Who’s hot and who’s not!

Date published: June 1 2020

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!

Crusaders hotshot stays put: The Christchurch-based outfit lost a number of important players following their 2019 Super Rugby campaign, but it is no doubt positive that they have been able to keep hold of the next generation. While Sam Whitelock, Ryan Crotty, Owen Franks and Kieran Read provided much-needed experience, there were players waiting in the wings and learning from those old heads. Braydon Ennor was one of those and Crotty’s departure has allowed him to feature more in his best position at centre. Ennor has now agreed a new deal and will no doubt play a big part for the franchise and the All Blacks over the next few years.

Leinster scrapping 2020/21 season tickets: When announcing this decision, Leinster’s CEO, Mick Dawson, did not beat around the bush and said: “The consequences of the pandemic and implications for Leinster Rugby and our loyal supporters are significant. Our public health obligations to all of our stakeholders are key as we seek to plot the return of Leinster Rugby.” Leinster must be commended for taking this decision as it obviously wasn’t an easy one, but shows the real extent of the current crisis caused by Covid-19 and how seriously they are taking the situation. Leinster deserve much credit for putting the safety of supporters above profits – they are also refunding matchday tickets for this season’s Saracens, Munster, Zebre and Cardiff Blues games – and more clubs are expected to follow their lead.

The Force awakens: After a three-year absence, the Perth-based outfit will resume hostilities against their Australian rivals – the Waratahs, Brumbies, Reds and Rebels – after agreeing to participate in their country’s proposed one-off, domestic-based competition later this year. Rugby Australia are set to confirm the 2020 tournament and announce full details shortly, with kick-off expected in early July. The new competition gives the Force an opportunity to revive their fortunes and also allows them to stake a claim for their rightful place in Australian rugby. By doing well against their traditional adversaries, the Force could also prove that it was a mistake to axe them from Super Rugby at the end of the 2017 season, a decision that did not go down well in Perth.

BROKEN THERMOSTAT

World Rugby law trials: Anything that the respective governing bodies can do to reduce the risk of transmission of the coronavirus is a positive and World Rugby have introduced 10, presumably temporary, law trials as leagues begin to plan for a season restart. They include no reset scrums, removing the choke tackle and orange cards for some high tackle offences. The laws are optional and do not have to be implemented, which is why the Premiership and the New Zealand Rugby Union have decided against adopting them. It is an admirable idea in principle but, in a game as claustrophobic as rugby union, it seems a rather pointless exercise.

COLD AS ICE!

End of an era for George Kruis: After months of speculation, it was revealed last week that the second-row has decided to leave English rugby to take up a contract in Japan. Kruis was a key part of the Saracens set-up and enjoyed a trophy-laden time at the club, being part of a squad that won five Premiership titles and three Champions Cups. His form saw him called up to the Red Rose squad and he won his first cap in 2014, where he would become a mainstay in the 23. He was not as physically gifted as some of his competitors for the position but the Sarries man was an excellent lineout operator and England will miss his presence and intelligence in the set-piece.

Connacht player exodus: With the coronavirus pandemic wreaking financial havoc to professional clubs around the world, news of players leaving the Irish province was not surprising. However, losing 12 players from their senior squad should have a big impact on Connacht’s fortunes when they eventually return to action. The exit of seasoned campaigners like Eoin McKeon, Niyi Adeolokun and Darragh Leader, who have all been at Connacht since the start of their professional careers, was surprising as were the departures of Wallaby Kyle Godwin, fellow Australian Colby Fainga’a and veteran New Zealander Tom McCartney, who has retired. The loss of so many experienced players leaves Connacht head coach Andy Friend with a difficult task of rebuilding and don’t be surprised if they struggle when the game resumes.

The Coronavirus Cup: Former Rugby Football Union chief executive Francis Baron’s idea of a major international tournament to be held in 2021 to ease the financial impact of the coronavirus crisis was swiftly shot down by World Rugby and rightly so. It was set to be called the ‘Coronavirus Cup of World Rugby’ – involving a 16-team invitational tournament to be held in the UK and Ireland next June and July, using the 2015 World Cup hosted by England as a template. With the British & Irish Lions set to be in South Africa at the same time, it just would not work and frankly that proposed name lacks a touch of class to us. You?

Women’s game loses significant sponsor: There was some bad news for the English Women’s game last week when Tyrrells – a manufacturer of potato crisps owned by KP Snacks – confirmed it was ending its sponsorship of the Premier XVs in August. This brings to an end a three-year deal with the company and leaves Women’s rugby in the country without one of its key backers. The Rugby Football Union released a statement saying it is “actively exploring new partners” as a replacement for Tyrrells but with Covid-19 impacting purse strings, it will be a tough deal to sell for a tournament that still does not have a restart date.