Who’s hot and who’s not: Munster and Leinster comebacks, Super Rugby Pacific deal boost, injury blows and Welsh regions’ sobering weekend

Planet Rugby
Who's hot and who's not

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.


Irish comebacks: Munster and Leinster completed impressive comebacks just a week out from their first Champions Cup fixtures of the 2022/23 season. Graham Rowntree’s side picked up their first away win of the season, and third consecutive win, including the South Africa A game, claiming a 38-17 victory away to Edinburgh. The hosts started brightly, going into a 17-7 lead after 36 minutes. But Munster took control of the match thereafter, scoring 31 unanswered points to secure the bonus point. Leinster similarly claimed a bonus-point victory over Ulster as they rallied from 22-3 down to win 38-29. Ulster initially made the most of Cian Healy’s red card in the 21st minute, running in three tries, but Ronan Kelleher swung the momentum in Leinster’s favour just before half-time. The outstanding Garry Ringrose’s two tries helped his side take the lead, with further tries for Andrew Porter and James Lowe sealing victory on a great weekend for the two sides.

Damian Penaud wins award: Congratulations to the France wing, who was named the player of the Autumn Nations Series after a fine campaign for Les Bleus in November. Penaud played a crucial role in Fabien Galthie’s men continuing their winning run, especially in their opener against Australia when his superb individual effort late on helped them to a narrow 30-29 triumph. Penaud also touched down twice against Japan as he took his record to 21 tries in 37 matches at Test level. We are, to a degree, wondering what Ardie Savea has to do to win something, but that is not to denigrate the achievement of the 26-year-old, who has been outstanding for France and is a key man for 2023.

Super Rugby Pacific deal: The stand-off between Rugby Australia (RA) and New Zealand Rugby (NZR) is over as a deal was agreed to continue the competition for at least the next eight seasons. It’s a significant boost for the sport down under, which was in disarray after the Australians threatened to break away due to arguments over broadcast revenue. Although the specifics have not yet been revealed, RA are presumably much happier with this arrangement which will hopefully give them and Antipodean rugby as a whole much more security.

Warren Gatland rejoins as Wales boss: Gatland is back! The coach who led Wales to four Six Nations titles, three Grand Slams and two Rugby World Cup semi-finals has returned to take over as their head coach after Wayne Pivac was sacked. The 59-year-old will lead them into the 2023 Six Nations and next year’s World Cup, but could stay beyond that. Providing it all goes well, Gatland has been earmarked to remain in his position until the end of the 2027 global tournament. He had also been linked with England, but the Welsh Rugby Union have acted fast to get their man.

Blitzboks dominate in Dubai: South Africa claimed their fourth successive Dubai Sevens title on Saturday, defeating Ireland 21-5 in the final. The Blitzboks lost their opening game against Great Britain on Friday but bounced back to defeat Kenya and Australia to proceed to the knockouts. Wins over Samoa and New Zealand saw them reach the final, where they underlined their dominance in the desert, scoring three tries to Ireland’s one. After missing out on the medals in Hong Kong last month, South Africa’s swift rebound catapults them to the top of the men’s World Rugby Sevens Series leaderboard, along with Australia. Congratulations also go to Australia’s women’s side, who claimed the silverware in Dubai.

Springbok rookies shine on URC return: The South African United Rugby Championship sides welcomed back their Springbok rookies this past weekend, and they did not disappoint. Fresh off the back of earning three caps for his country, Manie Libbok steered the Stormers to a 34-26 triumph over the Dragons, with the fly-half scoring a stunning solo try. Meanwhile, the Bulls welcomed back their high flyers with speedsters Kurt-Lee Arendse, and Canan Moodie added to the starting line-up after starring for the Springboks. The pair both ran in tries as Moodie grabbed the man of the match award in their comprehensive 45-9 win over Cardiff. Look out Europe, the South Africans are coming.

Castres continue unbeaten run: Sunday’s Top 14 action saw Castres extend their unbeaten home run in the league to 27 games. Pierre-Henry Broncan’s side snatched victory from the jaws of defeat against Pau, with Vilimoni Botitu scoring the match-winning try in the 79th minute to see Castres to a 26-22 win. Castres now move ahead of Pau on the standings and are in 11th place ahead of the European weekend.


