Who's hot and who's not: Premiership thrills on the field but in turmoil off it

Who’s hot and who’s not: Premiership thrills on the field but in turmoil off it

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.


Premiership responds on the field: There’s no getting away from the fact it’s been a nightmare few weeks for English’s rugby’s flagship league, not least for Worcester Warriors and Wasps. It was therefore pleasing to see the product deliver on the field over the weekend, with Saturday providing three outstanding games of rugby that saw heaps of points and plenty of drama unfold. Gloucester beat Bristol Bears 31-28, Northampton won 32-31 against Newcastle Falcons while Saracens overcame Bath 37-31, with Sale Sharks having seen off London Irish 37-14 on Friday.

Milestone game for Sarah Hunter: The England legend won her 137th cap against France on Saturday, equalling Rocky Clark’s record as joint top appearance maker for the country. An already historic occasion for Hunter was then made even sweeter when she captained the Red Roses to a 13-7 triumph in their second pool match of the World Cup. They controlled much of the fixture and held a 10-0 advantage when the number eight went off. Although Emily Scarratt increased their lead with a penalty soon after, the English struggled in the latter stages without Hunter on the field, which shows just how much influence she has. Now level with Clark, next week she’ll be out on her own.

Sale Sharks’ best start for 18 years: For the first time since the 2004/05 season the Greater Manchester outfit have won their opening five matches of the Premiership campaign. The Sharks’ dominant 37-14 triumph over London Irish secured their fifth win in succession and briefly moved them to the top of the table, prior to Saracens beating Bath on Saturday. Following a frustrating season in 2021/22, director of rugby Alex Sanderson appears to have found the magic formula this time around. Sale have always been physical and intense but they have now found a consistent threat with ball in hand. You wonder how much the influence new fly-half George Ford has on that, despite not yet taking to the field. The England fly-half has one of the best rugby brains around and it is interesting to see the contrast between Sale and Leicester – his former club – at the start of this season. While quick to silence title talk from journalists, Sanderson must fancy his chances.

Landmark win for Fiji: For the first time in their history, the Pacific Islanders won a match at the Women’s Rugby World Cup after beating South Africa 21-17 in Auckland. It was a tight match throughout but Fijiana edged to a historic victory as Karalaini Naisewa touched down in the dying moments of the contest. It is tough on the South Africans, who battled throughout, but it is a wonderful weekend for Fijian rugby. The women’s game continues to develop in the country – their Sevens side is among the best in the world – and this will only help that progression.

Wellington cruising to NPC final: Heading to the southern hemisphere now and it was an outstanding performance from Wellington in their NPC semi-final against Auckland on Friday. The hosts ran out 54-19 winners as the likes of Du’Plessis Kirifi, Jackson Garden-Bachop, Riley Higgins and Ruben Love all caught the eye with solid individual performances, but a note too on how much this Wellington side seem to be singing from the same hymn sheet, which should stand them in good stead against Canterbury in this weekend’s final in Christchurch.


Premiership in turmoil: Following the recent liquidation and suspension of Worcester Warriors there was more turbulence in the English game with the news that Wasps were forced to withdraw from this weekend’s encounter against Exeter and an admittance that they are likely to go into administration. Wasps have a debt totalling £35 million stemming from their relocation to Coventry from London in 2014. That debt must be repaid or refinanced and the club has been looking to get insolvency experts in to help with their financial issues. Wasps are one of England’s most famous clubs, who won the Heineken Cup twice and Challenge Cup once on the European stage and have lifted the Premiership trophy four times so it would be a sobering moment if they were to follow Worcester in being axed from the top flight.

Dismal northern hemisphere tour for Bulls: A perfect September seems a long time ago for Jake White’s team as their opening three wins to the URC season have been soured somewhat by back-to-back defeats on their travels north. Last week they came unstuck against Glasgow Warriors, going down 35-21, before on Saturday they were dominated by Munster at Thomond Park. The Irish province came into the game in indifferent form and many expected the Bulls to possibly capitalise on this. However, they were completely outplayed in Limerick as they suffered a 31-17 defeat to send them to Italy with their tails between their legs. They will hope to get things right on Friday against Benetton.

Claude Atcher’s France 2023 regime: With the kick off for next year’s Rugby World Cup less than a year away, news of the sacking of that tournament’s chief executive has come as a shock but it looks like the right decision was made. Atcher was initially suspended in August after accusations over his behaviour and management style, and an investigation was launched by the French Labour Inspectorate. That organisation released a report last week and the findings were damning on Atcher saying he oversaw an “extremely degraded social environment” at the organising committee. Julien Collette, Atcher’s former deputy general director, has been named as the new chief executive for France 2023.

Injury concerns rack up for Wales: The treatment table is becoming a little crowded for Wales ahead of the Autumn Nations Series as this week alone we saw fly-half Dan Biggar, wing Josh Adams and flanker Taine Basham become doubts for their opening game against New Zealand on November 5. Liam Williams, Leon Brown and Owen Lane are already ruled out for November while several others are concerns, which will worry head coach Wayne Pivac. Biggar is to see a specialist regarding a knee injury while Cardiff’s Adams (wrist) and Dragons’ Basham (elbow) were both hurt during their United Rugby Championship clash on Saturday. Wales will hope for positive news for the trio.

Weak Cardiff statement over pub incident: The Welsh region concluded an investigation into an incident at The Grange Pub in the Welsh capital on October 1, but it wasn’t very satisfactory. It is alleged that players threatened the bar manager and also threw eggs at tables and on the floor, behaviour which is not expected of any human being, let along a professional rugby player. However, the statement released by Cardiff was vague. It did not name the players involved, nor did it divulge what specifically happened at the pub. There was lack of transparency and the supporters were understandably not happy.

READ MORE: Sunday Social: Women’s Rugby World Cup continues and Michael Hooper returns

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