Aviva Premiership Team of the Week: Round 18

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15. Mike Brown (Harlequins)
It did not get any easier this week for England’s Harlequins contingent, as they were thoroughly outplayed by Saracens. Brown, however, showed why he is wasted out on the wing, with several scything runs from fullback that left Sarries’ defenders flailing at thin air. Shame it was all in vain, really.

14. Tom Varndell (Wasps)
Varndell did his England credentials no harm with a dazzling 50m try that few others would have been able to finish. Still looks suspect in defence at times (as one manically botched clearance kick proved), but there is no doubting his finishing ability.

13. Elliot Daly (Wasps)
Daly is a precociously talented rugby player. Blessed with both speed of mind and feet, his try was superbly well taken. He had absolutely no right to score, and yet still managed to beat four defenders in a five-metre channel on his way to the line. Showed impressive strength as well as the quick feet we all know he possesses.

12. Matt Banahan (Bath)
Wasn’t really much to shout about at inside centre across the Premiership this weekend. Banahan (who actually wore 13) was about the best of a bad bunch as he did what he does best: run hard, fast and direct at the Sale defence. Produced a nice offload in the build-up to the Agulla try, too, although spilt a fair few clangers also.

11. Tom Brady (Sale)
Brady makes the team not for any individual brilliance concerning his try – it was smartly taken, but was more down to a poor missed tackle from Eastmond really – but rather the importance of it. It has lifted Sale to five points clear of Welsh and could well be the try that sparks their survival bid. Time will tell.

10. Owen Farrell (Saracens)
After a fairly torrid outing with the boot in Cardiff lsat weekend, Farrell was back on the money this time. Questions will still remain about his attacking play – as another butchered overlap proved – but his delicate cross-field kick for Fraser’s try was a thing of beauty.

9. Lee Dickson (Saints)
Dickson was given an armchair ride by his definitively dominant pack, and so his performance wasn’t exactly surprising. He managed to get his usually cool opposite number Joe Simpson riled up about something, which helped to put him off, and then got stuck in as an extra flanker to barrel over the line for one of Saints’ four forward-oriented tries.

1. Mako Vunipola (Saracens)
A one-man wrecking ball at times, Vunipola was comfortably the best loose-head on the pitch in what was a woeful afternoon for his England rival Joe Marler. Once such a strong ball-carrier, he was reduced to the shadows as the Vunipola show played out. Made his tackles and was a nuisance at the breakdown, too, but as Mark McCall said afterwards the most pleasing aspect of his game was that he dealt so superbly with the scrummaging power of Quins tight-head James Johnstone.

2. Dylan Hartley (Saints)
Had Saints not won this game at the death Wasps replacement Tom Lindsay would have got this spot for the impact he made from the bench. As it is Hartley’s pack-leadership was enough to drag the Saints over the line in an enthralling encounter at Adam’s Park. For that he makes it.

3. James Tideswell (London Welsh)
Two barnstorming runs are enough for this young tight-head to make the team. The first was opportunist, picking and going from the base of a ruck, while the second involved a superb support line and although he was probably guilty of not passing, it mattered not in the end as he managed to flip an offload to MacKenzie to score. Aulika was also excellent for Irish.

4. Alastair Hargreaves (Saracens)
As the Saracens pack bullied their Quins counterparts into submission, no-one was more to the fore than giant South African Hargreaves. There were also a couple of brutish ball-carries that caught the eye, one of which led later to the Brits try.

5. Ed Slater (Tigers)
There wasn’t much that caught the eye at Sandy Park on Saturday as Exeter and Leicester did their best to bore the pants off spectators, but Slater’s performance was at least one positive on show. He is in the form of his life and again made several hard-yard-winning hustles up the middle to give the Tigers the platform to win the game. Not pretty stuff, but effective nonetheless.

6. Samu Manoa (Saints)
A regular feature in this team, the giant Tongan-come-American has been one of the players of the season. This week he was again at the heart of a Saints pack that destroyed their opposition, and was also as conspicuous in the loose as always with countless capable carries.

7. Will Fraser (Saracens)
It has been a breakthrough season for the young English flanker, who is certainly putting his hand up for selection for the summer tour to Argentina. Capped off an all-action performance with a smartly taken try – and showed great desire to leap in front of a horde of awaiting teammates to get it.

8. Chris Hala’ufia (London Irish)
The Saints’ pack may have made the headlines this weekend but the Exiles’ forwards were equally as dominant in their crucial win against Worcester. Hala’ufia – who often makes waves for the wrong reasons – was to be found at the front of both driving mauls for the first couple of tries, before popping over for one of his own in the second half. Such an important player for Irish, when he can stay on the pitch.

