Who’s hot and who’s not: Leinster, La Rochelle and Chiefs march on, England joy and disappointing exits

Planet Rugby
Leinster and Toulouse split

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.


Leinster and La Rochelle: So it will be a rematch of the 2021/22 final but this time in Dublin. Leinster were outstanding in their victory over Toulouse on Saturday before La Rochelle put in a similar display as they brushed aside Exeter Chiefs to keep their title defence alive. It is going to be some contest between two incredible club sides. La Rochelle won through last year in Marseille but on Aviva Stadium soil, it’s going to be Leinster heading into this one favourites. Ronan O’Gara won’t mind that though as he now looks to get players fit for the contest.

Dominant England and record attendance: While France must be commended for the way they came back into the Six Nations Grand Slam decider, the Red Roses had the match won before the second half started. Despite a good start from Les Bleues, the English held firm defensively and were ruthless when they had the ball, going into the break 33-0 up. France improved after the interval but England dropped the intensity as the visitors effectively chanced their arm at every opportunity. It secured yet another Slam for the Red Roses, leaving them unbeaten in the competition since 2018. It was also a momentous day for the sport in general as almost 60,000 fans were at Twickenham, a world record attendance in the women’s game. A fitting way for Simon Middleton to finish his remarkable tenure as England‘s head coach.

Glasgow and Toulon: It will be a first ever European final for the Warriors on May 19 after they booked their place in the Challenge Cup showpiece even in Dublin. They did so by knocking out the Scarlets in Llanelli in another impressive performance that saw them score five tries. They will face an equally impressive Toulon side, who had no trouble playing with 14 men for 74 minutes against Benetton, this after Charles Ollivon was red carded. Both Glasgow and Toulon are putting on some quality rugby right now and it promises to be an epic final.

Chiefs march on: Dubbed the game of the Super Rugby Pacific weekend and it of course delivered. The Chiefs made it win number nine this season as they beat arch rivals the Crusaders in Hamilton. It was some contest as Damian McKenzie once again impressed as the table toppers finished strong on Saturday, with Shaun Stevenson and Tyrone Thompson going over for key scores. The Chiefs are now a huge 12 points clear of the fifth placed Crusaders but write off Scott Robertson’s outfit at your peril. Both these teams will be pushing for the title.

Rare milestone for Sam Whitelock: While the result would not have been what he wanted, Whitelock should be proud of the feat he achieved over the weekend. Indeed, this was his 350th first class game as he joined joined Liam Messam, Wyatt Crockett, Keven Mealamu, Sir Colin Meads and Aaron Smith in notching the milestone. What’s most impressive is the All Black stalwart’s showings are still top drawer.

England duo sign on for more: The game is not exactly in rude health in England at the moment, with players choosing to go to France instead of staying in the Premiership and fighting for their international place, but two experienced players have decided to remain. Both Courtney Lawes and, more surprisingly, Manu Tuilagi have signed new contracts at Northampton and Sale respectively, which keep them eligible for England. Tuilagi, in particular, was expected to move abroad, but he has inked a one-year extension due to his love for the club.


Siya Kolisi injury concern: It’s been a week of concern for Kolisi and the whole of South Africa after the Sharks skipper injured his knee against Munster on April 22. Initial reports suggested his Rugby World Cup was in doubt but thankfully his surgery has gone well and now begins a long road to recovery that should hopefully see him feature at the global tournament in France later this year. Kolisi seems in good spirits after the operation and the Springboks will hope their captain is fit and firing with time to spare as they look to defend their trophy.


Disappointing Toulouse: Granted, everything went against Toulouse from an officiating standpoint, which we will cover below, but they didn’t really turn up in what was a highly-anticipated encounter. The visitors got flustered far too easily, both on and off the field, leading to bad decisions from players and coaches. We don’t think it’s a risk to go in with a 6-2 bench split as such, but it is when you haven’t got all the backline positions covered. Pierre-Louis Barassi’s early injury forced them into a reshuffle, meaning Antoine Dupont was shifted to fly-half with Romain Ntamack at centre. Although it might have made sense to head coach Ugo Mola when he made the switch, you simply don’t move the best in the world from his position. Not a good day for Les Rouge et Noir, not a good day for Mola and his players as they bow out.

Host broadcasters: Toulouse were the victim of some pretty dodgy directing on Saturday as RTE quite obviously avoided showing a replay of Andrew Porter’s tip tackle on Juan Cruz Mallia. It was perhaps a case of reaping what you sow from a French perspective, but it does not make it right and there needs to be some sort of standard set across the board with how broadcasters operate. The TMO was, to a degree, also culpable as he should have picked up on that incident but, at the moment, too many people not involved in the game – i.e. those who are not players, coaches or officials – are trying to influence what is happening on it, and are unfortunately succeeding too. It’s a cause for concern.

Benetton fail to show up: That was a hugely disappointing performance from the Italian side as they were nilled by a 14-man Toulon on Sunday. The result sees their season end with a whimper and they will surely be scratching their heads as to why they failed to fire a shot at Stade Mayol. In their previous four games in April they’d racked up an impressive 123 points but they looked unrecognisable from that side.

Contrasting fortunes for Ireland’s Test sides: While the men romped to a Grand Slam, comfortably beating all they came up against, it was completely the opposite for the women’s side, who took home the Wooden Spoon. They failed to even pick up a point as they concluded a dreadful campaign winless. It is not the players’ fault, however, as they play under a governing body that continues to neglect the women’s game. While other countries are investing, the IRFU are not, which is a shame considering the success of the men and the overall positivity which is emanating out of Irish rugby. Now is the time to be building on that and giving the women the support they deserve going forward.

Pote Human and Ollie Richardson: One of the more bizarre stories of the week came from the USA where Sabercats head coach Pote Human and New York head of high-performance Ollie Richardson came to blows on the field, with both having subsequently been handed six-week suspensions and fined. Tempers flared in the Major League Rugby match as the pair locked horns during a break in play in a poor advert for the game. The only positive is the respective – and unspecified – fines Human and Richardson received were donated to charity.

READ MORE: Champions Cup: Five takeaways from La Rochelle v Exeter Chiefs as holders power their way to Dublin final