Planet Rugby

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

07th April 2014 09:21


Hot or not feature image2

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.

Forthcoming Fixtures
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 26
London Welsh vs Gloucester19:45
Saturday , September 27
Saracens vs Sale15:00
Leicester vs London Irish15:00
Northampton vs Bath15:15
Sunday , September 28
Exeter vs Harlequins14:00
Wasps vs Newcastle14:00
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
Rugby Championship
Saturday , September 27
South Africa vs Australia16:05
Argentina vs New Zealand23:10
More Rugby Championship fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Friday , September 26
Edinburgh vs Scarlets19:35
Leinster vs Cardiff Blues19:35
Glasgow vs Connacht19:35
Saturday , September 27
Zebre vs Ulster15:00
Munster vs Ospreys18:30
Sunday , September 28
Newport Gwent D'gons vs Benetton Treviso16:00
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Saturday , September 27
Toulon vs Montpellier18:00
Stade Francais vs La Rochelle18:00
Bayonne vs Toulouse18:00
Brive vs Bordeaux-Begles18:00
Oyonnax vs Clermont Auvergne18:00
Lyon vs Castres18:00
Grenoble vs Racing Metro Paris18:00
More Top 14 fixtures
Currie Cup
Friday , September 26
Cheetahs vs Blue Bulls19:10
Pumas vs Western Province19:00
Saturday , September 27
Sharks vs Eastern Province Kings14:00
Griquas vs Lions15:00
More Currie Cup fixtures
Recent Results
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , September 21
Newcastle 10 - 35 NorthamptonNewcastle vs Northampton Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Ospreys 62 - 13 EdinburghOspreys vs Edinburgh Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Otago 38 - 7 WaikatoOtago vs Waikato Report
Wellington 20 - 42 TasmanWellington vs Tasman Report
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , September 20
Sale 46 - 8 London WelshSale vs London Welsh Report
Harlequins 26 - 23 WaspsHarlequins vs Wasps Report
London Irish 32 - 36 SaracensLondon Irish vs Saracens Report
Bath 45 - 0 LeicesterBath vs Leicester Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Newport Gwent D'gons 13 - 33 GlasgowNewport Gwent D
Scarlets 43 - 0 Benetton TrevisoScarlets vs Benetton Treviso Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Top 14
Racing Metro Paris 27 - 16 ToulouseRacing Metro Paris vs Toulouse Report
Grenoble 24 - 15 Bayonne
Montpellier 23 - 3 Stade FrancaisMontpellier vs Stade Francais Report
La Rochelle 26 - 29 Bordeaux-Begles
Clermont Auvergne 43 - 12 LyonClermont Auvergne vs Lyon Report
Castres 27 - 18 Oyonnax
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Western Province 36 - 12 GriquasWestern Province vs Griquas Report
Blue Bulls 15 - 26 SharksBlue Bulls vs Sharks Report
Eastern Province Kings 22 - 37 CheetahsEastern Province Kings vs Cheetahs Report
More Currie Cup results
Hawkes Bay 36 - 17 Bay Of Plenty
Manawatu 36 - 17 Southland
Auckland 32 - 7 North HarbourAuckland vs North Harbour Report
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 19
Gloucester 22 - 25 ExeterGloucester vs Exeter Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Munster 31 - 5 ZebreMunster vs Zebre Report
Cardiff Blues 9 - 26 UlsterCardiff Blues vs Ulster Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Aviva Premiership Table
5Leicester Tigers39