Who’s hot and who’s not: Steve Borthwick takes over England reins while Bernard Laporte’s career in ruins

Adam Kyriacou
Who's hot and who's not image 19 December 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.


Steve Borthwick: The inevitable happened today when Borthwick was unveiled as the new England head coach, this after a few weeks of discussions and negotiations with his club Leicester Tigers. Borthwick’s reputation has grown and grown since he took over at Tigers and turned them from strugglers into Premiership champions, playing some exciting rugby in the process. Now he’ll return to the England set-up, but this time in the hot-seat as he attempts to turn around the Red Rose, with a Six Nations looming large and World Cup thereafter.

Luke Cowan-Dickie: The England international came into Exeter Chiefs’ run-on side for their Champions Cup encounter against the Bulls and showed his class as he scored a deserved hat-trick in the Premiership outfit’s 44-14 triumph. The Montpellier-bound hooker showed the Sandy Park faithful what they will be missing as he hit the ground running and took the fight to the team from Pretoria. The 29-year-old scored his first try off the back of a lineout drive after just 16 minutes before crossing the whitewash again just after the hour-mark. Early in the second half, the Exeter Chiefs captain took a tap penalty deep inside the Bulls’ 22 and powered past three defenders to seal his hat-trick.

Munster’s defence: That was some defensive effort from Munster at Franklin’s Gardens on Sunday as they kept Northampton at bay. The 17-6 victory was a classic wet-weather win from Graham Rowntree’s men as the visitors did the basics well, took the points when they were on offer and barged over thanks to two Gavin Coombes tries. Most crucially though, Munster’s defence was rock solid as time and again in the second half they frustrated Northampton, who had the try-line at their mercy. No wonder Rowntree was delighted with this showing.

Fin Baxter: That was some performance from the 20-year-old loosehead prop against Racing 92 as his first Champions Cup start ended in victory and a Star of the Match award to boot. The help he must be getting from the likes of Joe Marler, Wilco Louw and coach Adam Jones on a daily basis is clearly helping progress his game, with his switch from tighthead paying dividends. What a great character Baxter is too.

Ospreys: Few predicted this result as the Welsh region beat Montpellier 21-10, in Montpellier on Saturday evening. Captain Justin Tipuric described the win as “among our best in Europe”, which shows just where it ranks as they improved on last week’s narrow loss to Leicester. This victory ended a run of 12 Champions Cup games without a win and was their first triumph in France since beating Bourgoin in 2008.


Gloucester: The Cherry and Whites’ head coach George Skivington tried to put a positive spin on his side’s 57-0 thrashing against Leinster by praising his young players’ fighting spirit but, if truth be told, there was nothing to write home about for Gloucester, who looked out of their depth against the Irish outfit. Although Skivington said he had no regrets about fielding a B-team – as he rested most of his first choice players for their upcoming Premiership clash at Leicester Tigers – one can’t help but feel that Gloucester have devalued the Champions Cup by naming a second-string side. Some will point to player welfare but it’s such a shame that fans are denied a spectacle due to team selection.

Sebastien Piqueronies: The Pau head coach has been handed a 10-week suspension after he was involved in an angry confrontation with referee Sam Grove-White after his side suffered a 21-16 home defeat in their Challenge Cup pool opener against the Cheetahs. Piqueronies accosted Scottish official Grove-White in an aggressive manner at the end of the match, grabbing the match referee by his hand. As part of his defence, Piqueronies said he was trying to shake the referee’s hand but his claim was dismissed by the EPCR disciplinary committee on Thursday who found the head coach guilty of using threatening words and actions towards a referee and subsequently suspended him.

Ulster venue change: The decision to move Ulster’s game against La Rochelle from Kingspan Stadium to Dublin’s Aviva Stadium did not go down well with head coach Dan McFarland and one imagines their supporters. Instead of a packed venue in Belfast, the match took place behind closed doors in Ireland due to a frozen pitch. McFarland, however, believes their home ground would have been playable due to the change in weather overnight as well as the work staff had put in on the surface. Ulster’s head coach said the “decision was taken away from us” on Friday and alas there was no home ground atmosphere as La Rochelle raced into a 29-0 lead at half-time and eventually won 36-29.

Champions and Challenge Cup strugglers: Although both tournaments are still in their early stages, there are some teams who have found the going tough and are languishing at the bottom of their respective tables without any points in the standings after two rounds. In the Champions Cup, Castres are bringing up the rear in Pool A after successive losses to Exeter and Edinburgh while Northampton are in a similar situation in Pool B following their defeats to La Rochelle and Munster. It’s a similar situation for Newcastle Falcons, Perpignan and Bayonne in the Challenge Cup with the latter club in the worst position after suffering a humiliating 45-7 reversal at home against Benetton.

Worcester Warriors’ rescue deal: Wasps’ takeover was given the green light by the RFU this week, but Worcester weren’t as fortunate as the governing body rejected Atlas Worcester Warriors Rugby Club Ltd’s bid. The consortium led by the club’s former chief executive Jim O’Toole refused to meet the conditions set by the RFU, namely not disposing of the land around the stadium and swift payment of creditors.

Bernard Laporte: The president of the French Rugby Federation (FFR) was found guilty of corruption on Tuesday, which resulted in him receiving a two-year suspended prison sentence and a 75,000 euro (£64,000) fine, and the week didn’t get any better for the former France head coach. Shortly after the verdict, Laporte stepped down from his World Rugby vice-chairman role while pressure mounts from the FFR ethics committee, who have served Laporte with an injunction, insisting he vacates his position as the organisation’s president.

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