Planet Rugby

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

09th June 2014 10:24

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hot not bakkies botha nicolas mas south africa france

Mixed fortunes: Bakkies & Mas

It's time for Planet Rugby's 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!

Australia: Were the Wallabies that good or les Bleus just plain woeful? Let's not take too much away from Australia as they put on a masterclass of attacking rugby at times, with Israel Folau, Adam Ashley-Cooper and Tevita Kuridrani wreaking havoc going forward. The try for Nick Cummins was the pick of their seven as they ran out comfortable 50-23 winners in Brisbane, with late scores from France masking what was a dismal performance from the visitors.

Japan: Made it eight wins a row with a come-from-behind victory over Canada in Burnaby on Saturday. This result was all the more impressive as the Brave Blossoms were 9-25 adrift of the hosts at the interval but then recovered to score 25 unanswered points after the turnaround, breaking Canadian hearts in the Pacific Nations Cup opener.

Scotland and Ireland: A winning start on tour for these two Celtic nations, as Joe Schmidt's side faced some heavy resistance in Resistencia from Argentina's new-look outfit and Vern Cotter began his tenure as Scotland boss with a win over the USA.

Bakkies Botha: Was on field for only 50 minutes in the Springboks' triumph over the World XV but the big enforcer delivered a stellar performance which won him the official man-of-the-match award after the game. Botha did his bit in defence, cleaned out the rucks with great determination, won a couple of line-out balls and was rewarded with a first-half try for his efforts.

Manu Tuilagi: More metres than any other player (84). More carries than any other player (13). Seemingly impossible to contain, even with Conrad Smith marshalling him, New Zealand half lived with Tuilagi and half struggled to mute the Leicester man. Moving him to the wing just doesn't feel like a good idea, but England will have to try it at some stage.

Nemani Nadolo and Fiji: Nadolo has wowed Super Rugby with the Crusaders this season thanks to some sublime runs and tries, but now he turns out he also kicks?! Deployed at inside centre, Nadolo took over the kicking duties and landed three penalties and a conversion to go with his try in the first. More importantly, Fiji's 25-14 win over a strong Italian side is a reminder to the rest of the world that you do not just go to Suva for a photo opportunity. You face a real threat.


Broken Thermostat

New Zealand: The All Blacks ticked most of the boxes required for the 'not hot' category except, well, they won...which is what Test rugby is all about, isn't it? At times they were awful - handling errors, poor passes, well-beaten in the scrum and seemingly disjointed in the back row, this was a humbling reminder that the All Blacks are human and victory is not guaranteed. But somehow they always seem to be able to pull the most hopeless situations from the fire. They have become the masters of cynical penalties to avoid conceding tries. They will be a hell of a lot better next week in Dunedin. They will have to be at any rate.

England: Few teams have been written off before a ball has been passed more than England were in the lead up to Saturday's first of three Tests against the All Blacks. Shorn of their Northampton and Saracens stars and with Danny Care's late withdrawal adding to their selection dilemma, the English were huge 21 point underdogs for the Eden Park clash. Boy were the bookies wrong as New Zealand would have been breathing a sigh of relief after Conrad Smith's late try saw them win 20-15, with England's set-piece, desire and running threats causing the world champions plenty of bother. It will be interesting to see how a full strength England go in the second Test, with Freddie Burns one of many unlucky players set to be replaced. They ticked all the boxes to break into the 'hot' category except, of course, they lost... which isn't hot at all.


Get these guys a cup of warm soup!

France: Do Les Bleus actually have a coherent game plan? Philippe Saint-André's charges got what they deserved in their 50-23 thrashing against the Wallabies in Brisbane as they hardly resembled one of the world's leading Test playing nations. They were outclassed in every department and will have to show considerable improvement of they want to level the three-Test series in the second Test in Melbourne on Saturday. It seems clear that PSA is not only struggling to select France's best team, but is incapable of motivating his troops to bring the intensity required to compete at the highest level. This generation looks lost.

SARU's pregame 'entertainment': Drum majorettes? What is this? 1982? No disrespect to the girls from Brackenfell High who swirled their flags, shook their pompoms and stomped their feet with plenty of gusto but the pregame 'show' at Newlands hardly met the standards of the players that were set to line up. No wonder South African stadiums are always three-quarters empty until the last minute. Ironically, the pre-kick-off highlight was during the national anthem when the sound system bonked out, cutting Kurt Darren off, and allowing the crowd to sing the last few verses a capella in a real goose-bumps, lump-in-your-throat moment.

Jimmy Cowan: The former New Zealand scrum-half flew halfway across the world to play for the World XV against the Springboks in Cape Town but saw just over seven minutes of action after receiving a yellow card for a stamp. Such actions won't help Cowan in his quest to find a new club after his stint with Gloucester came to an end recently.

Samoa: Conceded a late draw to Tonga despite the return of their European-based stars. Maybe they are no longer the best side in the Pacific Isles.

Glen Jackson's decision: There were shades of Jared Payne taking out Alex Goode as Argentine number eight Benjamin Macome blundered into an airborne Andrew Trimble on Saturday. Macome's eyes weren't on the ball as it descended from a Garryowen, where Payne's had been, instead they remained on Trimble, who was unceremoniously felled from a height.

Referees cannot rule on intent, nor should they take over-prescriptive measures that risk removing the contest element from the game. That's why we have no quarrel with the first Puma on the scene, Manuel Montero, who challenged Trimble for the catch.

But we reckon Macome's actions were dangerous - potentially catastrophic - and warranted further punishment than Jackson's yellow...your view?

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