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

07th April 2014 09:21

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Steffon shines; Stormers fail again

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!

Heineken Cup semi-finalists: Hats off to Munster, Clermont, Saracens and Toulon, who booked their place in the Heineken Cup semi-finals following victories over Toulouse, Leicester, Ulster and Leinster over the weekend. While one of those teams secured their passage with a win against fourteen men, no one will argue that this quartet are worthy of a place in the final four. Twickenham and the Stade Vélodrome awaits.

Steffon Armitage: What a performance it was from England's forgotten back-row forward. Playing at number eight as Chris Masoe remains injured, Armitage was outstanding at the breakdown whilst also carried like a monster in open play. The rules state that he cannot represent England whilst playing in another country but if ever there was a player worthy of international rugby and not getting it, Armitage is that.

Western Force: Four consecutive wins in Super Rugby, including victories over the winners of the last three tournaments, mean the team from Perth are now mixing it in the top half of the standings. Best of all, they are doing this with a brand of rugby that is great to watch.

Challenge Cup semi-finalists: Northampton Saints and Harlequins were easy victors in the Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-finals and it is likely the eventually tournament winner will come from the Saints v Quins semi-final on April 25. The all-English semi-finals were completed when Bath and Wasps booked their respective place in the last four on Sunday with wins over Brive and Gloucester respectively. Well done all.


Broken Thermostat:

Jared Payne's red: Four minutes gone at Ravenhill and Ulster full-back Jared Payne was shown a red card for taking out opposite number Alex Goode in the air. French referee Jérôme Garcès gave the New Zealander his marching orders, which sparked hours of debate on social media websites as to whether it was right or wrong. It was dangerous and the player arriving second must take care but as captain Johann Muller said in the post-match, "his eyes were on the ball". We're sure everyone has differing views and we want to hear them. Was it yellow or red for you?

Mourad Boudjellal: For the second straight week we're not sure what to think of Toulon's eccentric boss, who cancelled a friendly game scheduled for July in Béziers after the host town elected a right-wing mayor last week. Boudjellal had initially proposed the match to raise funds for AS Béziers Hérault, the eleven-time former champions of France who have fallen on hard times, much like Toulon's situation before comic book mogul arrived to save the day. While we applaud Boudjellal for having the courage of his convictions, we're less comfortable with the notion of mixing politics and sport.


Get these guys a cup of warm soup!

Stade Français: How much do French clubs care about the Challenge Cup? Not a whole lot. Stade Français clearly have bigger fish to fry after resting almost their entire first-choice XV for Friday's quarter-final against Quins before being smashed by 23 points on home soil. It was then the turn of Brive to put out a weakened side against Bath as fourteen changes were made to the XV that beat Clermont in the Top 14.

Blues: Fans in Auckland are going to have to wait a little longer for the Blues revival - something that many have been expecting for years. If their pathetic performance in Canberra on Friday is anything to go by, they won't be the Super Rugby champions this year. Ma'a Nonu looks his usual uninterested self when not in a black jersey and with all their attacking threats in the backline, it is becoming increasingly frustrating watching them not doing the damage we all know they're capable of.

Stormers: The standings are miserable reading if you're a Stormers fan as one win and six defeats sees them sitting rock bottom in the overall table. A home defeat to the Israel Folau-less Waratahs was the most recent loss in the column. Maybe a bye week will help them before they get back into action with a derby against the Lions at Newlands. A loss in that game and the knives will be out for the coaching group.

Kurt Baker: A horrible and unnecessary off the ball spear tackle from the Highlander on Rebels scrum-half Nick Stirzaker. It was dangerous, it was reckless, and though it was behind Chris Pollock's back, it was picked up by the citing commissioner. After recent tragic events in the NRL, we find it tough to argue with the winger's six week penalty.

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