johnson. A grand total of 21 points - all from the boot of Greig Laidlaw - in their past four games, including two losses to nil on home soil says it all. The set-piece, the line-out in particular, is misfiring chronically, their defence has gone from dependable to lamentable, and the error-strewn, impotent play of old remains a crippling feature of Scottish rugby. Worrying times indeed if, after two one-sided Six Nations losses, they fail to win in Rome in Round Three; they have not triumphed on Italian soil since 2006.

Fabien Galthié: What a boost that away win at Toulouse was for Montpellier over the weekend. It puts Montpol in a strong position as the business end of the Top 14 season nears. But they would have celebrated on the way home without a key member of their group, their head coach. Where was Galthié? He was in Dublin as a guest on French television coverage of the Six Nations clash between Ireland and Wales. We were stunned when hearing this as yes, the preparation work will have gone in during the week, but this is pivotal top flight domestic rugby he is missing. Your thoughts?

Lions: The Super Rugby season has yet to begin and Lions fans are already worried. A 57-14 drubbing on home soil to the Sharks in last weekend's warm-up fixture highlighted just how far off the pace they are. Sure, it was a second-string Lions team, but squad depth is all-important in Super Rugby. If this is all the Lions have as back-up, a painful season awaits.

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