Who’s hot and who’s not: Alun Wyn Jones send-off, Sevens fever and Rugby Australia chaos

Planet Rugby
Split with Alun Wyn Jones and Hamish McLennan.

Split with Alun Wyn Jones and Hamish McLennan.

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 after the weekend.


Alun Wyn Jones gets ideal send-off: The great Welshman played his final game of professional rugby over the weekend for Toulon, who he captained on the day. He left the field in the second half to a standing ovation and will always be remembered as one of the best to play the game. Jones is the most capped Test player in history, with 170 appearances between Wales and the British & Irish Lions. The second-row’s incredible longevity is as impressive as his endearing nature off the field. Enjoy retirement, Alun Wyn, it is truly deserved.

Impressive Saracens: It was derby weekend in the Premiership and Saracens certainly made the most of it against Harlequins, claiming a resounding 38-10 win – their fourth on the trot. Owen Farrell was magnificent for his side and outshone opposite number Marcus Smith on the night. The Test centurion did have the fortune of being behind a powerful pack who dominated the game up front against Quins, who had little answer. It is an early marker laid down by the holders who will be looking to go back-to-back this season.

British and Irish Lions’ deal: The famous team announced a clever partnership with the United Rugby Championship and Premiership Rugby which is a strategic alignment allowing players to be available in the build-up to the 2025 tour of Australia. The partnership also extends to marketing and promotional activities with the aim of benefiting all parties involved.

XVs stars set for Paris Olympics: The lure of the Olympics has shown yet again with the Paris 2024 games just around the corner, leading to some high-profile switches. Les Bleus skipper and talisman Antoine Dupont led the charge as he announced he will be missing the 2024 Six Nations as he focuses on the faster form of the game. Last week, Australian veteran Michael Hooper followed suit after signing a deal with Australia Sevens from the beginning of 2024. There may well be more on the way with Leinster’s Leo Cullen not ruling out switches from his players.

Home team delight in URC and Premiership: It was a good weekend for the home teams in the URC and Premiership this weekend, with just two away sides picking up victories and one sealing a draw across the 13 matches. Zebre Parma claimed a late draw against Cardiff after trailing for much of the match, while the Durban-based Sharks and Harlequins were the only teams to suffer home defeats. An excellent weekend for the locals but not the travelling fans.

Springboks World Cup winners’ emotional homecoming: The dust may have settled on the Springboks trophy parade after they travelled around the country to show off their fourth title but that did not stop players doing their own tours, with Ox Nche, Manie Libbok and Canan Moodie amongst others being celebrated by their communities. It is lovely to see the power of sport through how proud the respective communities are of one of their own.


Racism at Sandy Park: Former England and British and Irish Lions winger Ugo Moyne was left seething, and rightly so, after being subjected to “blatant racism” after the Exeter Chiefs and Gloucester game on Sunday. The TNT Sports pundit was leaving the stadium when he heard the racial slur and expressed his anger on social media platform X, formerly Twitter. The Premiership and Exeter have launched an investigation into the matter, which is good, but quite simply, this has no place in rugby or society.

Ben Earl’s injury: Arguably the Red Rose’s best player of the World Cup earlier this year, Earl pulled out of the clash against Quins after being named on the bench. It is believed to be a knee issue and at first glance, looks to be severe. Saracens boss Mark McCall admitted the loose forward could be out for an extended period, throwing his 2024 Six Nations into doubt.

Bad weekend for South African sides: It was a weekend to forget for the South African teams in the United Rugby Championship, who continue to struggle without their Springboks. The Lions played well but fell to Ulster 24-17 whilst Lukhanyo Am’s return was not enough for the Sharks to beat Connacht at home. A red card did not help the Bulls, who could not defeat a gutsy Edinburgh, whilst even though the Stormers were impressive against Munster, they still lost 10-3 to the holders. It shows that the teams are still getting to grips with the conditions in the north and will be desperate to have their internationals back in December.

SA Rugby HQ robbery: Last week, two men broke into South African Rugby’s headquarters in Plattekloof, Cape Town and stole some memorabilia, with jerseys, whiskey and laptops all removed from the building. Fortunately, no trophies were stolen, which is a major relief considering the William Webb Ellis Cup was being held in the building. Two suspects have since been arrested in connection with the theft.

Rugby Australia turmoil continues: The situation down under continues to worsen, with six states led by Queensland Rugby Union making a move against Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan, urging him to step down after a disastrous World Cup. After initially refusing to resign, McLennan gave in with Daniel Herbert being announced as the new chairman of the governing body on Sunday.

Taine Basham’s lenient ban: The Welshman was given a four-game ban for a cheap shot on Ross Byrne, which was both late and dangerous. It was deemed to be at the mid-range entry point, which constitutes a six-game ban that was reduced after Basham showed “remorse”. Ultimately, the incident is easily avoidable, and the flank shows clear intent to take Byrne out after the ball has been kicked. Situations like this need to be dealt with more harshly if the players are going to improve their behaviour on the field.

More refereeing leaks: Reports emerged that World Rugby had “privately admitted” to an error in the World Cup final. The claims suggest that Aaron Smith’s disallowed try should have stood, which would have changed the outcome of the one-point game. World Rugby responded, claiming they would not publicly speak about their match officials and did not directly deny the claims.

Montpellier: Reports suggest that struggling Top 14 side Montpellier may be looking to bring in former Federation Francaise de Rugby president and World Rugby vice-chairman Bernard Laporte as their director of rugby. The role appears to have been offered through Altrad, who reportedly has resumed contact with Laporte after attempting to recruit him as a coach in 2016.

READ MORE: Ugo Monye subjected to ‘blatant racism’ at Sandy Park as Exeter open ‘full investigation’