Aviva Premiership Team of the Week: Round 4

James Simpson-Daniel

1: Brett Sturgess (Exeter Chiefs)
Atrocious conditions at Sandy Park on Sunday meant this game was always going be decided by the forwards. The Exeter pack put in a valiant performance against a much-revered Saracens unit that has immense strength in depth. Sturgess was the cornerstone of this epic effort that won the game for the Chiefs.

2: Joe Gray (Harlequins)
In what was billed as the battle of the up-and-coming English hookers, Gray completely outclassed his opposite man at Leicester, Tom Youngs. Converted centre Youngs needs to sort his lineout throwing out if he is ever to cement his Tigers place, let alone make it on the international stage, but Gray hit his man more often than not at the weekend. Add to that some brutish ball-carrying and the Quins hooker had a very good game.

3: Halani Aulika (London Irish)
The 19-stone Tongan prop put in an impressive 60-minute stint in London Irish’s season-reviving win against Bath. The big tight-head crashed over from short range in the first half and formed part of a pack and front row that bullied Bath and set up plenty of opportunities for Shingler to bang over penalties, which he duly did.

4: Jonathan Mills (London Welsh)
Last week Mills sacrificed two of his teeth in that epic comeback against Exeter to record their first Premiership win, an act that typified the commitment and guts that Welsh have shown so far. This weekend the teeth he has left remained intact; the only thing leaving his mouth were the shouts of joy as he crossed the line to score a vital try. One suspects he would sacrifice all his teeth over the course of the season to secure Premiership status for his team.

5: Tommy Hayes (Exeter Chiefs)
The talismanic Exeter lock set the tone for his side’s performance on a miserable Sunday in Devon, leading the charge and refusing to be intimidated by a usually influential Saracens pack. Hayes, younger brother of Irish record-setter John, epitomises everything that makes Exeter such a great club, and showed his worth again this weekend.

6: Sione Kalamafoni (Gloucester)
According to Wikipedia, Sione Kalimafoni once saved 7 children from a burning Tongan orphanage; it was a rather less impressive feat here, but his try was nonetheless important to save Gloucester from 5 straight home defeats for the first time since 1995. He carried strongly all afternoon, and offloaded well when he was eventually hauled down, to cap a fine performance from the giant Tongan.

7: Phil Dowson (Northampton Saints)
Mr dependable for the Saints was just that for 60 minutes against Worcester, before he joined his teammates in one of the most spectacular switching-offs surely ever seen. That 60 minutes was so complete a performance though, he makes the team anyway. A delicious offload for Artemyev’s try sticks in the memory, but he was typically industrious in the tight and the loose alike.

8: Nick Easter (Harlequins)
The headline was Jordan Crane returning and captaining the Tigers from No. 8, but it was his opposite number Nick Easter who stole the show at Welford Road. It is a notoriously narrow pitch, and Quins duly attacked time and again up the middle and around the fringes, Easter at the heart of these drives into the Tigers’ underbelly. A superb performance from the Premiership stalwart.

9: Danny Care (Harlequins)
Care was at his impish best at Welford Road, sniping and scurrying around the base of the scrum and the ruck, while all the time providing Nick Evans with supreme service. His partnership with the kiwi outside half eclipsed the all-English duo of Leicester, and ultimately proved to be the difference between the teams. The Tigers spent plenty of time in the Quins 22, but were far from clinical; Quins were just that, never more so than when Care slotted a cheeky, sweetly-struck drop goal from the base of a ruck.

10: Freddie Burns (Gloucester)
The Gloucester outside half has made a storming start to the season, and he continued in that fashion against Wasps. Jinking and weaving, his attacking play is a joy to behold, but what has been most impressive thus far has been his temperament and game management. He seems to finally be mature enough to run a game, and with burgeoning talents the likes of which Gloucester have in their outside backs, there is so much potential in their backline. Against Wasps he ran the show, kicking his goals as well as the corners, and would have bagged a 5 pointer save for a heroic tackle from Tim Payne.

11: James Simpson-Daniel (Gloucester)
One of the greatest shames of English rugby over the past few years is the injury record of the man known as Sinbad. He has pace, power, guile, and a rugby brain to match, and showed them all for a tremendous try on Saturday. Tearing down the left wing after some slick hands from Tom Savage, Simpson-Daniel beat 3 men on a weaving run to the try line. A beautiful finish in front of the shed, who rose to salute their favourite attacking genius.

12: Luther Burrell (Northampton Saints)
If Saints fans were worried about a rather large James Downey-sized hole being left in their midfield, their fears have surely now been allayed. Luther Burrell looks to have filled in his boots and then some. Matching Downey for size, he also showed some impressive pace and movement to glide through a couple of gaps and over the line for a brace against Worcester.

