A bit later than usual, but Stuart Barnes is back with his weekend talking points, as discusses Bryan Habana, the European semi-finals and Dylan Hartley amongst more...
First of all sorry about the delay. An irritating case of man flu has laid me low but there's only so much time a man can wallow in his own sympathies so let's give it a go between the coughing and spluttering...
1. Bryan Habana has retired. With 67 test tries to his name he leads the way amongst the traditional powers of the game.
His strike rate doesn't stand up to comparison with All Black wings of recent years but imagine if he had been born in Wellington? Anyway, his game was about so much more than finishing (and he was an outstanding finisher). His work rate, his chase game, his defence and kicking were all of a high quality.
He may have peaked in the 2007 World Cup - when voted IRB world player of the year despite the claims of Fourie du Preez - but he remained a main man for South Africa, scoring a superb try in the second Test to help seal a series victory against the Lions in 2009.
In 2007, he scored an 82nd-minute try to win Super Rugby for the Bulls, an achievement emulated two years later. In Europe, he won the Top 14, a Heineken Cup (as it was) and a Champions Cup in the colours of Toulon. This, it is fair to say, was a great rugby career.
2. Greatness was a word associated with the Leinster squad that won three European Cups including one successful defence. Their current team are on course to merit comparison.Cardiff Blues seal their place in the Challenge Cup final after beating Pau 16-10
8. Was it my feverish imagination at play or was Dylan Hartley ruled out of the forthcoming England tour of South Africa...
It is a blow for the hooker but another opportunity for Jones to stress the importance of development over results and do what England have failed to achieve for a while and improve the team without being held back by fear of failure...or maybe it was my fevered brain?
9. All sorts of final day angles in the PRO14. The Scarlets should have no problem with the desperately disappointing Dragons but the nature of the loss in Dublin could have repercussions. Make no mistake, the Welsh side believed in their chances and were duly dispatched. They will have suffered severe psychological blows.
Were Edinburgh to record a bonus-point win against Glasgow, the defending champions would have to win with a bonus point to stay above Edinburgh courtesy of Cockerill's team's extra win. The runners up in this conference face the Cheetahs at home - currently the Scarlets - third place plays Munster away. There's quite a difference in those fixtures.
Munster are assured of second and play Ulster. To compound the complicated end game, if Ulster win with a bonus point in Limerick, Edinburgh would miss out on the playoff's if Glasgow leave them empty handed. It might yet turn into quite some final day.
April 28, 2018, 5:15pm
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10. And how about Leicester versus Newcastle? If Dean Richards' ploy of resting some of his stars and throwing the Challenge Cup semi at Gloucester pays off, his old club will miss out on the playoff's for the first time in...what is it...10 years? It all feels a little like a revenge tragedy, don't you think?