15. Berrick Barnes (Australia)
Leigh Halfpenny was very close to giving Wales unlikely representation, but the Wallabies’ full-back laid the foundations for a tour-redeeming win. Terrific temperament from the tee was a given, but Barnes’ composure when stepping in at first-receiver – characterised by a sweet left-footed drop-goal – was crucial for a vulnerable side.
14. Craig Gilroy (Ireland)
The Ulster flyer went one better than Charlie Sharples by snatching an electric hat-trick against the hapless Fijians at Thomond Park. Vincent Clerc can legitimately feel hard done by after an important brace in a full international clash with the Pumas, but Gilroy was prominent throughout an eight-try blitz.
13. Conrad Smith (New Zealand)
One of the most competitive men in world rugby, Smith would not have enjoyed watching on at Murrayfield last weekend. Steve Hansen unleashed his elder statesman in Rome and saw the 31 year-old set up skipper Kieran Read for the opener. Smith was influential as the floodgates opened in the second half too and, while the Azzurri held on, his experience was vital.
12. Jean de Villiers (South Africa)
Stuck with injury trouble and struggling to click, the Springboks are still churning out wins. A lot of that is down to their captain, whose rock-solid defence and burly carries provide South Africa with structural stability. There was more of the same against Scotland – not eye-catching, but essential.
11. Nick Cummins (Australia)
“It was nice to get over for a bit of meat pie,” said the most affable of fair-dinkum Australians at the final whistle of a try-scoring performance. For that delicious soundbite alone, Cummins might have made this side. As it was, an impressive, all-action display at Twickenham made him hard to overlook anyway.
10. Frédéric Michalak (France)
These days there is a lot more of the sublime than there is of the ridiculous from this mercurial magician. In the face of Argentina, Michalak conducted proceedings very nicely, punctuating a 39-22 victory with 24 points. Targeted by the typically abrasive Pumas, he had to make 11 tackles as well – and didn’t miss a thing.
9. Kahn Fotuali’i (Samoa)
Samoan sparkplug Fotuali’i was a thorn in the Welsh side for the entirety of Friday night, a blindside break to set up George Pisi for the Islanders’ second try proved the Osprey’s authority – club bragging rights are firmly in the bag.
1. Ryan Grant (Scotland)
Benn Robinson merits worthy mention on the back of nullifying nemesis Dan Cole, but Grant was exceptional in adversity. The Scottish pack was bullied in the loose but he dropped anchor at scrum-time, adding admirable energy for a full 80-minute shift in what was only his fifth Test. Whisper it, but the Glasgow Warrior is shuffling towards an unlikely spot on the Lions tour.
2. Adriaan Strauss (South Africa)
Occupied centre stage in an outfit that overran their Scottish opponents up in Edinburgh, stealing the headlines with a pair of contrasting tries – one from a driving maul, the other with an unlikely 40-metre interception. Strauss is revelling in Bismarck du Plessis’ absence.
3. James Johnston (Samoa)
This front-row phenomenon did not even need to start to snatch this place. Replacing his big brother Census on 47 minutes, the Harlequin completely dismantled Gethin Jenkins, starving Wales of any meaningful platform. As he proved during last season’s Premiership campaign, Johnston is an intimidating force.
4. Sitaleki Timani (Australia)
It would have been easy to succumb to sentiment and throw Nathan Sharpe the plaudits, but Australia’s junior lock was instrumental in shoring up a set of forwards that were humiliated across The Channel seven days previously. Also contributed gamely to a manic breakdown battle and made inroads with ball in hand.
5. Geoff Parling (England)
Another perfect return for the line-out would have pleased the self-confessed “nerd”, especially as Tom Youngs is so green. But Parling again punched above his weight around the park, too. A tireless figure in attack and defence, the Leicester man will be Stuart Lancaster’s fulcrum in the run-up to 2015 and retained his reputation despite defeat.
6. Yannick Nyanga Kabasele (France)
A prodigious talent whose abilities merit far more than 26 caps, Nyanga squared up to the form back-row in world rugby and prevailed, supplementing that achievement by galloping away for France’s final try.
7. Francois Louw (South Africa)
How Heyneke Meyer will be thanking his lucky stars that Louw recovered from a nasty neck injury to feature this autumn. Translating his barnstorming form for Bath onto the international stage has been easy and on Saturday – with a staggering tackle-count of 17 – the openside ploughed the furrow for a tough win. Wallaby Michael Hooper nearly made it after scrapping to victory at HQ, but Louw produced something special.
8. Taiasina Tui’fua (Samoa)
With ten minutes on the clock at the Millennium Stadium, Tui’fua had already done enough to deserve a spot among this dream team. Careering through fragile fringe defence and pulverising the unfortunate Richard Hibbard at the tail of a lineout, the Newcastle Falcon epitomised a side that genuinely believed. From there, plenty more brawny, bone-crushing work ensued.