13: Elliot Daly (London Wasps)
Daly’s performance against Gloucester belied his youth, his beautiful outside break resulting in a supreme solo try. As predicted, his duel with fellow young Englishman Henry Trinder was a joy to behold; the outside centre position is one of massive potential for England. Every time he got the ball he caused the Gloucester defence problems, several scything breaks sending their backline scrambling. An eminently mature performance from a man with a huge future.

14: Josh Drauniniu (Worcester Warriors)
Drauniniu makes the team on the back of a quite astonishing performance from the Worcester replacements at Franklin’s Gardens. Seemingly down and out at 37-3, Richard Hill emptied the bench and was rewarded with a heroic fightback that salvaged 2 bonus points for his side. Drauniniu crossed in the 75th minute, breaking through some shockingly weak Northampton tackles in the process.

15: Nick Abendanon (Bath)
Bath seem to have picked up where they left off last season, inconsistency defining their performances so far. One thing that has been a constant, though, is the continued assuredness of Nick Abendanon at fullback. He played well in a losing team again here, making a telling break before setting up Eastmond to cross the whitewash.

By Jamie Hosie

Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images

31 thoughts on “Aviva Premiership Team of the Week: Round 4

  1. Don’t think that Burns can do any more. It will be up to Lancaster how he plays it from here.

    Quite pleased to hear about Joe Gray playing well, as with Dylan Hartley having a good start to the season, that might be one of England’s weaker positions in rude health (for the moment, until injuries strike, players lose form, etc, etc!).

    1. I hope Lancaster will give Burns a chance- if there were an international fixture right now I’d start Flood and have Burns off the bench to get some experience. That said, if it’s the Fiji game we’re talking about I’d probably throw Burns in there and see how he does. He looks ready to me.

  2. I have to disagree that Gray “completely outclassed”, Youngs. If fact I’d say that apart from at the line out, Youngs outplayed Gray.

    Still no tightheads putting their hands up for the second England spot behind Cole?

    Also, am I the only one that thinks Kyle Eastmond is very quickly becoming a better player than Wade? Hes got great hands, pace feet, can kick and seems to be much stronger in the tackle and breakdown than Wade from what I’ve seen. And he looks to be developing a similar taste for the midfield tracking runs that made Ashton so effective.

    And finally, If Marco Wentzl can give Joe Launchbury an apprenticeship in the line-out, a Launchbury/Lawes second row partnership is looking very tasty is it not?

    1. I think Youngs has great potential, but at the moment I think Gray is the more complete hooker. As a former centre Youngs probably offers a bit more in terms of the loose, but Gray is better at the technical stuff- surely more important. For me he was better at the weekend, if, I admit, “outclassing” was a bit of an overstatement. Eastmond and Wade are both a bit raw at the moment I think- Sinbad for a recall? If he can stay injury-free he’s certainly up there with the top wingers in the country.

    2. Check the stats mate – Youngs was second best. To be honest though, looking at the season so far they are pretty even in the loose with the exception of metres carried – Gray has covered twice the distance of Youngs.

  3. I’m quite excited by all the talk about Burns but have not seen much of him playing.Can somebody please tell me how he shapes up in defence.And the same for Ford,can he convincingly knock ’em over? I am aware that Cipriani has problems in this area and avoiding defensive duties as a fly half is no longer permissable.

    1. I wouldn’t like to comment with any authority on Burns’ tackling ability, but it doesn’t seem to have been flagged up as a problem so far. Certainly, he doesn’t seem like a small bloke. As for Ford, he’s never been afraid of a tackle and has bulked up a fair bit over the summer, so I shouldn’t think there will be any problems there.

  4. Well thats reassuring,but how much are we going to see of either of them in the near future.I have long felt that Flood doesn’t really cut it at international level and the same,thus far,can be said of Farrell.Fingers crossed…

    1. I hope Lancaster isn’t blinded by his obvious soft spot for Farrell- Burns has been infinitely better so far this season, and he’s the one I’d be phasing into the set up now. Having said that, England’s main goal over the AIs will be to stay at no.4 in the world rankings so they get a favourable world cup draw,so you could understand if he opted for conservatism rather than untried youth. I hope he doesn’t though.

  5. That’s a sound point and not sliding down the ranks with WC qualification in mind will obviously figure strongly with SL.The trouble is when is there ever a good time to introduce new talent-there are always reasons to hold back and we do need to get on with the job so they are up to it when the WC arrives.Further to this what are peoples views on the long term centre pairing?

