Aviva Premiership Team of the Week: Round 5

15: Topsy Ojo (London Irish)
Ojo makes the team almost exclusively for his exquisite crossfield chip that sent Alex Lewington over in the corner on 62 minutes, and in the process effectively killed-off any dreams Harlequins had of a resurgence. It was such a nonchalant little kick from a player not necessarily renowned for his deft touches.

14: Semesa Rokodoguni (Bath)
Rokodoguni is in red-hot try-scoring form at the start of this season, and although the rest of the Bath team were fairly disappointing on Friday night, the winger’s fine finish in the first half lit-up an otherwise lacklustre display. He also managed to get his hands on the ball on plenty of occasions, making 13 carries and beating nine defenders in the process.

13: Ian Whitten (Exeter Chiefs)
Given the dominance of their pack it was not a tough day for the Exeter backs, but Whitten still managed to shine for the Chiefs. There were a couple of clean breaks that showed an impressive turn of pace, to culminate in 61 metres made in total.

12: Sam Hill (Exeter Chiefs)
The young English centre completes an all-Exeter centre partnership after another accomplished performance at the weekend. He is a strong ball-carrier but also has a decent amount of guile, making ten carries and beating three defenders agains Gloucester. A strong start to the season from a man with a bright future.

11: Alex Lewington (London Irish)
The ex-Leicester Tigers winger benefitted from a delightful kick from Topsy Ojo, but the try nevertheless required some finishing. Collecting the ball at a canter, he accelerated and weaved his way past the last couple of Harlequins defenders to nip over in the corner. A quality finish.

10: Danny Cipriani (Sale Sharks)
Cipriani’s return to form would appear, for now, to not just be a blip as many feared. He masterminded Sale to another impressive victory on Friday night, showing impressive game management to knock over a drop goal in the first half, and generally keep the scoreboard ticking over with his boot. Even more impressively, he made 12 tackles without missing one. A changed player? Still a long way to go, but the signs are good. Mentions also to Steenson, Flood and Myler, all of whom impressed in different ways.

9: Mike Blair (Newcastle Falcons)
The Falcons’ chances of survival were always likely to be decided by the performances of their senior players, and the veteran Blair proved his worth in a canny performance against Worcester. he marshalled his forwards well, and darted over for a try that ultimately decided the game. A commanding influence in what was a huge, huge win for his team.

1: Logovi’i Mulipola (Leicester Tigers)
Until the final 10 minutes or so, as Mulipola and Cole began to tire against the Saints’ fresh legs, the Tigers’ set piece was utterly dominant. Mulipola, along with Youngs and Cole, formed a front row unit that won the set piece battle and also offered himself as a strong ball-carrying unit on occasion.

2: Tom Youngs (Leicester Tigers)
Lots of hookers impressed at the weekend, with Whitehead of Exeter and Taylor of Sale coming close to the team, as well as Youngs’ opposite man Dylan Hartley. Youngs gets the nod thanks to the significance of his performance; up against his direct rival for the England shirt, his already outstanding workrate seemed to go up a notch, making ten tackles as well as overseeing a faultless lineout.

3: Hoani Tui (Exeter Chiefs)
Tui was stopped millimetres short of the tryline, and arguably deserved five points to his name for a power-packed performance. Part of a front five that brutalised a lightweight Gloucester unit at the set piece, he also made several telling carries close to the opposition’s line.

4: Dean Mumm (Exeter Chiefs)
Mumm has been an excellent choice of captain down at the Chiefs. On Sunday afternoon he inspired his team to bounce back from last weekend’s disappointing defeat to the Tigers to win at what is – traditionally, at least – one of the toughest places to do so in the league. A smartly taken try and 52 metres made with ball in hand is not a bad return for a man with plenty of responsibilities on the pitch.

5: Joe Launchbury (London Wasps)
Credit must go to Wasps for the way the hung on against Saracens, and no-one epitomised their never-say-die attitude this weekend more than Launchbury. His unyielding workrate was again to the fore, making 12 tackles and several important carries. Lawes also went well for Northampton – that could be a welcome selection headache for Stuart Lancaster.

6: Blair Cowan (London Irish)
London Irish’s was one of the performances of the round, and Blair Cowan (playing openside on Saturday), who joined from Worcester over the summer, was in fine form against Quins. He crashed over for a try and was busy all afternoon, offering himself for 17 carries and chucking a couple of neat offloads in the process. Mention to Mark Wilson of Newcastle who made an astonishing 24 tackles in a titanic defensive effort at Worcester.

