Aviva Premiership Team of the Week – Round 1


There were tries and upsets aplenty in the opening weekend of the Aviva Premiership, and here is my team of the week.

1 – Ellis Genge (Leicester)
Despite a disappointing loss for Tigers, Genge was still on the front foot being a menace with carrying the ball and was also mostly scrum dominant (until he was penalised twice). Despite the signings of Number 8s Sione Kalamafoni and Valentino Mapapalangi, I think Genge will still be the go to ball-carrier for Leicester.

2 – Schalk Brits (Saracens)
A man-of-the-match display for the Sarries’ stalwart who still delights with his energetic footwork and slick offloads, including one which set up Sean Maitland’s try.

3 – Vincent Koch (Saracens)
The South African was at his usual best in the set piece but his first half try plus good carrying stats and a pass that led to the impressive Sean Maitland try meant that Koch is on this list.

4 – Luke Charteris (Bath)
The Welsh international lock disrupted Leicester’s lineout on many occasions with his tall frame, and just about clipped the ball out of Mike Williams’ hands to prevent a late try for Tigers to win the match. He was consistent throughout with 14 tackles in his name.

5 – Jeremy Thrush (Gloucester)
Thrush, a big signing for the Cherry and Whites in 2015, has blown hot and cold since then but was very good on Sunday night and, whether you agree with his second try or not, his impact and consistency cannot be doubted.

6 – Chris Robshaw (Harlequins)
It was a quiet week for the blindsides but Robshaw, despite his side losing in Round One, still was at his constant reliable workhorse rate and tried to keep Quins alive.

7 – Blair Cowan (London Irish)
The Scottish back-rower was big in defence and disrupted the Quins attack, forcing them into errors all afternoon at Twickenham.

8 – Sam Simmonds (Exeter)
One of the Chiefs’ big finds in the AW Cup last year, was an absolute menace for Gloucester to handle on Friday, scoring 2 tries and constantly causing Gloucester problems with his low centre of gravity and speed. He certainly can fill Thomas Waldrom’s shoes once the big man retires.

9 – Dan Robson (Wasps)
Robson scored 4 tries in the game against Sale, and is the first scrumhalf since 2000 to do so. An honorary mention to Faf de Klerk who was impressive for Sale.

10 – Alex Lozowski (Saracens)
The Sarries flyhalf was instrumental in the first half drubbing of Northampton, picking up an easy score and knocking over 4 conversions as well.

11 – Jonny May (Leicester)
Two strong finishes from May salvaged a point for Leicester and I think the England winger could be a match-winner in many this season when he isn’t on international duty.

12 – Max Clarke (Bath)
Bath’s young centre stole the show from Leicester’s much-hyped Matt Toomua with two tries – one from counterattack and another from constant pressure on the Tigers’ line and was awarded man of the match.

13 – Manu Tuilagi (Leicester)
Another positive from Tigers’ defeat was the return of favourite Tuilagi who lasted a full 80 minutes, scored a great try in the opening quarter and made one or two big hits. However a mediocre pack performance affected the quality ball Tuilagi was getting so that he couldn’t be as effective.

14 – Topsy Ojo (London Irish)
The former England winger produced a wonderful counterattack try and showed that despite his age of 32, he still has what it takes to be a first class finisher.

15 – Tommy Bell (London Irish)
The former Tigers back kicked 19 points and scored one try to cap off an impressive return to the Premiership, and was instrumental in the Exiles’ win over Harlequins.

What do you make of this team? Are there any positions you would change?

By Jacob Bassford

24 thoughts on “Aviva Premiership Team of the Week – Round 1

  1. No Sean Maitland? Okay the Saints defence was fairly non-existent but still he got three tries which all took a bit of scoring.
    As for Tuilagi really. A great try in the build up, but all he had to do was be in the right place. Other than that he was shackled pretty effectively. There were certainly better 13’s on show in that game let alone the rest of them.

  2. Whilst I’m a big Manu fan – how did he get in this team? His decision making looked terrible, completely butchering a 3 on 1 in the first half that I’d have been tempted to haul him off for!

  3. Tuilagi? Really? I spoke to a Tigers fan yesterday who said he was awful, apart from the try. Marchant or Taylor were both better as I’m sure were a few more.
    Also Lozowski? He was good with ball in hand, but his place kicking was way off. Just as well Saints were so bad, because in a close game so many missed conversions could be critical.

  4. Manu is such an interesting figure in the game at the moment. On his day, hugely destructive and opposition defences need to keep two players watching him all the time, which opens up space for others even when he doesn’t get the ball.

    But then add that with his slightly suspect decision-making – both on the pitch and off it – and you question whether you’d really want him in your team.

    Would I pick him for England this Autumn? I’m not sure…

    1. Oh I’d still pick him for England – at least for a bench spot. He can be so destructive on the pitch, and I honestly don’t care too much that he went out for some beers.

      I think the decision making on pitch comes when he is forcing it, and trying to make the big carries when they aren’t necessary. A run of games will quickly solve that.

    2. Personally I would rather see Daly or Marchant given a chance in the 13 shirt. I wouldn’t be surprised if Manu was injured again before the Autumn series anyway.

