It’s time for our Monday wrap of who has their name in lights and who is making the headlines for all the wrong reasons over the past week.
THEY’RE ON FIRE
Will Addison and Ulster: Ignored by pundits and fans alike in England but now revered in Ireland, it’s been a remarkable few months for the centre. While injuries have hampered Addison, when fit, he was still never really in the discussion for international honours, despite being one of the most complete outside backs in the Premiership. All those skills were to the fore as Ulster produced their best display of the campaign to beat Scarlets and put themselves in a good position to qualify for the knockout stages. With him now an Ireland cap, it rather does give credence to the notion that players who are at Sale and Newcastle perhaps don’t get the recognition they deserve within England.
What a try for Ulster! Sensational start! ??
Try machine Jacob Stockdale puts the finishing touches on a move that went all of 60 meters in 10 seconds! pic.twitter.com/ztDIKofdK3
— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) December 7, 2018
Toulouse: There was a time when boss Ugo Mola was under significant pressure at the four-time European champions but they stuck by him and it has paid dividends. They have been in excellent form in the Top 14 this season, sitting just three points behind pace-setters Clermont Auvergne, and they have taken those performances into the Champions Cup pools. People took notice after they dispatched defending champions Leinster in Round Two and they followed that up with another gritty win by overcoming Wasps in Coventry. With two games at the Stade Ernest-Wallon in the last three rounds, Les Rouge et Noir will be favourites to get a home quarter-final as they look a side growing in confidence.
Fiji Sevens: After last weekend’s disappointing fifth-place finish in Dubai, this performance in Cape Town was Fiji back to their best. The islanders won all six of their games over the two days, the final seeing them brush aside USA, who to their credit were appearing in consecutive tournament finals for the first time. Well done to Mike Friday’s side for their efforts but it’s hats off to Fiji as they were a cut above the rest, capped off by this pre-final gesture to the ball boy.
Teacher tomorrow: “Class, how was your weekend?”
This kid: “Well…” ?? pic.twitter.com/LMRoSUt8gt
— Planet Rugby (@PlanetRugby) December 9, 2018
Edinburgh: After two recent losses in the PRO14, Richard Cockerill will have been delighted with how his side put their league form to one side and produced an impressive performance in beating Newcastle Falcons 31-13 on Friday. A bonus-point victory lifts them to the summit of Pool 5 and if they can beat the same opposition at Kingston Park this week their qualification hopes will sky rocket before visiting Toulon in early 2019. A mention too for fellow Scots Glasgow Warriors for their win at Lyon.
Ollie Thorley: While Gloucester continue to impress there’s ever growing noise surrounding their wing Thorley. Now 22 years of age after an injury hit early-career that started with his club debut at 17, the finisher is making waves across the Premiership and Champions Cup. On Saturday at Exeter Chiefs he once again cut loose and finished with 139 running metres to his name. Dare we whisper it, World Cup bolter?
Those wheels ????
Ollie Thorley vs Alex Cuthbert is some foot race!
— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) December 8, 2018
COLD AS ICE!
Exeter Chiefs: It’s back-to-back losses for the Chiefs in their most recent games in the Premiership and Champions Cup. The latter against the Cherry and Whites has left them eight points off pool leaders Munster with three matches left, which effectively ends their hopes of making it into the knockout stages. Where has it gone wrong for Exeter in recent weeks? Have they been found out? These are the questions they’ll be looking to put right when they travel to Kingsholm this Friday night or it could be three straight losses for this once formidable side.
No flags: If you wondered where the sea of blue Leinster flags were in the Recreation Ground clash on Saturday, then you might be stunned. According to Leinster supporters’ Twitter page, 1,500 of their flags were confiscated at the stadium gate, due to health and safety reasons. It’s incredible that the flags passed airport security yet weren’t allowed into the ground. Needless to say it isn’t great press for Bath, who replied to the Leinster supporters tweet stating the Irish side’s flags “were tested against three safety criteria and failed all three including fire”.
.@leinsterrugby supporters: We brought 1500 flags over today’s game and @bathrugby are refusing to let us distribute them. They are saying that the flags failed a health and safety test. pic.twitter.com/wNxZxMfTey
— Leinster Supporters (@OLSCRugby) December 8, 2018
Wasps rumours: Things aren’t exactly peachy for Wasps at the moment. Bottom of their pool in the Champions Cup after going down to Toulouse over the weekend while being 18 points adrift of Premiership leaders Saracens illustrates their on-field struggles during the early-season. Furthermore there were reports last week of Springbok full-back Willie le Roux and England pair Nathan Hughes and Elliot Daly being linked with moves away from the Ricoh Arena at the end of the season, which will concern the club’s supporters greatly. Rivals will no doubt be circling.
Pacific Islands Super Rugby snub: SANZAAR’s decision to reject a bid – from the Fiji Rugby Union on behalf of itself, the Tonga and Samoa Rugby Unions – for a Pacific Island Super Rugby franchise to be based in Fiji was not popular amongst rugby supporters. Although boxes must be ticked in terms of such a venture being financially viable, one can’t but wonder if an opportunity has not been missed to grow the game. A Pacific Islands team would have given the tournament a much needed shot in the arm with SANZAAR currently reviewing the competition structure ahead of the end of the tournament’s broadcast deal in 2020.
2 articles highlighting a terrible week for Pacific Rugby: poor eligibility rules and now no chance of a Pacific Super Rugby team…
— Daniel Leo (@danleo82) December 6, 2018