  6. As a Glos supporter, I’m not saying Burns is an international FH either now or ever, but he certainly deserves a chance.

    The only way to find out is to play him and see how it goes. Some players just take to the speed and intensity of test matches, others wilt and some take time to get up to speed but are then fine. We just don’t know with Burns at this stage which it will be.

    Personally, I think he has an international future, but I am biased…..

  7. I agree that Burns certainly deserves his chance. I would say maybe bring him on at half time in the Fiji game or early in the first half dependent on how things are going.

    In terms of the center pairing, it has gone from being the positions where we are very weak to having about six or seven players putting their hands up. I would have Barritt, Tuilagi combo at the moment. I do not believe moving Tuilagi to 12 suits him, therefore as our best center he plays in his best position. That would leave it between Turner-Hall, Allen, Twelvetrees, Farrell and then Barritt for the 12 shirt, and I think that Barritt edges it from Turner-Hall.

    1. Fiji game will certainly find out if he can cope with the physicality!

      Still not convinced by the centres available. They all have good facets to their game but I’m not convinced that any of them are well rounded international centres with all of the skill set you would like to see. Allen has never cut it at international level, although good in AP. Twelvetrees needs more game time.

      If you play Burns, you might want Farrell outside him, or you might not… not sure personally – what does everyone else think?

      Bit worried that the Barritt/Turner-Hall and Tuilagi centre combo might be just a bit predictable in its approach! Whoever we have on the wings better be good at coming infield to try and get the ball as their not going to see it otherwise methinks.

      1. Am I the only person who likes to see established midfield combos? – Flood, Allen and Tuilagi regularly play very well together at Leicester – why should they not get picked?

        1. I agree that established units make sense. If they perform well together in the coming weeks there’s no reason why not, but I’m not convinced they’ve done well enough so far to justify selection. They can’t be selected purely because they’re a unit- they need to also be the best players in their position first and foremost I reckon.

          1. I disagree – Rugby is a team sport and relies upon effective units – I have seen many England teams that are less than the sum of their parts and I don’t think that you can underestimate the importance of chemistry between individuals (interestingly enough I am currently studying improv which emphasises the importance of the team dynamic) – so for me, the best units in the country are more important than the best individuals

          2. In putting my penny’s worth in, I agree that combinations are very important but disagree that club combos should be cut and pasted into the international side. There are two main reasons for this. Firstly the structures used at international level are often different to those used at club level and what works for the players and combinations at club mught not translate to the bigger stage. Secondly the best players will produce the best results at international level, and we have to rely on Lancaster to get the best players playing with each other in combinations, or otherwise you are limiting the ambition that England could and should show.

          3. Good points Staggy – the attitude that I liked best was Gatland’s- his first match in charge the Ospreys dominated the Welsh team with the advantage that they were all very familiar with each other (& that was enough to beat England at home) – after that he was able to slowly build his own combinations and move beyond the club combinations
            However, I think many club fixtures are more challenging than internationals (would you rather play Italy or Toulouse?)

      1. Agreed. He has looked good so far. Seems to have more than size and bish bosh to his game as well. I would like to see him play in the Saxons to start with to get used to the England set up and structure, but if he keeps improving at his current rate he could well be an England player before long.

        1. Burrell is certainly putting his hand up as the long term solution at 12- and why not throw him in during the AIs? Certainly against Fiji, if he continues to perform and get game time- bear in mind Saints have Pisi and Waldouck to accommodate too. But 12 is hardly a position of great strength in depth, so he should certainly be given a go.

  8. Being parochial both Garvey & Joseph at LI are def in England contention with Yarde close as well Bendy & Eastmond good for Bath GoW was immense for Quins in the TV game

  9. Wot no Sale Sharks players? Ahahahahaha! But I thought that we were told that they were a top 6 team! & I thought that Cipriani was going to force his way back into the England squad! & I thought that we were supposed to all really regret that Cueto was no longer part of the England squad!
    Sorry – but as a Glos fan there is still some bitterness with Redpath’s behaviour last season so it is amusing that Sale have had such a poor start

    1. A poor start yes, but there is still a long way to go. They could easily still finish top 6. Only four games have been played so for. A few good games can change a season just as easily as a few bad ones.

    2. I also found it laughable that people were placing Sale so high in there pre-season predictions, their 1st 15 simply isn’t that good.

  10. Yes,lets see more of Burrell.In reality it hasn’t taken much to get everyone excited,but it’s been a long time and many failed midfield combo’s.He’s big,he’s fast.But is he sharp and instinctive? Nobody else English seems to be.

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