Who’s hot and who’s not: Huge wins for Italy and Argentina, All Blacks duo star and Eddie Jones under pressure

 Credit: Alamy
Credit: Alamy

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!

Josh van der Flier and Ireland: The Leinster flanker has come a long way over the past couple of years. Van der Flier was always a very talented player that was excellent over the ball and superb defensively, but he has added to his game significantly. The 29-year-old is now an exceptional carrier and is never physically overwhelmed when confronted with the gargantuan packs in Test rugby. He played a key role in Ireland’s victory over the defending world champions which confirmed that Andy Farrell’s men are still heading in the right direction after their landmark series win over New Zealand.

Ardie Savea and Aaron Smith: These two were top drawer on Saturday as they helped inspire the All Blacks to a comfortable win over Wales in Cardiff. Savea continues to be a nightmare for opposition defences as he’s incredibly difficult to bring to ground and relished the tussle at the Principality Stadium, picking up the Player of the Match award. Smith wasn’t far behind in that race though as his two-try showing on the day he became the All Blacks’ most capped back was outstanding. Two excellent performances from two incredible talents.

Italy: We did not see that coming. Against a very talented Samoa outfit that recently won the Pacific Nations Cup, it looked a tough ask for the Azzurri, but they were absolutely outstanding in Padua. Kieran Crowley’s men, who ended their barren Six Nations run against Wales earlier this year, were superb in the first half and took the game away from the Pacific Islanders. They played some outstanding rugby and went into the break 28-0 ahead thanks to Juan Ignacio Brex, Pierre Bruno and Monty Ioane tries, with Tommy Allan and Paolo Garbisi adding three penalties. They impressively did not let up in the second period as Ioane, Lorenzo Cannone and Garbisi completed a stunning triumph. The clash with Australia next weekend will be tough but the display against Samoa was a step in the right direction.

Argentina: The South Americans have had quite the year in 2022. Following a record-breaking victory over Australia and a historic first win over the All Blacks in New Zealand, they sealed a rare triumph at Twickenham. Almost 16 years to the day since they last overcame the Red Rose in London, Los Pumas defeated the Red Rose once again. They tackled their hearts out, took their chances when they presented themselves and the superb Emiliano Boffelli kicked his goals. Another wonderful day for Argentinian rugby.

All Blacks XV dominate in Dublin: It was a hugely impressive showing from Leon MacDonald’s side as they excelled against Ireland ‘A’ at the RDS on Friday, winning 47-19 in a seven-try effort. Damian McKenzie and Shaun Stevenson stood out but there were several others who pressed their case to the senior All Blacks selectors. MacDonald was clearly delighted with his players in his full-time interview and rightly so as Stevenson once again showed – as he’s done on several occasions for the Maori All Blacks – that he belongs at the highest level.

Women’s Rugby World Cup finalists: It wasn’t easy, far from it, but England and New Zealand edged Canada and France respectively on Saturday to book their places in this weekend’s final. England won 26-19 with wing Abby Dow’s amazing try proving decisive against a dangerous Canadian outfit before the Black Ferns managed to sneak past France 25-24 in nervy fashion, with the visitors wayward with a late penalty goal that would have sealed victory. It was the final many pundits and fans had predicted before the tournament and now they have their wish, with the question now being can the Black Ferns end the Red Roses’ 30-game winning streak on the biggest stage there is?

COLD AS ICE!

Ben Youngs and Eddie Jones: The England head coach is renowned as being ruthless with his selectorial decisions but it is odd how some players only get one opportunity while others are handed a plethora of chances. Youngs is one player that Jones has stood by over the years despite much criticism and, when there were very few scrum-halves in the Premiership proving their worth, we could understand why. But now, there are several youngsters that appear to be of Test match quality. One such individual is Jack van Poortvliet, who came on for a vastly underperforming Youngs and shone in the defeat to Argentina. Van Poortvliet was one bright light in an otherwise dreadful display from England and it will be interesting to see what Jones does next. The Australian was already a man under pressure, with his team selections and game plan much scrutinised, and Sunday’s display did not help alleviate those concerns.

Wales: It was another dreadful performance from the Welsh against the All Blacks as their losing streak versus the three-time world champions was extended to 33. They were physically overwhelmed by Ian Foster’s men, who simply bullied their opponents in Cardiff on Saturday and romped to a dominant 55-23 victory. Although the Welsh did close the gap to six points at one stage, it never felt they were truly in the contest. A poor result and display for the under pressure head coach Wayne Pivac.

Ireland v Springboks attrition rate: It was a brutally physical contest in Dublin, which did lead to an enthralling and entertaining encounter, but it also came at a cost. Ireland saw three players depart to injury with Stuart McCloskey, Conor Murray and Tadhg Furlong all being replaced before the start of the second half. McCloskey’s was particularly cruel given that he had waited for so long to get his chance for the national team. Meanwhile, the Springboks had to replace Lood de Jager after the lock appeared to once again do damage to his shoulder. Hopefully the injuries are not too bad and we wish them all the best in their recovery.

Bristol Bears: After three victories to start the season – one which has since been scrapped because it was against Wasps – the West Country have lost five in a row. Following a poor campaign in 2021/22, many expected better from Bristol this time around but they have struggled over the past few games. Their defence has been porous and they are constantly being outmuscled. Perhaps giving Pat Lam a seven-year contract in 2021 was not the greatest idea.

Samoa and Fiji: As good as Italy were, Samoa were dreadful and it is a game they will want to get quickly. Despite fielding a talented team, including a fearsome back-row, they were beaten in every facet. It was an embarrassing display and they will need to improve quickly if they want to be a threat at the Rugby World Cup. The Flying Fijians were better in their clash with Scotland but they are still lacking in the fundamentals of the game. Gregor Townsend’s men were poor and there for the taking but, when you don’t have half-backs that can control a match or forwards that are proficient enough in scrum, lineout or maul, it makes it very difficult. Not a great weekend for the Pacific Islanders.

READ MORE: Josh van der Flier displays world-class credentials in outstanding effort against South Africa

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