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Rugby union: talking points from the Premiership’s weekend action

The Guardian logo The Guardian 10/09/2018 Guardian sport
Danny Cipriani and Dylan Hartley were among those to feature in a blockbuster weekend of rugby. © Rex/Getty Images Danny Cipriani and Dylan Hartley were among those to feature in a blockbuster weekend of rugby.

Smith’s dismissal costs Bristol

George Smith’s red card against Saracens has split opinion. Bristol’s Pat Lamis among those to think a yellow card would have sufficed and many observers have suggested it was on the harsh side. What counted against Smith, however, is that it was the kind of tackle that has been identified by the Rugby Football Union in its research as the most likely to cause head injuries, leading to the “armpit tackle” trial in the Championship Cup. There can also be no denying it was the decisive moment in the match – the scores were level at 18-18 until that point. Billy Vunipola was among the subsequent try‑scorers and here’s hoping for a long spell injury free after a torrid 18 months. Gerard Meagher

Murphy puts himself in line for permanent job

According to the man himself, Leicester received 64 applications for the job Geordan Murphy is officially filling in a caretaker capacity. And that was on day one. He reckons there have been a few more since and there is no reason to think he was joking. It makes one wonder who all these people are. By definition some must be somewhat obscure. Murphy himself has no track record as a head coach but he surely remains favourite to take the reins full-time. The players love him, judging by their reaction on Saturday. He ticks the bootroom box and, after that playing career of his, he represents all that is most magical about the game. Michael Aylwin

Match report:Leicester 49-33 Newcastle

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Cipriani stars again for Gloucester

Danny Cipriani, with three different style passes and three wonderful tries for Gloucester, is wasting no time in winning over the fans at his new club and trying to convince Eddie Jones he is still the man to wear the England No 10 jersey. His long cut-outpass on the opening day of the season earned Charlie Sharples a crucial try and his delayed delivery sent Ruan Ackermann through a huge hole to score at Bath. Then came a pass in the closing moments to set up Matt Banahan for the equalising score. And it was a little chip kick that opened up Bath for another try to prove he is no one-trick-pony. He is shaping up as a racing certainty to extend his Test career. Rob Cole

Match report: Bath 31-31 Gloucester

Shields injury blow for beaten Wasps

Brad Shields’ career in England could not have got off to a worse start. He will see a specialist on Monday to determine whether his fractured cheekbone requires surgery and, if it does, he is set to miss the start of England’s autumn campaign. It would be bad news for Eddie Jones, who parachuted the flanker into his squad in South Africa, but at least he has other options there with Michael Rhodes now in the setup. In truth, Shields did not have a great debut – he arrived in the UK only a couple of weeks ago and looked a bit off the pace. Wasps now face the prospect of losing him until December if he does require an operation and then goes straight into camp with England on his return. GM

Match report:Wasps 31-42 Exeter

Hartley makes impact to enhance England claims

Related: Duncan Weir: ‘An opponent’s size doesn’t bother me. I love tackling’

The season has a long way to go but it is starting promisingly for three players hoping to feature in Eddie Jones’s World Cup plans next year. Dylan Hartley has endured a testing year but, with Jones in the stands, scoring the crucial try to help earn his side’s first win of the season hinted at better times ahead for the England captain. With Saracens and Jamie George due at Franklin’s Gardens this weekend, Saints’ new coaching guru, Chris Boyd, will be tempted to give the hooker his first start of the campaign. Courtney Lawes also looks in excellent shape before his looming date with Maro Itoje and Will Skelton while Quins’ fly-half Marcus Smith maintained his bright early form. With Owen Farrell, Danny Cipriani and George Ford also in decent touch, Jones now has a range of options at 10. Robert Kitson

• Match report: Northampton 25-18 Harlequins

Schonert re-emerges to add heat to head injury debate

Player welfare rightly remains a hot topic in rugby union and the sight of the Worcester prop Nick Schonert face down and motionless on the turf following an attempted first-half tackle was another worrying case study. Players displaying obvious on-pitch signs of concussion are supposed to be “immediately and permanently removed from play, without further assessment” and Sale’s director of rugby, Steve Diamond, spoke for everyone when he suggested it was “strange” that Schonert was allowed back on to the field despite passing a subsequent head injury assessment. Given the Premiership has only just announced a partnership with Hawk-Eye to ensure there is a dedicated pitchside video reviewer at every club with access to eight different camera angles, it felt odder still, unless the unfortunate Schonert somehow convinced the medics he had stayed conscious throughout. In other injury news, meanwhile, Tom Curry should be fit to return for Sale against Exeter this weekend while, for Worcester, Francois Hougaard’s sore ribs are apparently on the mend. RK

Match report: Sale 21-15 Worcester

Gallagher Premiership Team of the weekend

15 Jason WoodwardGloucester 
14 Denny SolomonaSale
13 Henry SladeExeter
12 Kyle EastmondLeicester
11 Liam Williams Saracens 
10 Danny Cipriani Gloucester
9 Dan RobsonWasps 
1 Mako VunipolaSaracens 
2 Tom Dunn Bath 
3 Kieran BrookesWasps
4 Will SpencerLeicester
5 Courtney LawesNorthampton 
6 Don ArmandExeter
7 Sam UnderhillBath 
8 Sam SimmondsExeter

Benetton make best start to Pro14
The season is only two matches old but take nothing away from Benetton, who top the Pro14 conference, ahead of both Leinster and the Scarlets. Their 27-25 victory over Cardiff Blues, brought about by Tommaso Allan’s conversion – the last kick of the game – followed their opening win away against the Dragons and, as a result, it is the first time the Italian side have won their first two matches.  

Ryan’s concussion retirement
In an interview with the Irish Times Dominic Ryan revealed he was retiring due to concussion. A year ago he appeared to suffer a head injury in Leicester’s defeat by Northampton following a collision with George North but played on. Two weeks later Ryan suffered another head injury against Harlequins. He admitted trying to avoid contact when returning in January and did not play for the Tigers thereafter. On Saturday Geordan Murphy was asked if it should have been handled differently. “I don’t think so,” he replied. “I was actually one of the first guys to Dominic on the field when the media said he was concussed but I spoke to him and he wasn’t. He was fine.”

Haskell has not forgotten Wasps
James Haskell may be relishing his new surroundings with Northampton but off the field it is taking a little while longer to forget his roots. It is hardly surprising after 12 years across two spells with Wasps but, as a guest for BT Sport during their defeat by Exeter, he repeatedly referred to his former club as “we”. 

Emotional haka for Tahuriorangi
After Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi won his first New Zealand cap against Argentina on Saturday his family chose a touching way to mark the occasion. His father, father-in-law and fiancee performed a post-match haka in the stands (it is well worth a watch) after the 23-year-old scrum-half had made his debut in Nelson. “It just makes the debut extra special,” he said. “It was just an awesome feeling. To get that kind of haka just personifies where I come from, a little area where not many people make it out.” Gerard Meagher


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