LONDON, ENGLAND: Although focus was rightfully upon the match of the year taking place in Dublin, English clubs resumed their fight for the Aviva Premiership this weekend, as many England stars slotted seamlessly back into their sides for the eighth round of fixtures. This week, as every week, RugbyWrapUp has your Premiership Talking Points.
Eastmond Unnecessary as Bath Demolishes Wasps
Adams Park was nearly empty on a blustery Sunday, and the Wasps supporters who had made the trek could not have been pleased by the display put on by the home side. The scrum was a farce, the attacking, with a few notable exceptions, was unthreatening, and the side’s effort did them no credit. Dai Young was driven to apologize, stating “That was as low as it gets for me, because we let ourselves down.” Bath, on the other hand, will be pleased by their success without centre Kyle Eastmond. Eastmond made headlines for walking out on the side’s LV Cup victory last weekend, and did not return to the starting fifteen in time for the match against Wasps. Unfortunately for him, George Ford linked up just fine with his new outside option, and two tries from Semesa Rokoduguni put Bath on track for a bonus point victory. Eastmond will feature in Bath’s reserve side match against Sale, but for a man that was unhappy playing in the LV Cup, a seat in the reserves will be a bitter pill to swallow. Bath looks nailed on for a playoff spot at this point, secure in third place and with a scrum that looks as formidable as any in England. David Wilson and Rob Weber have been big parts of making Bath’s forward pack a force to be reckoned with, and figure to make an impact for the rest of the season.
Northampton Face Fine for Allowing North to Play for Wales
The Saints find themselves in hot water with the PRL this weekend, following their release of George North for international duty against Australia. North has a clause in his contract guaranteeing his return to Wales for all international fixtures. However, this particular Test falls outside the IRB’s international window, and the Premiership explicitly forbids the release of non-England players during these times. Northampton will pay the fine, and presumably do so happily, but expect the loophole to be closed in the immediate future. The IRB is looking at Test congestion, which has become a serious issue over the past five years. Though plans for a unified international calendar appear to be on the back burner for now, it is clear that things cannot continue in this vein. New Zealand played 13 Tests this year, meaning their international stars played almost as much for the AIG All Blacks as for their club sides. Concerns with the IRB’s proposal include the worry that it will result in Tier 2 sides getting frozen out at a time when they are rapidly improving. Previously Northampton CEO Allan Robson was able to comment on other controversial situations, see below. We hope to be able to sit down with him another time and get answers to this situation.
Gloucester and Harlequins provided great entertainment at The Stoop, as Chris Robshaw led his side to a 27-19 victory over the Cherry and Whites. Billy Twelvetrees scored two tries, including a great effort inside five minutes. However, Gloucester were once again their own worst enemies, as they were forced to play for 20 minutes with 14 men after two yellow cards, including an unnecessarily cynical trip from Jimmy Cowan. Saracens kept a firm grip at the top of the table, but were pushed hard by Exeter. Though the league leaders led 13-3 at the half, the game almost slipped out of their grasp when Tom Johnson went over in the final minute, only to see the TMO cruelly take the try away. Leicester and London Irish endured a stop-start affair, with two penalty tries for the Tigers providing their margin of victory. Fergus Mulchrone scored the try of the week with a great run from inside Irish’s half. Northampton dominated at Franklin Gardens, shutting out a poor Newcastle Falcons side 18-0. Luther Burrell scored yet again, no doubt adding to calls for the Saints centre to take on a role in the Six Nations. On Friday night, Sale collected a bonus point, winning 26-10, though they were trailing Worcester 7-3 at the half.
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