Aviva Premiership Team of the Week: Round 15

billy vunipola

15: Nick Abendanon (Bath)
Abendanon must curse the strength in this area for the national side, as he has surely been the form player in his position this season. Question marks will always remain about his defense, but his pace and eye for a gap are second to none. Both were in evidence for his try, as well as a breathtaking break in the second half.

14: Christian Wade (London Wasps)
The Wasps flyer added to his try tally on Sunday with a superb individual finish after some good work form his forwards. Collecting the ball on the halfway line, he skipped past two defenders with outrageously little space to work with to cross for Wasps’ third try.

13: Joel Tomkins (Saracens)
The Saracens centre has been added to the England squad this week and it is not hard to see why. Some direct running as well as a beautiful pass for Mako Vunipola’s second try contributed to a fine performance from Tomkins.

12: Kyle Eastmond (Bath)
It is a testament to how well Eastmond has taken to Premiership rugby that Bath feel comfortable playing him across the back-line. This week it was inside centre, and a couple of smart breaks allied with good defensive work added up to a strong performance from the utility back.

11: Marland Yarde (London Irish)
One of the finds of the season, Marlon Yarde again starred in a London Irish team that could not back up his potential. Seeing an opportunity he took a quick line-out in his own twenty-two, and featured heavily in a length-of-the-field try that will be one of the best this season.

10: Tom Heathcote (Bath)
Young Heathcote steered his Bath side to their sixth win in all competitions in a row, a fine run by anyone’s standards. He contributed 17 points in a brilliant kicking display, and also threw a beautifully weighted pass out to Nick Abendanon for him to cross the line.

9: Danny Care (Harlequins)
Care took out all his frustration at being sat on the bench for England with a fine display for Harlequins. He fizzed passes away from the breakdown and his partnership with Ben Botica turned out to be a match-winning one. Scored a superb solo score also.

1: Mako Vunipola (Saracens)
In a weekend where many a front-row forward crossed the line, Vunipola outdid everyone with a brace of his own – quite an achievement for a prop. Another man to throw down a marker to Stuart Lancaster and his selectors.

2: John Smit (Saracens)
Part of an all-Saracens front row in this team, Smit was more visible this week than he has been at times in the past since joining Saracens. He may not have scored a try, unlike his props either side of him, but Smit still played a big hand in them with some bustling runs in the tight that helped Sarries get over the gain-line. From there it was a case of quick ball leading to some much-needed tries.

3: Matt Stevens (Saracens)
Another of the front-row union to get on the scoresheet this week, Stevens’ try was impressive not just for its power. It was the line he picked and the angle of the run that was most notable, showing the awareness and execution any centre would have been proud of.

4: Samu Manoa (Northampton Saints)
An important Saints victory was defined by forward domination. Nothing typifies this more than Samu Manoa, the giant American who started at blind-side at the weekend but is equally as comfortable in the engine room. He bundled over from short range at the back of a maul, and then contributed to the penalty try; both decisive interventions.

5: Marco Wentzel (London Wasps)
The South African Wentzel is as important to Wasps as any man is to their club. Soaring the airwaves in the line-out and with deceptive pace and skill in the loose, Wentzel was again at the heart of another impressive Wasps win.

6: Ashley Johnson (London Wasps)
The unsung hero of Wasps’ back-row was finally rewarded this weekend with his first Premiership try. Johnson found himself in the right place at the right time to rumble over from a well-worked driving maul, which contributed to a good all-round display.

7: Dan Braid (Sale Sharks)
The ex-New Zealander will be pivotal in Sale’s bid for survival as we approach the business end of the season, and has already proved his worth with two tries in his short time at the club. Played on the other flank at the weekend but deserves a space in this team for his role in a turnaround of fortunes for the beleaguered Manchester club.

8: Billy Vunipola (London Wasps)
Completing the Vunipola double is younger brother Billy. A well-rounded performance included a brutishly powerful try from the back of a scrum, and a beautiful pass to Christian Wade in the build-up to his try that any back would have been proud of.

By Jamie Hosie

Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43

11 thoughts on “Aviva Premiership Team of the Week: Round 15

  1. As much as I wish Bath had won four Aviva games in a row, it’s only two. We’ve won six on the bounce, but that’s two Amlin, two LV= and two premiership.

      1. It’s a real shame at the state of affairs, but the whole crowd at the Rec cheered when Donald left the field injured after about 20 minutes. Heathcote changed the game when he came on, and I get the impression we wouldn’t have had to wait until the 81st minute for the bonus point try if he’d started.

  2. Could we possibly see an England centre partnership for the future here. Eastmond and Tomkins would combine quite nicely in the midfield.

    1. With Eastmond being relatively new to the code it must be beneficial to his education to have played in so many of the backs positions. I hope Bath do find his best position soon though and keep playing him in it. At the moment he could become the next Austin Healey (minus the huge ego), not necessarily a bad thing as that sort of flexibility is always going to be useful off the bench.

      Thought B. Vunipola made a good case for an inclusion in the 23 next weekend.

      Excellent first game on the rubber crumb as well.

      1. Eastmund has the skills and the physical attributes to play anywhere in the backline so it makes sense to try him out in a few places first. Not sure where i think he’ll finish up but a 12 with his footwork could be really handy for England.

        Personally i’m yet to be convinced by Tomkins but i’ll wait and see.

  3. I think Tomkins has still got quite a bit of headroom left at Premiership level, I really can’t see him cementing a spot in the EPS though, even on the bench.
    Eastmond on the other hand… If Bath and England can decide where his future lies, then I think he could be special.

    1. Tomkins has come on leaps and bounds this season. His ability to hold the ball up and offload out the tackle have improved Sarries attacking ability. He’s also pretty solid in defence, and is not lacking for pace either.
      Eastmond is simply a natural raw rugby talent similar to Jason Robinson.

  4. Mako was unreal I knew he was getting motm 20 minutes into the game. Marler has done well this 6n but I think Mako is a better player.

    Billy did have another very good game but he still seems to average 2 knock-ons a game and also the occasional missed tackle. Undoubtedly a phenomenal talent but he needs to tighten up certain aspects. I thought kalamafoni had a better game in the head to head.

    Flood was fantastic for Leicester and deserves a mention but Heathcote is a fair selection.

    Kitchnner also had a great game at the line out for Tigers and could have been included.

    1. Botica was not too shabby either! Flood had a nice dink through and the intercept, but I thought Botica taught him a lesson in the art of the restart.

      Agree with you on Mako Vs Marler. Excellent hands and great feet for someone tipping the scales at 130 Kgs.

  5. tomkins is unfortunate to have the likes of manu and barritt around at the same time as him. not to mention 12Ts. these 3 guys will limit the amount of caps that someone like tomkins (a specialist centre) will be able to amass.

    the likes of eastmond, daly and JJ on the other hand, who are all utility backs that play centre, will offer so many options off the bench that you would want them in the 23 over tomkins. my view is that tomkins is similar to barrit, you either start him, or he doesnt make the matchday squad.

    both he and eastmond are showing some really encouraging signs though, and its nice to finally have some league converts who seem to be successfully playing in positions other that wing or fullback.

    the backs are VERY encouraging in this team, only heathcote is not english qualified (although he had played u20s). the pack, on the other hand, has only 3 “englishman”. one of whom is retired from tests (stevens). that is not as encouraging.

    i would like to think that B. Vunipola has done enough to oust waldrom from the test 23, as for mako, he seems to be playing the “anything marler can do, i can do better” game, which is very encouraging in the light of corbisero being injured so much!

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