      1. I certainly would not play Tuilagi in the autumn series. He needs an uninterrupted run of club games up till Christmas, and has to prove that he still has enough pace to play at top level. Incidentally, if you are picking a team of the week, how about picking a ref of the week as well.There were a couple of really good jobs done this week, but poor old Exeter were on the end of every dubious decision, and Steenson’ s yellow was a farce.(and please don’t tell me that it was justified by the law as it stands. He was kicked in the head while trying to avoid contact with someone flying at him with both feet head high, and had no chance of avoiding him.)

        1. From a ref’s point of view, to the letter of the law it’s a yellow. If common sense was initiated at this point you’d say it was accidental, no sanction required. Steenson was going for the same ball, had his eyes on it, preparing to catch until the other player (can’t remember who it was, Woodward?) launched himself in the air to catch it, giving Steenson no chance to move out of the way but, instead has a player crash into him in mid-air. For me the player taking off at that speed to catch the ball has put himself in that position and knows the risk.
          If Steenson had carried on and tackled him in the air, then that is a horse of a different colour and deserving of at least a yellow. But he didn’t, he just couldn’t get out of the way.

          1. Dazza, Andy, I am not sure that the ref had much choice with Steenson’s card.

            Safety is the prime motivator for this approach. No-one would sensibly say that Steenson’s act was deliberate however – in a crowded area of the pitch, with a ball coming down from the sky, players should be aware that there is a strong chance that another player will be jumping for the ball.

            Therefore the player needs to challenge for the ball in the air – or get out of the way.

            The only way to avoid this situation is to outlaw jumping for the ball.

      2. I wouldn’t consider Manu at 13, only at 12. I think the England back line would be better served looking like this: Youngs, Farrell, Nowell, Manu, JJ, Watson, Daly

        Between JJ and 13 and Daly coming into the line from FB, I’d have no worries about our back line distribution. Ford is a good option on the bench if we want to move to a twin-playmaker midfield later in the game but if we can get Manu fit and firing, that would be what I’d pick.

        In terms of a run of games, if he stays fit he will have plenty before November to prove his worth. If his form warrants, I wouldn’t hesitate to pick him.

      3. Your crystal ball is working well Jacob. manu out with a meniscus injury. i agree with you about Daly etc. For me Tuilagi hasn’t grown as a player over the last four years. His terrible luck with injuries has really stifled his development into a genuinely world class talent and I was surprised at EJ’s eagerness to select him for the training squad given his lack of game time.

  5. I did consider Marchant however no other no other outside centres excited me this weekend, Slade and Joseph were nonexistent, maybe Lovabalavu for Wasps as well.

    1. Maybe Taylor as the only centre who stood out from my pov. Had a good game and set up a try.
      JJ had a quiet game but was defensively very good, shutting down Tuilagi and making some essential tackles.
      Slade continues to excite spectators one moment before infuriating them the next with inconsistency.

    2. I would have gone with Lovabalavu, he had a massive impact in the Wasps game with some very tasty offloads! Marchant and Taylor would have been before Manu too…

      1. Forget Manu
        He isn’t the best centre in England anymore by a long shot. He hasn’t been performing well in his brief stints between injuries and we need someone can establish themselves as a permanent fixture in the team not a flash in the pan based on reputation and (very) historic form.

        1. You’re quite correct Leon, he is not the best, and he has no right for an England place.

          However, if he was fit, he has the physical attributes to be up with the very best in the world. Its all potential (with flashes of exceptional quality in the past, which fuel this potential) but he is worth the investment until such point that he either;

          a) proves unable to remain injury-free/fit for any sensible length of time (2 games would be a start!)
          b) gets fit, plays regularly and proves that he was only ever “great potential”.

  6. Interesting side which includes a couple of Kiwis & a couple of Saffas, despite their, presumably, playing in that dubious ‘SH way’? Didn’t see all the matches, so ltd comment on many players. However, in respect ot Tuilagi & as to whether he ought to be in the team or not, guess his inclusion is as much to stir the pot a bit? He is something of a so called ‘wrecking ball’, but (& paticularly @ international level) does/did he really have a significant impact on a, or the last, match? For me he’s somewhat 1 dimentional & lacking in guile & is thus too predictable. He does therefore, suit the NH ‘style’.

    1. Jacob Bassford
      Assume you’re addressing me?
      As stated, ‘interesting’ in so far as you’ve not just gone for just the established. As I don’t know e.g., Simmonds or Clarke, or little of Lozowski, I can’t comment on them. However, it’s hard to be definitive in ‘approving’ about yr team, but I don’t disapprove, by & large, from whom I DID see. Thought that Ojo, for instance, was a bold choice esp as he seems to have been the ‘forgotten’ man of English rugby over the past yrs. I personally can’t see how he’s been particularly inferior to the incumbent England international wingers though. Could have included Maitland, but in his winning side anyone’s mater would have looked good; so I’m ok with yr choice of Ojo. Mainly had to judge Tui on his past rep, which I alluded to, but that’s what I had to go on. If you reckon otherwise based on whet you saw of him fair doos, but, as stated, I have little faith in his game.

  7. Rather than throw all the toys (or players) out of the pram a la Lancaster. Am of the school of thought Tuilagi be offered a return for the 6 nations if fit, in form and injury free from the bench only.
    JJ is not the finished article at 13 (as evidenced by his perfornance with the Lions) so the door should be kept opened for him. “Keep your options open” should be the mantra not close them down.

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