Who’s hot and who’s not: Springboks’ homecoming, death threats and paywalls

David Skippers
Springboks scrum-half Faf de Klerk and referee Wayne Barnes during the Rugby World Cup.

Springboks scrum-half Faf de Klerk and referee Wayne Barnes during the Rugby World Cup.

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.


Alun Wyn Jones impresses: The Wales and British and Irish Lions legend showed that he still has what it takes to do well at Test level as he delivered an outstanding all-round performance in the colours of the Barbarians against his home nation at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff on Saturday. Although Wales sealed a 40-26 win, it was not through a lack of effort from the 38-year-old who emptied the tank in his final international appearance. Jones maintained his high standards throughout the encounter, with his efforts rewarded with a well-taken try in the 49th minute, and afterwards, he walked off with the official player-of-the-match award.

Springboks‘ homecoming: There were wild scenes of celebration in South Africa over these past few days as the country’s citizens showed plenty of affection to the Springboks after they arrived home following their triumphant Rugby World Cup campaign in France. The celebrations started when the squad arrived at OR Tambo airport last Tuesday and continued over the rest of the week as the four-time champions went on victory parades through the cities of Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban and East London.

Saracens’ England stars: Although they were still involved at the Rugby World Cup in France just over a week ago, Sarries’ Red Rose contingent returned to action in the Premiership at the weekend and played a big part in helping their club to clinch a 32-17 victory over Leicester Tigers at StoneX Stadium on Saturday. Saracens had made a poor start to their 2023/24 campaign after losing to Exeter Chiefs and Bath but bounced back with a Round Three win at Gloucester. However, with the likes of captain Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje, Ben Earl, Billy Vunipola and Jamie George all returning to action, Sarries were close to full strength and they helped their club to a deserved victory.

Tyrone Green’s finish: The Harlequins flyer caught the eye with an early Try of the Season contender during his side’s runaway 40-12 triumph over Newcastle Falcons at Twickenham Stoop on Saturday. As the scoreline suggests, Quins were the dominant side for long periods, but the 25-year-old left his stamp on the match in the 74th minute when he timed his run perfectly to gather a cross-field kick from Marcus Smith, before putting in a spectacular dive. Green still had work to do but did well to stay in-field and dotted down for his incredible score.

Connacht keep winning: The Irish province continued with their excellent start to the 2023/24 United Rugby Championship (URC) campaign when they clinched a hard-fought 22-20 victory over Ulster at the Sportsground on Saturday. Pete Wilkins’ troops had to dig deep for their win as their opponents dominated the early exchanges and held a 20-3 lead by the 42nd minute. However, Connacht responded with an impressive fightback and clinched the result courtesy of second-half tries from Cathal Forde, Tom Farrell and Diarmuid Kilgallen. This was Connacht’s third successive URC win, and it means they are sitting pretty atop the table, one point ahead of the defending champions, Munster.


Ongoing Eddie Jones saga: Australia’s former head coach seemed to be losing the plot as he tried to defend his decision to omit experienced players like ex-Wallabies skipper and back-row Michael Hooper and fly-half duo Quade Cooper and Bernard Foley from his squad for the recent Rugby World Cup. In an interview with former Wallaby Peter FitzSimons of the Sydney Morning Herald, Jones said the veteran trio were not the right role models for the team at the global showpiece in France. Hooper opted not to respond to Jones’ jibe, but Cooper hit back at the criticism, saying that he views winning and success through preparation.

Dan Biggar injury worry: We very much hope the former Wales fly-half has a speedy recovery after he pulled up when attempting a conversion. On the day his ex-team-mates Alun Wyn Jones, Justin Tipuric and Leigh Halfpenny said their goodbyes to the Welsh crowd, Biggar was playing for Toulon in the Top 14. He had made a good start when, after just 10 minutes, his cross-field was collected and finished by France international Charles Ollivon. However, when lining up to take the extras, as he moved towards the ball, he clutched his back and fell to the floor in significant pain. Hopefully it’s not as serious as it looked and he can return to the field soon.

Wayne Barnes death threats: What is wrong with people? Unfortunately, online abuse is becoming more and more common, and once again, the English referee was subjected to death threats following the Rugby World Cup final. This, despite the match official and the rest of his team having an excellent game in very trying circumstances. The showpiece event was not an easy game to referee, but he did a fine job and does not deserve the criticism he is receiving from those in New Zealand. The only crime, it seemed, was that the clash was so tight that these people, therefore, had to blame someone. Barnes has since announced his retirement from the game and, in his statement, announced that he is looking to help combat online abuse, which we fully support.

Lions behind paywall: It was perhaps inevitable that Sky Sports would pick up the rights for the next British and Irish Lions tour, given their long-standing association with the tour, but it is still disappointing that it is not on terrestrial in the United Kingdom. Alongside the Rugby World Cup, the Lions is the pinnacle for the Home Nations, where special moments are created. Channel Four, which is free-to-air, had the highlights in 2021, but in an ideal world, the Tests would also be available to the whole country.

Api Ratuniyarawa absence: Being called up to the Barbarians squad is usually a fond memory, but the veteran Fiji second-row will want to forget his stint with the famous team in a hurry. Ratuniyarawa appeared in court on a sexual assault charge just hours before the Baa-baas’ clash with Wales. The 37-year-old faces three alleged incidents which is said to have occurred at a bar in Cardiff while he was on a night out with his fellow Barbarians’ players. He was released on bail and will appear at Cardiff Crown Court on December 4.

READ MORE: State of the Nation: Can Ireland rebuild after more Rugby World Cup misery?