7: Will Fraser (Saracens)
It was fantastic to see Fraser back on the rugby pitch after an extended period on the sidelines. He had a solid game against Wasps, including a smart finish of a nice team move started by Owen Farrell. Got his head down and made his tackles in general play.

8: Sam Dickinson (Northampton Saints)
Dickinson is a man mountain. If it is too early to talk of him as a bolter for England, then that time cannot be too far off. The giant, bald no.8 oozes physicality, consistently making yards over the gainline but also showing the awareness to offload when it is appropriate. Mention to Ewers of Exeter who was a workhorse against Gloucester.

By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43

Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images

27 thoughts on “Aviva Premiership Team of the Week: Round 5

  1. The number 8 position will be interesting for England come the Autumn. Ben Morgan seems very far from form, and whilst B.Vunipola has impressed, is he ready? Maybe Dickinson has half a shout, but I’d be surprised. Is there any other obvious options that I am missing?

      1. I was waiting for a Nick Easter shout! I must admit I wasn’t expecting Waldrom or Crane to come up! Next you’ll be telling me that Tom Guest is England material as well!

        It is a slight worry for SL that no-one is really putting their hands up!

        1. I reckon they should move Wood or Robshaw and play them out of position – that worked really well before, right?

          On a serious note, if Dickinson keeps going the way he is he’ll be tough to ignore, particularly if, as you say, Morgan continues to struggle and Vunipola keeps being played at 6 (fairly certain he’s only started once at 8 so far this season?).

          1. Haha of course, Wood at 8 again!!

            And Vunipola only started one game at 8, and I think three at 6. Hopefully Saracens will give him a few games at 8 running into the AIs as for England we need an 8 playing regularly.

            This always confuses me, but since Morgan and Vunipola are the 8s in the EPS doesn’t it mean we have to pick one of them unless there are injuries?

            1. How about keeping Vunipola at 6 and playing Morgan at eight with Robshaw on the open-side

              Does anyone else play eight at all? Tom Johnson?

              1. You want to leave out Tom Wood? He is our best back row player – no way he misses out.

                For me, the Croft injury makes decisions a little easier. Wood plays 6. Robshaw and Kvesic fight it out for 7, and Morgan and Vunipola fight it out for 8. When Croft is back he adds to the options at 6.

                I would go with:
                6. Wood (c)
                7. Robshaw
                8. Vunipola

                I would like to see Vunipola play the next couple of games at 8 for Sarries leading into the AIs; but I would pick him anyway. He is playing well and Morgan is not.

                I was also thinking Kvesic would steal the 7 shirt from Robshaw but he hasn’t done much to suggest he should have it so I’d stick with Robshaw for now.

                1. Was thinking that with Wood on the bench, he is able to cover all three back row positions, 2 of them extremely well and the other one he can do a job at

                  Plus imagine having Morgan and Vunipola running at you…

              2. Far too imbalanced to have Morgan and Vunipola in the same back row. Plus leaving out your best back row is madness. If for some reason SL wants Morgan and Vunipola in the same back row then Wood will have to play 7 (as he has done a lot for Saints).

                1. Well, to my mind, that depends a lot on your opinion of Wood.

                  Personally, I don’t think he’s a good a 7 as either Robshaw or Ksevic. And I don’t believe 7 is Robshaw’s best position, always thought he was better at 6 – and if chosen there, would be better than Wood.

                  Hence my opinion that Wood would be a good bench option. But each to their own, etc, etc.

                  I don’t see the imbalance with playing Morgan and Vunipola at 8 and 6 respectively. Woul;dn’t be dis-similar to SA with Vermuelen and 8 and the rather powerful Alberts at 6

              3. I wouldn’t say the imbalance would be because of too much power; the imbalance would come through the lack of hard graft that each of these players put in. They are both big ball carries but neither offer a line out option, or a particularly high work rate.

                We will have to agree to disagree on Wood. I personally think he is far ahead of any back row player we have at either 6 or 7. That isn’t to say I don’t rate the other back row players I’m just a massive Wood fan!

    1. Totally agree that Dickinson and Ewers are very much the in form 8s, Morgan hasnt quite found his mojo yet and whilst Vunipola has been great its mostly been at 6… I would like to see Ewers in the next Saxons squad (if he’s english?). Totally dominated gloucester’s pack single handedly…

      And to defend Crane, I think he has actually been pretty good recently- really worked on his game. But he will never be a first class international alas.