Blows for Robbie Henshaw and England duo: Both Henshaw and Henry Arundell will be frustrated after undergoing surgeries which will keep them out until the early part of 2023. Henshaw aggravated a hamstring injury during Ireland’s Autumn Nations Series campaign but has also been suffering with a wrist issue. The centre has had an operation to repair that problem, but it means that he will be missing for Leinster’s first two Champions Cup matches. Meanwhile, the situation is even more frustrating for Arundell, who was expected to return for the latter stages of England’s November campaign but has had surgery on a troublesome foot injury. He and fellow young star Marcus Smith are now doubts for the Six Nations, with the Harlequins man sustaining an ankle problem in the country’s final game of the autumn. Smith is certainly out for the rest of the year but a true timescale is not yet known, which is a concern with that big tournament just two months away.

A miserable weekend for Welsh Rugby: All four Welsh regions registered United Rugby Championship defeats over the weekend with Cardiff the only side to pick up a match point. The woes began on Friday with the Ospreys defeated 25-10 at the Sharks before Saturday saw the Stormers beat the Dragons 34-26 and Bulls thump Cardiff 45-9. The clean sweep was completed on Sunday when the Lions saw off the Scarlets 32-15 in Johannesburg to leave a final combined score of 136-60 in favour of South Africa’s sides against the Welsh. Dominant.

Sean Everitt leaves Sharks: The Sharks’ shocking 35-0 home loss to Cardiff was the final nail in the coffin for Sean Everitt as his tenure as the Durban outfit’s head coach came to a swift end. Everitt spent 15 years with the Sharks and took over as head coach ahead of the 2020 season following Robert du Preez’s departure. Considering the investment made in the squad, it didn’t come as a surprise that Everitt parted ways with the side and demonstrated just how ruthless the American owners can be. Failing to make it past the United Rugby Championship quarter-finals was not good enough, and neither was that heavy defeat on home soil, regardless of whether their Springboks were available.

Antoine Dupont decision: The decision to have the Toulouse and France scrum-half’s four-week suspension halved to two weeks left a bitter taste in the mouth as it makes one wonder how serious World Rugby is taking the issue of player safety. The 26-year-old was red-carded by referee Wayne Barnes after a horrific challenge on Springbok flyer Cheslin Kolbe during France’s 30-26 triumph over the Boks in Marseille last month. Dupont took Kolbe out while he was airborne, and it’s a miracle that the Bok was not seriously injured as he landed on his head and upper back. Two weeks have past since that incident which means Dupont was included in Toulouse’s squad for their Top 14 clash on Saturday, which means he only missed France’s Test win over Japan on November 20 after having his suspension reduced. Farcical.

Concussion protocols following Nic White outcome: World Rugby have confirmed what everyone expected, that the Wallaby scrum-half should have been permanently replaced after suffering successive head knocks. White sustained the two blows against Ireland but the second happened as the medical officials were reviewing the first. Even if it was not necessarily anyone’s ‘fault’, there was obviously some sort of issue with the protocol, either in the way it was implemented or the way it has been set up. It therefore begs the question as to what the authorities will do to stop it from happening again. Some may wave it away because it’s just one mishandled incident, but this could have had serious repercussions for White and may ultimately (we hope not) affect his health later in life. The system frankly needs to be fool proof.

Concern over the wellbeing of Sbu Nkosi and Levi Davis: Bulls wing Nkosi and ex-Bath wing Davis are both missing, with missing-person cases opened for the pair. The Bulls reported Nkosi missing after the club and family members had not heard from the 26-year-old for three weeks. The Bulls say they haven’t had contact with him since November 11, despite efforts that “include but are not limited to phone calls, text messages, calls to relatives, partner and close friends as well as four house visits to his known place of residence”. Meanwhile, Davis went missing on October 29 and was last seen at a pub in Barcelona. His passport was found some two weeks ago at a Barcelona port.

Scarlets’ poor form: It was another tough weekend for Scarlets as they suffered a 32-15 United Rugby Championship away defeat to the Lions on Sunday. Dwayne Peel’s charges have now lost four matches on the trot and eight overall. The Welsh side’s only victory this season came back in October when they secured a 36-12 win over Zebre Parma. Lions’ flanker Emmanuel Tshituka scored two tries in a man-of-the-match performance, with Rabz Maxwane and Jaco Kriel also crossing as Scarlets, as mentioned were one of four Welsh sides to suffer defeat.

READ MORE: State of the Nation: Unbeaten France well-placed to push for home Rugby World Cup glory