Who’s hot and who’s not: Magic Munster, Owen Farrell international return and Billy Vunipola episode

Jared Wright
A split image of Munster Rugby fans and Saracens' number eight Billy Vunipola.

Munster Rugby fans and Saracens' number eight Billy Vunipola.

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.


Munster’s full house in the Republic: The Irish province expertly dealt with the challenge of playing at altitude as they bucked the trend of northern hemisphere sides struggling in South Africa by beating the Bulls and Lions on the highveld. Graham Rowntree’s side were brilliant in both fixtures but particularly excellent against the Lions, scoring four tries to seal a full house of 10 league points across their two fixtures and leave the Republic trailing second-placed Leinster by just one point and five off of league leaders Glasgow.

Reds’ rookie’s debut hat-trick: This weekend produced arguably the best and worst Super Rugby Pacific match of the year, and in the former, a star was born as Tim Ryan rocketed to stardom with a sensational hat-trick in his first start for the Reds. It was three superb tries from the rookie, nicknamed ‘Junkyard dawg’, as he all of a sudden was placed on the Wallabies’ radar by onlookers. He scored his treble in a glorious match at Suncorp Stadium which featured 11 tries as the Blues emerged 41-34 victors thanks to a Sam Nock winner in the final play of the match.

Super Rugby Pacific Team of the Week: A record-breaking All Black and a ‘sensational’ rookie hat-trick

Revitalised Crusaders: Just when you think you can write off the Crusaders, they come up with a performance that makes you think maybe, just maybe, they can still be in the running to defend their title. Rob Penney’s side claimed just their second win of the season but it was the manner in which they did so as they nilled the Melbourne Rebels and ran in six tries in a stunning performance. They moved up to 10th place with the win – just two away from a play-off spot.

Brutal Bulls: It was a weekend of bouncing back, and the Bulls were one of many sides that were on the winning side this week after losing the round before. Jake White’s charges responded to their defeat to Munster by ripping through a confident Ospreys outfit, scoring nine tries in a comprehensive 61-24 win at Loftus.

Brilliant Bristol Bears: Pat Lam’s position was reportedly under threat earlier this season, but the men from the West Country have enjoyed a stellar run of form and are now in the running for a place in the Premiership semi-finals. After thrashing Newcastle 85-14, the Bears were staring down a defeat when they trailed 19-0 at Welford Road on Saturday but rallied back beautifully, scoring three tries in the final 10 minutes to grab a 21-19 victory. Their +140 points difference gives them a handy advantage in what is proving to be an incredibly tight run-in.

Owen Farrell to play for World XV: The former England captain has been included in the World XV squad ahead of their clash against France in Bilbao in June. This will be the first outing against a Test nation Farrell has made since stepping away from the game after the 2023 Rugby World Cup. The side will be coached by former All Blacks boss Ian Foster alongside Patrice Collazo.

Ruan Pienaar coaching switch: The 40-year-old superstar is in the final stages of his career playing the SA Cup with the Cheetahs, after which he will retire and take on a coaching role with the U21 and academy sides in Bloemfontein. Pienaar will be in charge of the backline and attack for the youth side for the time being but will certainly rise up the coaching ranks in years to come.

Brumbies bounce back: Stephen Larkham’s charges responded wonderfully to their 46-7 humbling at the hands of the Blues last week as they handed the Hurricanes their maiden defeat in the 2024 Super Rugby Pacific season. It was some performance from the men from Australia’s capital who ran in three tries, with Noah Lolesio’s boot proving pivotal in a 27-19 success.

Pro D2 top dogs: Vannes and Provence secured their place on top of the table in the second division of French rugby, and, in doing so, home semi-finals as their dream of a place in the Top 14 draws closer to reality. They still have plenty of work to do but home advantage is always crucial in France.

Red Roses Six Nations’ domination: England hammered France on Saturday to claim a SIXTH straight Women’s Six Nations title and a hat-trick of Grand Slams. A sensational record as they also won their 29th successive win in the tournament.

England clinch a hat-trick of Six Nations Grand Slams with 29th straight win


Leinster lite: The Irish province were once able to select a second-choice outfit and best most opposition teams in the URC, but those days have come and gone with Leo Cullen’s side departing South Africa with zero league points from two matches. It has seen them surrender top spot on the league table with three games to go after their Investec Champions Cup semi-final. Light on internationals and now light on results.

Lowly Leicester Tigers: Saturday’s defeat to Bristol Bears saw the Tigers lose their third straight match and slip down to eighth on the table as Dan McKellar’s side have all but fallen out of the race for a play-off spot. To make matters worse, the players and staff were the subject of abuse from their ‘supporters’.

Dire scenes in Dunedin: It was a rather dour affair between the Highlanders and Western Force on Saturday as the hosts secured a 7-6 victory over the Australians. It was the sixth-lowest scoring match in Super Rugby history, with the Force only opening the scoring in the 37th minute. A game worth only watching the ‘highlights’ of, with many dubbing it as the ‘worst Super Rugby match ever’ on social media, which isn’t far off.

Billy Vunipola: The England number eight was arrested Majorca after being tasered twice by police following an altercation in the early hours of the morning. Vunipola had allegedly removed his shirt and threatened customers and employees with bottles and chairs. The Saracens man has since been released on bail pending and investigation into what is a terrible look for the Red Rose number eight.

Matt Sherratt: Far too often, coaches have been allowed to bash match officials with little to no action, but the URC acted this week, handing Cardiff boss Sherratt a suspended ban and fine along with an online referee course. That’s all good and well, but it does feel like a slap on the wrist for his ‘interaction’ with referee Mike Adamson. We aren’t privy to exactly what occurred as the statement was quite bare on the details, but an example could have been made here. All in all, we will take it as a step in the right direction.

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Taulupe Faletau’s injury: He just can’t catch a break. Just 30 minutes into his return to action, having been sidelined since the Rugby World Cup, the powerhouse number eight suffered yet another setback as he will miss at least the end of the URC season, with Cardiff ‘hopeful’ that he will return for the 2024/25 campaign. It would be a sad end to a stunning career if Faletau is unable to return.

Steven Kitshoff’s Ulster stint: There was plenty of hype for the Belfast faithful when it was announced that the double World Cup winner would join the side ahead of the 2023/24 season, but it has been a signing to forget. Not only will Kitshoff leave Ulster after just one season, but his campaign has also been cut short after a knee injury he picked up against Clermont in the Challenge Cup. Ulster fans can certainly feel short-changed.

READ MORE: ‘Something to be answered’ – Ex-England stars slam ‘optics’ of Karl Dickson-Danny Care controversy