Planet Rugby

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

12th April 2012 10:45

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Hot or not feature April 12 2012

Hot: Edinburgh....Round: Piri Weepu

It's time for our weekly wrap of who has their name in lights at the moment... and who is making the headlines for the wrong reasons.

They're on fire!

Mark Hammett's Hurricanes: Not many bookies, fans or pundits - ourselves included - were backing the new-look Hurricanes to do much this year but four victories later the 'Canes coach must be thinking of opening a humble pie factory behind Westpac Stadium. As a group of big-name former Hurricanes on the other end of New Zealand's North Island have realised, there are no guarantees in Super Rugby. Success starts with self belief and Hammett clearly has his troops singing positive notes from the same hymn sheet.

Edinburgh: A stunning performance for a deserved win in front of a record crowd. History was made at Murrayfield on Saturday as a Scottish team made the Heineken Cup semi-finals for the first time. Can Edinburgh now go to the Irish capital and cause another upset?

Leinster: After smashing Cardiff by over 30 points, the defending champions are the bookies' favourites to lift the trophy in 2012. HOT!

Ulster and Clermont: Winning a European knock-out game is always worthy of praise, but all the more so when it's done away from home. The reward? Semi-finals at venues as close to home as one could ask for. A Pool Four reunion in the final at Twickenham next month is on the cards.

Stormers: Still unbeaten, the Super Rugby table-toppers seem to be getting stronger by the week after putting on their best performance yet, dominating the Highlanders with the kind of physicality that will scare even the strongest of packs. Next stop, Christchurch.

French Amlin Challenge Cup teams: Stade Franšais, Toulon, Biarritz and Brive ensured the Amlin Challenge Cup semi-finals will be an all-French affair. With a place in the Heineken Cup up for grabs for the title winners, Biarritz will be especially motived to sneak into Europe's top competition through the backdoor since qualification via the Top 14 is impossible after their dismal domestic season. The Basques seem like a decent bet having now put together a five-game winning streak.


Get these guys a blanket!

The Bulls-Crusaders eye-gouge allegation incident: Todd Blackadder insists his guys have done nothing wrong and is demanding an apology from the South Africans. The Bulls insist their guys didn't make the accusations up, saying no video evidence doesn't necessarily mean nothing happened. We're not sure which is worse, gouging or pointing the...er...finger at an innocent player. There's a stink here, but who's to blame?

Toulouse: The four-time champs were the one team expected to win on the road last weekend and got it horribly wrong. Timoci Matanavou was the embodiment of their Jekyll-and-Hyde performance as the Red and Black Machine stuttered and choked: The Fijian wing scored a wonderful individual try, but was a liability as soon the ball went into the air. He didn't get much help from veteran centre Yannick Jauzion, who looked like a fish out of water at full-back.

Cardiff Blues: The visitors were played off the park in Dublin as the Blues' recent slump reached new depths. "Unfortunately there have been a few things on and off the playing field that have clouded things a little bit," coach Gareth Baber told Wales online, admitting the exodus of as many as 12 players at the end of the season is already taking it's toll. "A lot of people go on gardening leave if they are realising they are leaving a job in a short period of time but rugby players are expected to honour their contracts."

Munster and Saracens: Munster are not supposed to lose at Thomond Park. Ever. Two defeats in as many outings has left a serious dent in morale in the Red Army's grandstands. But at least those grandstands were full, unlike at Vicarage Road where the locals were drowned out by the noise coming from the visiting Ultras Vulcans. That said, the pedestrian pace of the Sarries attack wasn't worth singing about.

The mess in Auckland: Where do we start? Pat Lam has come in for some harsh treatment and those so-called 'fans' who were throwing racial mud on Twitter deserve to be thrown off the edge at the Downtown Ferry Terminal. But the Blues boss does have a lot to answer for since the pre-tournament favourites look unlikely to make the play-offs. Round-bellied Piri Weepu hasn't covered himself in glory either. Good on Kev Mealamu for reminding his All Black team-mate that he is a "professional."

The ERC sem-final draw system: Leinster and Edinburgh finished the Heineken Cup pool stages ranked 2nd and 3rd respectively. Clermont and Ulster finished ranked 5th and 8th. Yet Leinster must travel to Bordeaux and Edinburgh must go to Dublin for the semi-finals. Eh?

Aironi: It's sad news that financial constraints will see Aironi exit the Pro12 at the end of the season. Forming a franchise from a group of clubs in Italian rugby's traditional heartland in the northeast seemed like a good idea but it has turned out to be a huge flop. The root of the problem is, and has always been, results. Losing teams don't attract fans. No spectators = no funds from ticket sales. The Italian Federation are planning to nominate another team for the Pro12 next season, and must now decide whether to go for a different team from the north or re-examine their original plans to have a side based in Rome.

Compiled by Ross Hastie

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