In this week’s edition of ‘Who’s Hot and Who’s Not’, Rugby expert Matt Cassidy looks at the positives from the Barbarians vs Australia game as well as the negatives of the weekend’s action such as Ben Te’o’s injury and London Welsh losing.
Barbarians vs Australia
Both sides served up a cracking match at Twickenham on Saturday. The Wallabies, being coached by Michael Cheika, secured a 40-36 win over a brave but brilliant Barbarians outfit.
11 tries were scored as each team threw caution to the wind with each backline looking dangerous. The Barbarians fixture has come under scrutiny in the last few years for its lack of competitiveness and entertainment value. The same cannot be said for the weekend’s fixture. Rugby; how it should be played!
The Munster openside flanker was the hero for the Reds as he crossed the whitewash three minutes from time to steal victory at the Arms Park. Cardiff thought they had won the game when flyhalf, Gareth Davies, slotted a penalty to hand them a 24-21 lead. But Cashel man, Butler, had other ideas and his try handed Munster all four points and consolidated their place in the play-offs.
Reports of their demise have been greatly exaggerated. The Rouge et Noir lost five consecutive games for the first time ever under the tutelage of legendary coach, Guy Noves. Criticism was flying from all directions and there were even murmurs that Noves should step aside.
Five wins later and everything is rosy at the Stade Ernst Wallon. Lyon were on the end of the punishing defeat as Toulouse picked up a bonus point victory. Five tries from Maxime Médard, Vincent Clerc, Louis Picamoles, Timoci Matanavou and Yannick Nyanga earned the Toulousains a 41-17 win and moved them up to eight in the table.
Many may not know of the Bayonne fullback but it is likely many people will hear the name in a few days because of a certain interview. Spedding was born in South Africa but moved to France in 2008 to play for Brive. In 2012 he signed for Bayonne and has consistently produced performances for the Basque side.
He has embraced French culture, learning the language to fluency and becoming a French citizen at the start of the season. On Saturday, French channel, Canal+, caught the precise moment French selector, Patrice Lagisquet, informed Spedding that he was selected for the French squad. Spedding broke down in tears at the news.
Now this writer is not a fan of players representing other national teams; in fact it makes an absolute joke of the international game. But Spedding’s reaction shows what it means to some players to be chosen to represent their adopted country.
The South African-cum-Frenchman has done it the right way by becoming a French citizen and fully embracing the country’s culture. Perhaps the likes of Bundee Aki will take note!
So much was expected, but the big man brought in to replace Brian O’Driscoll, only lasted 19 minutes on Friday night before having to be taken off with a fractured forearm. Te’o needs surgery and is expected to be out for at least six weeks. Coach, Matt O’Connor just doesn’t seem able to catch a break!
It was not for anything the English referee did this week but the confirmation of the suspension of Toulon lock, Romain Taofifenua, for kicking Stuart Olding in the head at the Kingspan stadium will surely be an embarrassment to the official. The independent Judicial Officer, Christopher Quinlan, determined that the offence was reckless and warranted a red card. Barnes had the benefit of replays in Belfast last weekend yet he waved play on saying the lock had no case to answer. Another incorrect decision by a referee this season!
Different tournament, same result. The Exiles headed to the Rec to face a Bath side smarting from their two losses in Europe and the West Country duly handed out a 47-7 spanking to the Oxford side. What is even worse for Welsh is that it was Bath’s second string they were up against. The only positive for Justin Burrell’s men is that it was the LV Cup and not the league.
Les Jaunards made numerous changes for their clash with Bayonne and they were made to pay as they left the Basque county with nul points. The 24-13 loss allowed Stade Francais to close the gap at the top of the table. Maybe Clermont should think twice about resting key players before their next outing.
Matt Cassidy, Pundit Arena
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