Who’s hot and who’s not: Japan impress against All Blacks, landmarks for star duo but Scotland v Australia disappoints

Colin Newboult

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.


Tokyo’s attendance as Japan go close: It was great to see so many people turn out in what was a fantastic occasion in Tokyo. The stadium was packed to the rafters as the Brave Blossoms produced a superb performance to get so close to creating a massive upset. They competed brilliantly throughout as the All Blacks just about held on to seal a narrow 38-31 triumph on Saturday. After a difficult 2021, Jamie Joseph’s men appear to be improving and could well be a threat at the next World Cup.

Alex Goode impresses on record-breaking day: The playmaker ran out for his 339th appearance for Saracens on Sunday, breaking the club record held by Kris Chesney, and then proceeded to produce a stunning performance against Sale Sharks. In a top of the table encounter, Goode was utterly outstanding as he played a key role in their 33-22 triumph. Initially starting at full-back, the 34-year-old scored Sarries’ first try before moving to fly-half after Manu Vunipola was forced off. He duly dictated play superbly from the pivot position and deservedly earned the man of the match award. Well played, Alex.

Gloucester and Louis Rees-Zammit: The Cherry and Whites have made a statement of intent in the Premiership with their 38-22 win against Exeter Chiefs at Kingsholm on Friday. George Skivington’s troops were full value for their fourth straight victory in the tournament which sees them move up to fourth position on the table after eight rounds. Leading the charge was Rees-Zammit, who apart from crossing for the opening try, also set up Lewis Ludlow and finished with 47 metres gained which included two clean breaks and five defenders beaten.

Manie Libbok: Congratulations to the Stormers fly-half, who has earned a first call-up to the senior South Africa squad following a series of fine performances for his franchise, the latest coming against the Lions in a come-from-behind victory. Libbok has impressed in all aspects of his game over the past 12 months and, with Handre Pollard and Elton Jantjies not available for the Autumn Nations Series, the 25-year-old looks set to play a few games in November. He has always been a big talent and it is great to see him putting it all together, but the biggest challenge will evidently come when he makes his Springbok bow. Hopefully he can reproduce the form that he churns out for the Stormers.

Portia Woodman and Sarah Hunter: This past weekend was a momentous one at the Women’s Rugby World Cup in New Zealand as apart from the tournament reaching its business end, with the recent quarter-finals, there were also significant milestones achieved by the aforementioned ladies. On Saturday, Black Ferns flyer Woodman made history against Wales when she scored her 19th and 20th World Cup tries to become the leading try-scorer at either the men’s or women’s version of the global showpiece, passing the previous record held by England’s Sue Day. Then on Sunday, England skipper and back-row Sarah Hunter became her country’s most-capped player when she made her 138th appearance in their victory against Australia. Congratulations to both Portia and Sarah on their fantastic achievements!


Scotland and Australia struggle to impress: The game had its moments but it was quite clearly a match between two teams low on confidence. It resulted in a scrappy affair as a couple of desperate sides made a series of errors, resulting in a disappointing encounter. There were some good individual performances but neither Scotland or Australia particularly impressed and will have to improve massively over the next few weeks.

Wasps hit with suspension and relegation: It was inevitable that they would be relegated to the Championship ahead of next season after going into administration, but it made the news no less heartbreaking. Wasps are one of English rugby’s great clubs having won the league title six times and the Heineken Cup twice, but they have been teetering on the brink financially for years. There was some positive news that the administrators have accepted an offer from a buyer, but there is still a long way to go for the club to get back to where they belong.

Confusion over Johan Goosen: The initial selection of the Bulls playmaker for South Africa’s November Tests – their only designated fly-half – always seemed odd considering his poor form since returning from injury, but his subsequent dropping was even stranger. A couple of weeks ago, Goosen was effectively considered the Springboks’ first choice playmaker, but now he’s only deemed good enough for the ‘A’ side. You have to question the muddled thinking of South Africa’s selectors and also feel sorry for the way the 30-year-old has been treated of late.

New Zealand Rugby under fire after fixture clash: Quite rightly, the governing body have been called ‘incompetent’ for scheduling the men’s Test against Japan at the same time as the Blacks Ferns’ quarter-final in the Women’s Rugby World Cup. NZR stated that they “didn’t take into account” a potential conflict, which is quite frankly embarrassing. It is a dreadful look for the New Zealand hierarchy and suggests they don’t care about women’s rugby at all, which is a shame because the World Cup has been very well supported on home soil.

Michael Cheika’s cross-code commitments: While juggling two jobs is difficult in any profession, Argentina head coach Cheika will face a unique dilemma this weekend when he first takes charge of Lebanon in their Rugby League World Cup quarter-final encounter with Australia in Huddersfield, before switching his attentions to the 15-man code when Los Pumas take on England at Twickenham on Sunday. Yes, that’s just two days between those two fixtures and although Cheika has said that he is determined to focus on both positions, it will be a tough ask to switch roles and prepare Argentina’s players for a match at that level. Although Cheika has revealed that contingency plans have been made for Argentina’s clash against Eddie Jones’ troops, don’t be surprised if the home side notches a big win.

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