1: CJ van der Linde (South Africa)
Van der Linde was part of a South African pack that bullied their Irish counterparts into submission in the second half on Saturday. The former Leinsterman knew all about the men he was facing, and turned the screw in the scrum to win penalties aplenty, also forcing Mike Ross into the ignominy of an early substitution. Mention to Yannick Forestier who looked more than comfortable on debut.
2: Andrew Hore (New Zealand)
Hore and Mealamu have been battling it out for the All Black no. 2 shirt for years, and a cameo off the bench from young Dane Coles proved he’s ready to compete for it also. Hore doesn’t look like he wants to give it up yet though, scoring a powerful try to cap off an excellent all round performance. Mention to Tom Youngs who went well on his England debut, although sterner tests await.
3: Nicolas Mas (France)
The French pack mullered the Aussies on Saturday evening, and the veteran tight-head Mas was on top form. Although he had left the pitch by the time the French won a penalty try, Mas was central to the effort that softened up the Australian front row in the first half.
4: Pascal Papé (France)
France’s was undoubtedly the performance of the weekend, and Papé deserves huge credit for the way he led a French line-up that contained a few relatively unknown names. Saint-André rightly praised his captain after the game for the way he has brought the squad together.
5: Eben Etzebeth (South Africa)
The Saffas came with a clear game plan: to beat up the Irish in the forwards. They needn’t have worried about the absence of Bakkies Botha, a man renowned for his confrontational nature, because they seem to have unearthed someone equally as tenacious in young Etzebeth. He typified the South African forward effort on Saturday evening.
6: Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe (Argentina)
His beautiful offload in the build-up to Juan Imhoff’s try capped a fine display from the Pumas’ captain. Wales were stifled by Argentina and Fernandez Lobbe, winning his 50th cap, led his team from the front, scything down red jerseys while carrying strongly in the loose.
7: Richie McCaw (New Zealand)
At 31 the All Blacks must be sweating about what they are going to do when McCaw retires. He combines the power of all great back row forwards with the tenacity on the floor that defined great sevens in the Neil Back mould. As a result he is not only very difficult to bring down with ball in hand, but is also a nuisance at every breakdown he gets to. And of course he possesses such a high level of fitness and work ethic that he gets to most of them.
8: Louis Picamoles (France)
The French man mountain completes a back row combination that would compete with any in the world right now. Nicknamed the ‘iceberg’ for all the strength he has in his bottom half, he used it all to drive into the heart of the Aussie underbelly on countless occasions, as well as scoring the opening try. Mention to Qera of Fiji who translated his fantastic Premiership form to the international stage at Twickenham.
9: Nicola Matawalu (Fiji)
Ruan Pienaar bossed his forwards around with typical authority, but Matawalu makes the team for his contribution to the Fijian effort. They were never going to win having had just two proper training sessions together and being depleted by injuries, but the diminutive Fijian was a live-wire all game, and scored a thoroughly deserved (almost) solo effort towards the end of the first half.
10: Dan Carter (New Zealand)
This was a master-class, the likes of which Scotland were just not capable of living with. One interception pass in the first half aside, Carter was faultless. He had a hand in most of New Zealand’s 6 tries, and broke the line with such ease that made you wonder if the Scots were just standing back in awe of the great man. A more complete back there hasn’t been for a very long time, if ever. Mention must go to the mercurial Michalak who also ran the show for France.
11: Gonzalo Camacho (Argentina)
Camacho may have adopted Devon as his home but there’s no doubt he’s fiercely Argentinian at heart. He was not at all daunted by facing the massive George North, and put in a fantastic tackle towards the end of the first half to put an end to a promising Wales attack. He grabbed a brilliant try too, taking a wild pass one-handed before finishing superbly despite the attention of a couple of Welsh defenders.
12: Tamati Ellison (New Zealand)
With Ma’a Nonu rested and SBW in exile to further his boxing career, it fell to third choice 12 Ellison to take on the Scots. And what would England give for one, let alone three, inside centres this good? He looked perfectly comfortable on the ball, possesses great feet, and was solid in defence. One beautiful offload to his centre partner stands out in the memory.
13: Manu Tuilagi (England)
There were moments when Tuilagi reminded us how young he still is, throwing daft passes that were never on and crabbing across the pitch when straightening up was needed. It wasn’t a vintage weekend for centre play, but the Samoan-come-Englishman reminded us why he is vital to England’s future with a brace of tries that showcased his brutish ability to trample over defences.
14: Charlie Sharples (England)
Lancaster has today been talking of the selection dilemma Sharples has given him off the back of this performance on Saturday. It is hard to see how he can be dropped. While Monye also grabbed a score, Sharples’ required a lot more finishing. In particular his first needed some quick feet and a strong surge to get to the line. Mention to the other Argentine winger, Juan Imhoff, is also called for, as he rounded Leigh Halfpenny without even a finger being laid on him.
15: Alex Goode (England)
Goode’s selection ahead of Mike Brown raised eyebrows in some parts, but now seems completely justified. With two centres that prefer to run through people rather than put others in space, Goode’s understanding of where that space is was invaluable. His ability to step in as first receiver takes a lot of the pressure off Toby Flood and allows him to play his natural game. He didn’t score himself but did contribute to most of England’s tries, especially when catching the Fijians napping to fizz a pass out for Monye to cross after a quick tap penalty.