Who’s hot and who’s not: New Zealand break down over officiating, incredible turnout in Tours and Bastien Chalureau controversy

 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.


12,000 turn up for Ireland: Andy Farrell’s troops received a rapturous welcome from a crowd of 12,000 spectators at the Stade de la Vallée du Cher in Tours on Saturday morning. Although Ireland’s squad could not hold a proper training session due to a fungus on the pitch, that did not deter the locals who joined the players in doing the Viking Thunder Clap, which was made famous by the Iceland football team during Euro 2016. The players also posed for photos with several of their delighted supporters at the ground. It showed the passion the French have for rugby and built the excitement before the action truly begins.

Dan Sheehan update: There was some good news for Ireland supporters after Farrell revealed that the foot injury suffered by Ireland’s first choice hooker in the Rugby World Cup warm-up match against England last month is not as bad as initially feared. That will be a real boost for the men from the Emerald Isle, who were genuinely fearing a hooker crisis ahead of the global showpiece as Ronan Kelleher has also been sidelined through injury. However, both players are close to full fitness and could be available to play in their opening match of the tournament against Romania in Bordeaux on September 9.

Three from three for Stade Francais: The Parisian outfit have made a statement of intent in the Top 14 by winning their first three matches in France’s top flight. Gonzalo Quesada’s troops got their campaign off to the perfect start by clinching a 29-7 away victory against Perpignan in their tournament opener before notching a 28-18 win over Oyonnax at home in Round Two. They were back at their Stade Jean-Bouin home this past weekend and continued their excellent start to the season as they cruised to a deserved 24-9 victory over Montpellier.

Surprise names lead Top 14: That hat-trick of victories means Stade Francais are sitting pretty at the top of the league standings – an improvement on their final position from the 2021/22 season when they finished their campaign in fourth place ahead of the tournament’s knockout rounds. However, what is surprising is the teams who occupy second and third positions on the table with Pau and Castres leading the chasing pack. This, after both clubs finished amongst the also-rans at the end of last season. Castres ended that campaign in ninth place while Pau struggled for most of the season and eventually finished in 12th spot. They are perhaps taking advantage of this unique season, which sees the more established teams without their Rugby World Cup stars for the start of the campaign.


New Zealand break down over officiating: It is not unsurprising when a team complains about the refereeing after a loss but the sheer bleating from the pundits on The Breakdown after the defeat to South Africa was staggering. Let’s be honest, there was nothing from an officiating standpoint that deserved the amount of scrutiny it received from All Blacks greats Jeff Wilson, John Kirwan and Mils Muliaina. Referee Matthew Carley had a fine game while their issues with the bunker system were completely wide of the mark. They stated that it slowed the game down but, in fact, it was quite the opposite as it allowed Carley to quickly hand Scott Barrett a yellow card and get on with the game. As for their insinuation that Malcolm Marx feigned an injury, well quite frankly, we’re not even going to dignify that with a response. Let’s hope Ian Foster and co. are not so fixated on the officiating and instead focus on the things they can control, otherwise their World Cup dreams will be dashed.

Bastien Chalureau revelations and selection: Fabien Galthie’s decision to call up Chalureau as an injury replacement for Paul Willemse has raised controversy after a conviction for a racially motivated attack came to light. Although Chalureau has appealed the verdict and has always denied the racial element of it, his selection has come under increasing scrutiny. Obviously, the case is still ongoing but plenty have come out against Galthie’s call, including France legend Thierry Dusautoir.

Injuries mounting up for France: On the subject of Willemse, he became the latest player to be ruled out for France following injuries to Romain Ntamack, Jonathan Danty and Cyril Baille. Although Danty and Baille should play a part in the tournament, Ntamack and the South African-born second-row will not. They are big players for Les Bleus to lose and their absence may prove crucial in their quest for the World Cup title. Certainly in Willemse’s case, he offers pure power in the tighter exchanges, something Cameron Woki and Thibaud Flament don’t have. While Romain Taofifenua has that size, he is not in the same class as the Montpellier man, so his loss should not be underestimated.

Benjamin Urdapilleta’s shove: Credit to Ronan O’Gara, who remained calm despite being pushed by the Clermont Auvergne fly-half during their Top 14 clash on Saturday. Urdapilleta took exception to the La Rochelle boss as the ball hit his head when it had been kicked off the pitch. The Argentina pivot obviously felt O’Gara stood there on purpose to prevent the quick lineout but, in the 46-year-old’s defence, he barely moved from his position. Irrespective of the head coach’s intentions, it was not an acceptable response from the playmaker, who probably should have received a yellow card for his actions.

READ MORE: Fabien Galthie defends selecting convicted racist in Rugby World Cup squad

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