Who’s hot and who’s not: Red Roses continue winning run, Rugby Championship goes down to the wire and rugby mourns the passing of an icon

Adam Kyriacou
Who's hot and who's not photo 19 September 2022.jpg

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.


Samisoni Taukei’aho inspires All Blacks: It was another outstanding performance from the hooker on Thursday as he scored two tries and probably should have got another in the All Blacks‘ victory over the Wallabies. The hulking Chiefs front-row has been a revelation for the national side since he took over from Codie Taylor and now looks to have nailed down the number two jersey on a long-term basis. His power in the set-piece and carry, coupled with his handy knack for scoring tries, has made him invaluable to the under pressure Ian Foster in recent times. When the head coach has needed someone to step up and be counted in Tests, Taukei’aho has done just that as his stock continues to rise.

Taulupe Faletau shines on Cardiff debut: The Wales number eight announced himself in Cardiff colours with a sublime man-of-the-match performance against Munster in his side’s 20-13 win over the Irish club. Faletau carried eight times, offloading on three occasions whilst making his mark at the breakdown as he was influential in an impressive victory for the Welsh side. It is good signs for Cardiff after an excellent start to the United Rugby Championship season.

The Nevin Spence Memorial Stand: This past week was 10 years since the death of former Ulster centre Nevin Spence, his father Noel and brother Graham. All three men tragically passed away in an accident in 2012 that impacted so many of the rugby community, not just at Ulster. He was a dazzling and promising centre who was admired by all who knew him and Ulster never forgot their former player, with this latest gesture a wonderful tribute to Nevin. The Nevin Spence Memorial Stand will be officially unveiled on April 26 next year – what would have been his 33rd birthday – to acknowledge his lasting legacy across the professional and domestic game. We cannot praise this enough.

Record-breaking England Women: It’s now 25 straight triumphs for England as they continued their Rugby World Cup preparations in style with Wales brushed aside 73-7 at Ashton Gate on Wednesday. The landmark victory puts this special team on a number no Test outfit, male or female, has previously reached. Led by captain Sarah Hunter, the momentous win stands them in decent stead going into their World Cup opener against Fiji in Auckland on October 8. Can anyone stop the English in New Zealand over the next two months?

Five-year deal for Jake White: It’s not often that contracts of this length are handed out to players or coaches so it’s a mark of his work at the Bulls that White was given a new deal until at least 2027. The 2007 Rugby World Cup winner, while at the helm of the Springboks, has impressed in every role he has taken on and since joining the Bulls he’s continued that trend. Finishing second in last season’s United Rugby Championship was an achievement in itself and he also deserves praise for helping develop talent like Kurt-Lee Arendse and Canan Moodie, who have progressed to become South Africa internationals. White is clearly settled and very happy in Pretoria and with a Champions Cup campaign joining the URC on their schedule this year, expect the Bulls to challenge on both fronts with a now very settled boss at the helm.

Rugby Championship going down to the wire: The 2022 competition has been the best edition since Argentina joined the Tri-Nations in 2012with each side being considered in the title race at some point. Los Pumas has shown tremendous growth as mixed results across the board show the gap has narrowed between the Southern Hemisphere’s finest. As things stand, South Africa and New Zealand are best placed to push for the title, and it will all come down to the final round next week.


Mathieu Raynal: Funnily enough, not for the final and most crucial decision, which has divided opinion, as having reviewed the footage, it is quite clear that Bernard Foley got it badly wrong. In fact, it was probably Raynal’s best call of the night as the previous 79 minutes were littered with inconsistencies. We don’t like criticising officials and Raynal is still a very good referee, but the Frenchman had a bad evening. It was almost inevitable that it was going to end in a controversial call, even if he technically got it right.

Bernard Foley: He pleaded his innocence to Raynal during the game and then to the press after the match, but the evidence is pretty damning. Irrespective of whether he thought the referee was being harsh in asking him to hurry up, he quite frankly didn’t listen to him. Even Foley’s own team-mates were imploring him to kick, so he only has himself to blame. It was unfortunate as the fly-half was having a very good game up to that point, but these are the big moments you have to get right.

Darcy Swain’s disappointing act: What was going through the Wallaby second-row’s mind when he clattered into Quinn Tupaea’s knee at a ruck we don’t know, but his initial punishment was a yellow card before he was later cited for his indiscretion. On the back of a headbutt on England lock Jonny Hill during their Test series in July, one would have thought Swain would be keeping a low profile with offences, but unfortunately for head coach Dave Rennie that wasn’t the case. He’ll need to clean up his act or risk being left out by Rennie moving forward.

Bath battered again: Johann van Graan came in to improve every aspect of the West Country outfit, but he was particularly charged with giving them some steel. They lacked a backbone last season and were far too soft, making it far too easy for their opponents. Against Bristol in Round One, the signs were initially promising, but they folded under pressure late on and then followed that up with an abject display on Saturday. Against 14 men for 70 minutes, they had a great opportunity to beat an impressive Sale Sharks outfit, but Van Graan’s men were simply overwhelmed by the visitors, eventually succumbing 37-20. There was a complete lack of leadership throughout the squad and it appears as though they are set for another difficult campaign.

Disappointing Dragons: It was a start to forget for Dean Ryan’s men as they lost 44-6 to a rampant Edinburgh side. Such a big loss in the opening round does not make for good reading for the Dragons, who struggled in last season’s URC and Ryan will be greatly concerned after getting absolutely no footing in the game with only two penalties to show after the full 80 minutes. The Welsh region appeared to recruit well ahead of the 2022/23 campaign but they were awful on Saturday. Ryan then criticised his players post-match in a pretty brutal interview.

Passing of a commentating great: The tributes have poured in following the death of former Wales captain and broadcasting legend Eddie Butler, who passed away last Thursday during a trek in Peru which had been organised to raise money for prostate cancer research. His on-field qualities transferred beautifully to the microphone and it wasn’t just rugby union that his dulcet tones pricked the ears but he also impressed on Olympic Games duty, with countless epic voiceovers also making him a household name in viewers’ front rooms. Close colleagues such as former England hooker Brian Moore have been devastated by the news and our thoughts are with all who knew him.

READ MORE: Sunday Social: Rugby mourns passing of icon Eddie Butler and Bernard Foley’s costly error