Rugby Union festive season results
NatWest 6 Nations coming up in February after busy rugby holiday season
A bevy of star rugby players, all bidding to represent their respective nations in the 2018 NatWest 6 Nations Championship, were in action as they bid to earn selection for the 2018 RBS 6 Nations. It was a very busy rugby festive period with plenty of players making their case for inclusion in the 2018 NatWest 6 Nations. From young guns shining for the sides for the very first time to experienced rugby players highlighting their importance to their sides, it was a massive four days of exciting Christmas season rugby games. Second-row rugby players are used to hitting rucks, making tough tackles and pushing in the scrum as part of their job. Although their job is not glamorous, locks play key roles for their clubs. On Tuesday veteran Leinster lock Devin Toner led by example with 23 tackles at Thomond Park. In a 34-24 win, Toner's talent was an influential factor, again demonstrating his worth to Joe Schmidt. Two more locks also shined in the Christmas season, both in losing causes, as Scotland's Jonny Gray, while playing for Glasgow Warriors against Edinburgh, and Ireland's Iain Henderson, for Ulster at Connacht, both racked up the tackles. French duo Fabien Sanconnie, who made 21 tackles for Brive, and Damien Chouly, fit again matched Henderson’s 16 tackles.
Top tacklers to watch
Devin Toner (Ireland) - 23 made, 1 missed
Fabien Sanconnie (France) - 21, 1
Jonny Gray (Scotland) - 20, 0
Robbie Henshaw (Ireland) - 17, 3
Damien Chouly (France) - 16, 1
Young rugby players stepped up in Ireland and France where a number of Under-20s graduates stood out. Jordan Larmour, a star for Ireland Under-20s last year and hoping for more in 2018 is sure to be selected by his Ireland coach. His wonder try against Munster was key in the win at Thomond Park. Meanwhile, Alex Wootton outdid Larmour in terms of metres made in a losing cause for the Irish side.
Top Metre Makers to watch
Christian Wade (England) - 118
Alex Wootton (Ireland) - 117
Jordan Larmour (Ireland) - 113
Thomas Young (Wales) - 104
Hugo Bonneval (France) - 96
Louis Picamoles (France) - 96
France side Bordeaux-Bègles defeated Top 14 leaders La Rochelle with a trio of youngsters playing key roles. Teenage fly-half Matthieu Jalibert finished with 19 points. Geoffrey Cros grabbed a try; flanker Cameron Woki was an all-around force dominating in the lineout with 3 clean breaks, 13 tackles and 0 missed. All three are eligible for France Under-20s in 2018. Topping the carrying charts was CJ Stander who just extended his Ireland and Munster contract, and Louis Picamoles who chipped in with a couple of tries as Montpellier finished No. 1 in the Top 14 midway in the season. Elliot Dee had 18 carries for the Dragons who lost in their comeback at home to Cardiff Blues. The top carrier was Jackson Wray, who took the ball on 22 times as Saracens beat Leicester on Christmas Eve as his team ended a run of 7 straight defeats in all competitions.
Top carriers to watch
Jackson Wray (England) - 22
Louis Picamoles (France) - 19
Elliot Dee (Wales) - 18
CJ Stander (Ireland) – 18
FRANCE RUGBY TEAM
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France No.8 Louis Picamoles was in top form scoring 2 tries to help Montpellier defeat Lyon and move back to the summit of the Top 14. Due to La Rochelle's defeat to Montpellier go top of the table, with Picamoles getting their first two tries.
Guy Noves has been sacked as France coach and replaced by Jacques Brunel. Noves had a tough two-year spell in charge, managing only 7 wins from 21 matches. That led FFR president Bernard Laporte to act, with Noves becoming the first Les Bleus boss in history to be axed. Former Italy coach Brunel, 63, has been named as his successor, leaving his job with Top 14 side Bordeaux-Begles to sign a deal until the 2019 World Cup. The decision comes only 5 weeks before France go head-to-head Ireland in their Six Nations opener. Racing 92's international duo of Wenceslas Lauret and Virimi Vakatawa both scored in their 23-19 win over Toulouse in the first club match played at the U-Arena.Former France winger Vincent Clerc edged a little closer to the all-time record tally for tries in the Top 14. His score in Toulon's 49-25 win over Oyonnax took him to 99, just one short of Laurent Arbo's record.
SCOTLAND RUGBY TEAM
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Former Scotland Under-20 international Chris Dean was match hero as he dotted down with two minutes to go to hand Edinburgh a victory over Glasgow Warriors.His amazing late score was key for a team that had spent 74 minutes playing a man down after Simon Berghan's sixth-minute red card, handed Richard Cockerill's side a crucial 18-17 win in the 1st of 3 1872 Cup matches this campaign. Scotland international Nathan Fowles was an Edinburgh try-scorer. Huw Jones and Scott Cummings went over for Glasgow, with Peter Horne and Finn Russell chipping in from the kicking tee. Dean went over right at the end as Edinburgh Glasgow's kept their perfect league record ahead of next weekend's return fixture at Scotstoun.
ENGLAND RUGBY TEAM
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Luke Cowan-Dickie stood out as Premiership leaders Exeter Chiefs won a bonus-point victory at Northampton Saints. Jack Yeandle's 81st-minute score was key in Exeter’s 35-14 success at Franklin's Gardens. Hooker Cowan-Dickie was named the man of the match after making on 14 carries and 5 tackles in an all-action match. Danny Cipriani kicked 19 points as Wasps moved up to 2nd on the table with a 49-24 win at Gloucester. A try from Mike Brown and 5 points from Marcus Smith, who was called up to Eddie Jones' England squad for the autumn internationals, was not enough for Harlequins who suffered a 11-10 loss at Newcastle Falcons. Sale Sharks beat Bath 32-9. Scotland internationals, Byron McGuigan and Josh Strauss both crossed.
ITALY RUGBY TEAM
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Italy wing Angelo Esposito was key to Benetton Rugby defeating fellow countrymen Zebre in the PRO14. The 24-year-old continued his fine scoring form throughout the clash to help Benetton run out 27-14 winners at the Stadio Monigo in Treviso. Azzurri’s Edoardo Gori also dotted down as Tiziano Pasquali impressed with 12 tackles, with Zebre set back by the loss off Johan Meyer to a red card.
IRELAND RUGBY TEAM
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Ultan Dillane starred in the competition as Connacht defeated Ulster by a record margin of 44-16 going into the Christmas season on a high. Lock Dillane, capped 11 times by Ireland, grabbed two of his side's six tries. Aki made his Ireland debut in the 2017 Autumn Internationals while O'Halloran grabbed his side's third try.