1: Dave Wilson (Bath)
Wilson was drafted back into the England elite squad in the week, and that good news clearly inspired him at the Rec on Saturday. Whilst he wore the tight-head shirt on Saturday he is equally comfortable on both sides of the scrum, and makes the team for some sensationally strong ball carrying in the first half, one culminating in a try, as well as his efforts in the Bath pack that led to a penalty try.
2: Schalk Brits (Saracens)
Brits was pilloried last week for his performance off the bench at Sandy Park, where horrific conditions were not conducive to his all-court running game. A loose offload in the first few minutes apart, the South African was back to his best here, one sublime break from inside his own half after the break particularly stunning. The set piece also wobbled after he was replaced.
3: Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers)
Cole’s form early this season has been superb, as he continues to share the tight-head shirt with Castro at Leicester. The Tigers’ win against the Chiefs was based on their traditional dominance in the set piece, and Cole was the cornerstone of the pack that led the way to victory.
4: Steve Borthwick (Saracens)
Sarries’ fine victory at the Stoop was based largely on their dominance in the set piece, and credit for their stellar lineout work must go to the ex-England captain. He has never been the biggest ball-carrying second row but his intelligence on a rugby field is second to none.
5: James Percival (Worcester Warriors)
Worcester finally gave the always-excellent fans at Sixways something to shout about with their first win of the season- and what a win it was. Percival was at the heart of everything good from the Warriors, and his support play was particularly excellent for a big man, as a strong carry after a break from Jon Clarke in the second half showed.
6: Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints)
Lawes has usually featured in the second row for England over the past couple of seasons, but since returning from injury this year has shone in his outings at 6 for the Saints. It is a position of considerable strength for England, so he may still end up at lock come the autumn tests, but he enjoyed the freedom the back row allows him at the weekend, tackling and carrying strongly.
7: Chris Robshaw (Harlequins)
His team may have lost but the skipper was as talismanic as ever, and on another day the result could so easily have been different. A clever offload in the first couple of minutes set the tone for his afternoon; the skipper is looking in fine form going into the Heineken Cup break.
8: Sione Kalamafoni (Gloucester)
The giant back rower led from the front again, making yards whenever he got the ball and setting a platform for the Gloucester backs to work off. One charge after a kick off was so powerful it ended hooker Neil Briggs’ involvement in the match. The Cherry and Whites look to have made a superb signing.
9: Tyson Keats (London Welsh)
To the delight of all rugby fans, Welsh have defied all the pre-season odds and made a fantastic start to the season. They may not have won against Gloucester but they contributed to a thrilling game at the Kassam Stadium, bagging a bonus point in the process. Their Kiwi scrum half is something of a journeyman, having played in Italy as well as his home country, but he was in fine form at the weekend, sniping around the breakdown and providing a great platform for Ross to operate from.
10: Toby Flood (Leicester Tigers)
It’s been a Kiwi who’s dominated the number 10 position in the early rounds of the season, but this weekend was all about the Englishmen. Burns is flying high for Gloucester, making some audacious breaks against Welsh, and Farrell was back to his solid best for Sarries, but for a complete performance Flood takes the shirt. The England incumbent’s kicking, passing, and running games were all exquisite in a performance that will have reassured Lancaster.
11: James Simpson-Daniel (Gloucester)
The magician from Kingsholm is in scintillating form. He is thriving on the performances of young Burns inside him, and the two combined on several occasions at the Kassam to send the Welsh defence scrambling. His break down the left wing resulted in the crucial try for Gloucester that delivered them the win.
12: Olly Barkley (Bath)
More commonly seen at 10 this season, Barkley’s shock move to Racing Metro is going to leave a gaping hole in the Bath midfield that they will surely struggle to fill. He was on the money once again against Sale on Saturday, nailing his kicks in his final performance for the West Country outfit. With the last kick of the game he slotted a conversion in a perfect send-off as he leaves for France.
13: Matt Smith (Leicester Tigers)
Smith often goes unnoticed in the Tigers midfield but he showed all his class at the weekend, playing a key role in 2 of the 3 Leicester tries. For the second, he stepped round one before offloading gorgeously out of the tackle, and he then put in a precise grubber behind the defence to send Thompstone scampering over for his hat-trick try.
14: Adam Thompstone (Leicester Tigers)
The ex-London Irish winger made his first start for the Tigers after Scott Hamilton pulled up in the warm-up, and he certainly made the most of his opportunity. All 3 of his tries were smartly taken after some impressive build-up play, and now hopefully he can put his injury-beleaguered past behind him.
15: James Wilson (Northampton Saints)
The saga surrounding Cameron Shepherd’s non-signing for the Saints seems not to have affected his replacement, as Wilson has made the shirt at the back his own. The Kiwi was a signing from Bourgoin over the summer and looked good against Wasps, bagging a brace including a strong finish for his second.