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 over the past week.
THEY’RE ON FIRE!
Scott Robertson and Crusaders: Another superb season for the New Zealanders who secured back-to-back titles after a dominant 37-18 triumph over the Lions in Christchurch. They suffered just two defeats during the regular season and are currently on a run of 15 consecutive victories. Roberson’s men were simply sensational on Saturday, dominating the forward confrontations and controlling the game behind the scrum, with the impressive Richie Mo’unga once again superb. Following Damian McKenzie’s inconsistency in the fly-half jersey, Mo’unga must surely be the back-up pivot for the upcoming Rugby Championship, while their head coach could well be in the running to be the next All Blacks boss.
Mario Ledesma: He was the favourite for the job following Daniel Hourcade’s departure, but it was finally announced last week that the legendary Argentina front-row will be the next Los Pumas head honcho. After coaching roles at Stade Français, Montpellier, Waratahs and Australia, Ledesma took charge of the Jaguares and has impressed in his first year. The former hooker guided them to seventh in the table as the franchise reached the play-offs for the first time since their inception. It is thoroughly deserved and it will be interesting to see how they go in the Rugby Championship.
Chris Ashton: When the wing moved to Toulon, it seemed as though his England days were over but, after impressing for Toulon, there was the inevitable clamour for Eddie Jones to recall the former Saracens man. A move to Sale Sharks in the Premiership has duly followed and Ashton has been rewarded by being named in England’s 44-man training squad. While it doesn’t mean he will feature in definitely November, a good start to the campaign with the Sharks will put him firmly in contention for the end-of-year series.
"Chris is an exceptional player, I think we have seen with his form at Saracens, then at Toulon he has played exceedingly well."
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) August 2, 2018
Rhys Webb: The 29-year-old made his long-awaited debut for his new club, Toulon, and hit the ground running with a superb all-round performance in a 38-26 victory over fellow Top 14 side Stade Français in a pre-season friendly at Stade Mayol on Friday. The Wales scrum-half caught the eye with his sniping breaks which kept Stade’s defenders busy and combined brilliantly with France U20 fly-half Louis Carbonel. Webb provided a slick service to Carbonel and apart from crossing the whitewash, also turned provider as he set the youngster up for a five-pointer of his own.
Absoulutly honoured to make my debut for @RCTofficiel last night. It’s been a tough pre season and was good to put all the practice together last night and get the win.Plenty to work on but it’s only the beginning #alleztoulon 🔴⚫️
— Rhys Webb (@RhysWebb_9) August 4, 2018
PRO14 move to Celtic Park: The decision by PRO14 organisers to host their tournament’s 2018/19 final at the iconic football venue deserves praise as it is a bold and historic decision which has been met with plenty of positivity from all quarters. The PRO14’s marquee match on May 25, 2019 at the iconic football venue, which has a capacity of 60,832, should be a great spectacle as it is a good ground for atmosphere.
— PRO14 RUGBY (@PRO14Official) July 30, 2018
COLD AS ICE!
Run Wallaby, run: It is going to be a tough couple of months for Matt Toomua and Tatafu Polota-Nau. News broke on Sunday that the Wallaby duo would have to fly back to club side Leicester Tigers during their off weeks from the Rugby Championship. The rest weeks coincide with rounds 1 and 4 of the Premiership, which means plenty of air miles in the legs for the duo. While the Tigers have every right to call them back, it’s far from an ideal situation for the players and another reason why Michael Cheika continues to work to bring all Wallabies home.
Lions’ experienced players: You can’t doubt their endeavour or resilience, they battled hard throughout in the final on Saturday, but their leaders did not really come to the fore. A lot of credit obviously goes to the Crusaders for that but Malcolm Marx, who has enjoyed another outstanding season, was largely anonymous, while captain Warren Whiteley and key playmaker Elton Jantjies struggled to impact on the game, making numerous mistakes. You also wonder whether they have lost their chance to win a Super Rugby title in the foreseeable future with Franco Mostert, Ruan Dreyer, Jaco Kriel and Jacques van Rooyen following Rohan Janse van Rensburg out of the franchise. Can they rebuild ahead of the 2019 campaign?
— Xerox Golden Lions (@LionsRugbyCo) August 4, 2018
Jeff Hassler decision: The Canadian international winger has decided to put his career on hold at the relatively young age of 26. Hassler left the Ospreys at the end of last season, after a five-year spell at the Welsh region, and has since had a trial with Premiership outfit Harlequins but has now opted to take a step back from the game to pursue other interests, with a Walesonline report suggesting that Hassler plans to embark on a sailing course. It will be a shame if he walks away from rugby but we wish him everything of the best as it is his decision of course and hopefully he returns to the game sooner rather than later.
Warrick Gelant and Jordan Taufua: Both are on the fringes of international selection but received bad news last weekend after they were ruled out for lengthy periods. Taufua has been excellent once again in 2018 but suffered a broken arm during the Crusaders’ semi-final clash against the Hurricanes. Gelant, meanwhile, has had to undergo shoulder surgery which will keep him sidelined for several months. It is very unfortunate for two players who would have been looking to stake their claim for game time in the Rugby Championship.