Who’s hot and who’s not: All Blacks new coaching addition, Bath top of the pile and more financial concerns

It’s time for our wrap of who has their name in lights and who is making the headlines for all the wrong reasons after the weekend.


The coaching staff is confirmed by Scott Robertson: The new All Blacks manager, Wayne Smith serving as the team’s performance coach, has been busy appointing his backroom personnel in anticipation of 2024. Rugby World Cup victories with the men’s squad in 2011 and 2015 and the women’s team in 2022 have been achieved by Smith, a talented rugby player. Tamati Ellison (skills), Scott Hansen (defense), Jason Holland (backs), Leon MacDonald (attack), and Jason Ryan (forwards coach) are among the gifted group of players. Robertson put together a very good group of coaches.


Bath go top at Christmas: It is a festive season to remember for Bath fans who headed to their Christmas parties on top of the pile following another brilliant performance against Harlequins on Saturday. The clash included an intriguing fly-half battle that saw Scottish maverick Finn Rusell get one over the magic Englishman Marcus Smith who, despite his best efforts, could not inspire a victory. It brings to mind the question; can Bath win the Premiership?


Stormers continue to dominate North-South derby: Even though the Bulls have had a significantly better start to the season, it was not to be against the Stormers who claimed their seventh win in a row against the Pretoria side. It was a classic derby that had all the drama, from disallowed tries to drop-goals out of nowhere. Ultimately, it was the sure-fire boot of Manie Libbok that won the game in front of 40,000-odd people in Cape Town.


Sale’s teenage powerhouse: He may only be 19 but Asher Opoku-Fordjour is already making a name for himself after a string of impressive displays for Sale Sharks. The tighthead, who played loosehead for the England U20 side earlier this year, has bettered every prop he has come up against this season. That includes Joe Marler, Andrew Porter and Stade Francais’ Clement Castets, while on Friday he added Mako Vunipola and Tom West to that group. It is rare for such a young player to be as proficient as he is in the set-piece at his age. Opoku-Fordjour’s power is obvious but his technique already seems sound, which makes him a very exciting prospect for English rugby. It will be fascinating to watch his development over the next few years.



RG Snyman transfer: The wildest transfer story of the year involved the towering Springboks lock, after his departure from Munster was confirmed in November. Bath emerged as a strong contender with reports suggesting Snyman would reunite with former coach Johann van Graan. Then the Stormers entered the race for his signature but, in the end, neither side would get it as Leinster pulled a late move on the Springbok, which he accepted due to his family being settled in Ireland. Some Munster fans aren’t happy after seeing the second-row sign for their biggest rivals and you can understand why, but equally you cannot really blame Snyman for the decision. After all, family rightly comes first.



Leicester disappoint in Exeter: After a good run of form from the Midlands outfit, which included a superb away triumph at Stade Francais the previous week, this was a poor way to follow that result up. They were never in the game against Exeter Chiefs, who completely dominated at Sandy Park and deservedly earned a 29-10 win. The Tigers appeared to be improving after a difficult start under new boss Dan McKellar, but Saturday’s Premiership result showed that there is still plenty of work to be done if Leicester are going to be challenging for silverware.


Rebels financial woes: More concerns for the financial side of rugby arose this week after the Melbourne Rebels reported they were in a whopping AU$9 million debt. Reports suggest that Rugby Australia cannot bail the team out but will do what they can to prevent the side from going under. Suggestions are that the cash-strapped side could merge with the Brumbies who are also in a financial predicament. With Australian rugby struggling after a dreadful year for the Wallabies, this is another concern for the sport in the country.


Alun Wyn Jones heart condition: The great Welsh second-row revealed this week that he has a heart condition after his medical at Toulon showed that he had atrial fibrillation. Jones admits he is very grateful for the opportunity in France as it may not have been picked up otherwise, while the most capped Test player in history also questioned whether enough is being done to protect players from such a situation. Everyone at Planet Rugby wishes Jones well as he enters the next stage of his life.


Injury to Jac Morgan: Keeping with the Wales theme, it was disappointing to learn that the flanker may miss the Six Nations due to an injury. Over the past few years, Morgan has been a bright spot for the Welsh, and he was a star at the 2017 Rugby World Cup as the team’s captain. It would be tragic if the 23-year-old were to miss the forthcoming competition because everyone wants to watch the best players in the major events.

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