      1. Ewers is England qualified. He arrived in the UK from Mugabe’s Zimbabwe aged 14 and has risen through the Exeter academy.

  2. Youngs/Hartley was close, but does Youngs get in for his ability to get away with the dodgy throw that led to Slaters try :-)

    1. To be fair, Youngs may not have carried much, but his defensive display and his lineout were brilliant. 100% on the lineout vs. 71%, 10/11 succesful tackles vs. 6/7, 0/0 turnovers/penalties conceded vs 5/1. The amount of time that Dylan Hartley spent walking backwards and standing up in the scrum wasn’t very becoming either

  3. A team without a coach Jamie!!!!!

    Surely there has to be a mention of Rob Baxter as coach of the week for the chiefs comprehensive demolition job on Gloucester?

  4. Still not sure what more Foden has to do to get noticed. His performances so far this year have been brilliant and a lot of the talk has been about anyone except Foden

    1. Totally agree, he’s rock solid and has bags of gas. Can’t help but think he’s nearly back to his best form. Just needs to finish those half chances, plus he dropped the ball for a certain try at the weekend did he not?

  5. Jordan Crane? The same Jordan Crane that lost control of the ball at the back of an advancing scrum mere 5 metres from the Northampton try line?
    If Lancaster decides that Morgan and Vunipola aren’t ready/good enough; then I’d rather Easter get the nod.

    And surely Cole should have got the #3 shirt. Out-scrummaging Gloucester when their first choice loosehead is still banned must be a walk in the park compared to Corbisiero. The only time Corbisiero got under Cole was for his try.
    I think it has something to do with Youngs in the front row. Being quite short, he enables the rest of the front row to pack down closer to the ground.

    1. ha, I think you need to play number 8 in a supremely dominant scrum to appreciate how easy it is to lose that ball. Arguably, the way that Saints fell apart and stood up in that scrum should have seen a Leicester penalty, but I’ve seen plenty of the best lose the ball at the base when the scrum is going forward that fast.

      To be fair, a lot of people scoff at Jordan Crane. He’s not the speedy ball carrier that Vunipola is and he doesn’t trouble the defence in the same way. However, he is a very experienced player with a lot of maturity and has performed well at Leicester and for age group/Saxons levels for England. He’s hardly poor and with 100 points in 125 premiership games, you could argue he deserves more of a shot at the England shirt than he’s been given. At the minute, of the number 8 options, you have Vunipola not playing 8, Ben Morgan not playing rugby and Nick Easter looking surely too old for another world cup (that is not to scoff at his form). Not so sure that Crane should be scoffed at

      1. Proving Vunipola can play 6 is just a cunning ploy by Sarries to endear him to Lancaster, we know he likes at least a 3rd of his EPS squad to have some experience at 6!

        Agree Crane deserves a shot as the next cab off the rank. Dickinson looks great but after just 5 prem games has he really done enough to leapfrog Crane who I thought really added to his game last season? Not sure yet.

        1. I’m not really suggesting that Crane should be on the England side, but I do think he deserves more than scoffing at.

  6. Nice to see Roko getting a mention. While we remain inconsistent he has been awesome so far this season. Keeping Biggsy out of our team is no mean feat, especially for someone coming in to the professional game so late

  7. On the Dickinson, Morgan, Vunipola question. I think if Dickinson carries on in his current form he could leapfrog Morgan at least. Morgan is playing behind a very poor front 5 for Glos, and has started a couple of games on the bench I believe. Vunipola started the season at 6 because Sarries only had him Joubert, Wray and Burger fit to start in the back three. He actually played very well at 6. But he should be getting more time at 8 now the others are all back from injury. I can see SL picking Vunipola and Dickinson as the choice 8’s. I don’t think you can ignore Dickinson’s form, and Morgan’s lack of it, or the fact that Vunipola can hold up players and pull defenders in to create space.

    1. Morgan looked good on the summer tour, first test especially, so think his ‘credit in the bank’ will keep him in the 23 for now. Though it’s frustrating that he shows so much potential and then goes off the boil a bit.

      Dickinson is really exciting, plays like a Kiwi 8. With his pace and ability to play a bit wider I can see him working his way into the 20 shirt for 6N, but maybe a bit early yet with just 5 prem games under his belt, looking forward to seeing how he goes in the HC.

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