By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43

10 thoughts on “Aviva Premiership Team of the Week: Round 18

  1. Really like Will Fraser – he looks an excellent player! Vunipola was outstanding too!

    Want to see a lot of these two, as well as Daly and Wade, down in Argentina.

    1. Fraser has been excellent this season. Always comes across really well in interviews as well, nice to know he’s got something between his ears as well as being a good player!

      1. Yes exactly! I would back him to start at 7 against Argentina (assuming Robshaw goes on the Lions tour).

  2. Wasps tries were excellent As an Exiles fan great to see Huff making headlines for right reasons Immense player

  3. Stevens didn’t score a try, it was Brits. Also Hargreaves showed great hands and awareness in the build up.

    Vunipola was truly outstanding though. He was everywhere, making an absolute nuisance of himself.

    Fraser has grown as a player over the season, and fully deserves a space on the Argentina tour. It was clear how happy he was to score, on what was a very special day for his family.

  4. Banahan has had a lot of criticism from bath fans this season, great to see some sensible feedback on his performances Jamie. Although he won’t get selected for England on his current form, would like to see him work with Andy Farrell to continue his development as very similar styles.

    1. banahan is a player of immense potential in my book.

      not only is he a sizeable unit (by forwards’ standards) but he does have pretty decent hands too.

      his time spent in the back 3 means that his kicking has improved too. i think that his shift in has been a good move.

      although i would never partner him with Tuilagi (too similar) i do think that he could be an option at centre with more work done.

      if england work to develop the centres that they have, then it could become a very rich area for them.

      Tuilagi, Twelvetrees, Barritt, Tompkins, Joseph, Daly, Eastmond, Banahan, Lowe, Hopper, Trinder and Allen.

      not to mention that former world cup finalist Matt Tait now plays fullback.

      obviously the right combinations would need to be worked on to get a good balance, but all of these guys should be in either the EPS, Saxons, or at least closely monitored by england. and a big positive about a number of them is their versatility.

      Tait, Joesph and Daly all play 13, wing and 15.

      Banahan and Eastmond have turned out in 11, 12, 13 and 14. I am sure eastmond could do a job at 15 (and maybe even 10 based on his league background – after time spent their)

      the rest all seem to be well suited to both 12 or 13, with Twelvetrees offering cover at 10.

      I expect Jospeh and Daly to be seen as wingers or 15’s, because the depth at centre will limit their game time with england.

      even though there are a number of options on the wing, it has become clear that none of them are the “complete” player. I think Jonny May is the closest england have to a complete on form wing.

      interestingly, a number of the options that england had at 15 seem to have dropped off a bit. Brown and Foden are still strong options. I think goode may be a goode backup to them, but he cant be first choice. Then there seems to be a gulf now, to the likes of Abendanon, Tait, Miller, Holmer, The Arscott Brothers, Chisholm and Lindsay-Hauge.

      assuming that B. Youngs, Farrell, Tuilagi, and maybe Brown and Twelvetrees (the longer shots) all travel with the lions in the summer, then the backs i would take to argentina would be: (and i would take a big squad, for the experience of touring and spending time with england)

      9’s: Care, Dickson, Simpson
      10’s: Burns, Flood, Ford – (Burns would get 10 shirt – a chance to prove)
      Centres: Barritt, Tompkins, Daly, Eastmond, Banahan
      Wings: Wade, May, Ashton, Joseph, Sharples
      Fulbacks: Foden, Goode, Tait

      If Brown and Twelvetrees do not tour with the lions, then i would put brown in for Goode (i think the weather in Argentina will be better for a guy like Tait, than Goode) and 12Ts in for Banahan.

      as i said with Banahan, he is a player with potential. he should be given a go by the SL regime here, if we fail to see him live up to his potential again for england, then it may be the end of his test career (similar could maybe be said about Tait – although a bit less of the “living up to potential” and more of the “showing he is back to his best”)

      1. Banaahan needs to be convertred to a No 8 an area where his speed and bulk would be best used for club & country.
        Whilst we are at it get Steffon Armitage in the England team as a hooker def big enough and he’d be the English Brits!

        1. totally agree with you Graham, england are lacking a world class 8, and banahan is the key! switching him to this role could see him being even better than parisse! would also work well for bath with skirvs leaving and a lot of players challenging for the centre position.

      2. good comments there, eastmond is very mobile, he’ll be better than jason robinson with more experience so any jersey 11 to 15 would be suitable. he could play 9 or 10 based on current potential. rumours that either george ford or tom heathcote will switch to 9 for bath next season with the other at 10. ford’s dad was a scrum half in his league days and heathcote is like a mini laidlaw.

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