Who’s hot and who’s not: Premiership and URC finalists, Clutch Crowley, Red-hot Reds, soft suspension and a failed move

Planet Rugby
Who’s hot and who’s not: Premiership and URC finalists and a failed move

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.

THEY’RE ON FIRE!

Munster and Stormers: What a couple of United Rugby Championship semi-finals it was on Saturday as the Stormers came from behind to beat Connacht before Munster stunned Leinster in Dublin thanks to a late Jack Crowley drop-goal. Manie Libbok impressed for the South African side, but the story of the weekend was the game at the Aviva Stadium, where Leinster and Munster put on quite the spectacle that was Test match standard. Munster have come back from a tough start to the season that saw them lose three of their opening four URC matches, making their run to the final all the more impressive. Their form on the road of late has been outstanding, and they’re now off to Cape Town.

Saracens and Sale Sharks: Speaking of finalists, the last two standing in the Premiership are Saracens and Sale Sharks after they beat Northampton Saints and Leicester Tigers, respectively, over the weekend. Unlike in the URC, we will see the top two sides in the table face each other in the final as Alex Sanderson takes on his former employers in what should be a titanic contest. Congratulations to both sides.

Jack ‘Clutch’ Crowley: Need we say more? The Munster youngster was sublime throughout the clash against Leinster and came up with the match-winning drop goal to send his side into the URC final. His brilliance was likened to Munster great Ronan O’Gara, and the 23-year-old paid tribute to ROG with his celebration. 

Reds end Chiefs’ streak: Huge credit to the Reds, who ended the Chiefs’ record run of 10 consecutive wins. Even more impressively, they did it away from home on Friday. It was a sensational effort from the Queenslanders in New Plymouth, with the result taking the Reds up to seventh on the table and into the play-off spots. Defensively they were excellent, and Brad Thorn will an incredibly proud coach after this one.

Gregor Townsend stays on: After plenty of speculation regarding his future, Scotland fans will have been thrilled to read that head coach Townsend has signed up for more in the international set-up. Townsend had been linked with roles in England and France in recent months, but he’s now locked in until at least 2026, which will put supporters’ minds at rest as the former fly-half is certainly building something with a special group of players. The acid test though is going deep into this year’s Rugby World Cup, something this team is more than capable of.

Nic White coup for Force: The Western Force confirmed the signing of the veteran scrum-half on a two-year deal last week. It’s a massive fetch for the Perth-based side, who could do with the experience and nous of a star like White. A signing like this is important for the growth of the game in Australia, and the nine will no doubt prove a hit with the Sea of Blue in the coming years, as he has done everywhere he’s been.

Ollie Lawrence rewarded: What a season it has been for Lawrence. Released by Worcester Warriors due to their financial problems, he moved to Bath and quickly settled in with excellent performance after excellent performance. While Bath didn’t have the best of seasons, the powerful centre impressed and was rewarded with a return to the England squad for the 2023 Six Nations. Now he has been rewarded with the Premiership Player of the Season award, beating Saracens’ Owen Farrell, Leicester’ Jasper Wiese and Sale’s Robert du Preez to the gong.

COLD AS ICE!

Scotland’s hookers miss out: Townsend named the 41 players who will begin preparations for the Rugby World Cup. Despite the extended squad, there were two notable absentees in Glasgow hookers Fraser Brown and Johnny Matthews. The pair are incredibly unlucky not to have made the squad, with Brown offering plenty of experience while Matthews has arguably been the form Scottish hooker in the URC.

Tom Jordan gets off lightly: Staying with Glasgow and the suspension for fly-half Jordan was widely criticised as he will only miss one game for the side, the Challenge Cup final against Toulon. His high tackle, with a tucked arm, on Conor Murray earned him a red card in the URC quarter-final against Munster and a five-week suspension. Murray subsequently missed the semi-final against Leinster after failing his HIA, while Super 6 matches would make up Jordan’s ban, meaning he would not miss the start of Glasgow’s 2023/24 season.

Luke Cowan-Dickie’s move falls through: The transfer saga is over. Cowan-Dickie will not join Montpellier next season after failing his second medical examination, the one he initially missed after a drunken night out. Unfortunately for the England hooker, the results of the scans on his neck issue came back inconclusive, meaning he was not cleared to complete his move to the Top 14 outfit. It is a crushing blow for the 29-year-old, who is now effectively a free agent ahead of the Rugby World Cup. Luckily for him, Exeter Chiefs boss Rob Baxter and Sale Sharks director of rugby Alex Sanderson have expressed interest in signing the British & Irish Lion before the start of the new season.

Agustin Pichot match officials barb: The announcement of the match officials for this year’s Rugby World Cup garnered mixed reviews depending on who you asked. Many French fans felt underrepresented at their home tournament, while England will boast the most match officials out of any nation at the tournament. In fact, six of the 12 referees are from England, which former Los Pumas scrum-half and World Rugby vice chairman Pichot took exception to. Wayne Barnes reacted to the news of going to another Rugby World Cup, tweeting: ‘My fifth @rugbyworldcup & being able to share it with 5 amazing @EnglandRugby colleagues makes it even more special. 121 more sleeps until the opening game!’ Pichot sarcastically responded, tweeting: “Global game.” While Pichot did not elaborate, the point he is alluding to is the lack of South American representation, and while he may have a point, he could have made the same point without including Barnes in the barb.

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