Aviva Premiership Team of the Week: Round 8

Mike Brown

1: Marcos Ayerza (Leicester Tigers)
Ayerza found himself on the bench for Argentina during the Rugby Championship, and has since been deputising at Leicester too. With Mulipola now away, he got his chance and he reminded us why he is so highly rated. Not only is he a good scrummager he is dynamic in the loose and always picks good running lines.

2: Huia Edmonds (Gloucester)
Edmonds joined Gloucester from the Brumbies over the summer and has brought some ball-playing flair to their front row. He played well against Quins, carrying around the park while also getting all the bread-and-butter parts of the hooker’s game right.

3: Rupert Harden (Gloucester)
In years gone by Gloucester’s lack of a hardened set of forwards has meant they have never managed more than mid-table status. This season looks to be different however, and whilst they don’t look like scrummaging teams off the park they are at least solid in that area. A case in point is Rupert Harden – not a player who is going to set the world alight, but at the weekend against an impressive Quins outfit he more than held his own.

4: Graham Kitchener (Leicester Tigers)
A dour East Midlands derby meant the big lock shone, in a game that was decided up front. Full of grunt and hard work, it told you all you needed to know about the game that Kitchener was man of the match. Still, he has developed some subtle touches to his game also.

5: Alastair Hargreaves (Saracens)
Hargreaves scored Sarries’ only try as they edged past a highly resilient Wasps side on Sunday. The giant South African lock charged down a Charlie Davies kick before racing away from the defenders to touch the ball down. It looks easy but it actually takes a fair bit of skill to dot down a bobbling ball like that.

6: Maurie Fa’asavalu (Harlequins)
The Samoan flanker is one of the most destructive ball carriers in the Premiership, and with the absence of Gloucester’s big South Sea Islander Kalimafoni, Fa’asavalu was able to let loose. As is typical of the Islanders he is so tough to bring down, almost crossing for a try in the first half but being hauled down metres short of the line.

7: Julien Salvi (Leicester Tigers)
Salvi makes such a big difference to the Tigers when he plays. His work at the breakdown is second to none in this league, and it was an area that Leicester dominated against the Saints. Ford may have had an off day with the boot, but had he kicked his goals the Tigers would have won by almost 20 points.

8: Nick Easter (Harlequins)
He may not be in England’s plans for the future, but he certainly the man of the moment at Quins. Easter is in arguably the form of his life and was once again excellent against Gloucester, a calm presence at the back of the scrum leading his side to victory.

9: Haydn Thomas (Exeter Chiefs)
Thomas scored a timely try just as Worcester were starting to edge back into the game. Throwing a clever dummy he spotted the smallest of gaps and nipped through it to touch down and all but secure the victory for the Chiefs.

10: Charlie Hodgson (Saracens)
With other fly halves, including club-mate Owen Farrell, off on international duty, the Premiership is the only thing on Hodgson’s mind. He punished Wasps’ indiscipline on Sunday, slotting seven penalties as well as using all his experience to guide his club to the win.

11: Tom Varndell (London Wasps)
Varndell simply cannot stop scoring at the moment. He took his chance at the weekend with aplomb, accelerating onto a Southwell pass before tearing away from the covering defence to cross in the corner. He doesn’t seem to be in contention for an England call-up, but if he keeps scoring how much longer can he be ignored?

12: Billy Twelvetrees (Gloucester)
With England’s issues at 12, it is no surprise Twelvetrees has just been called up to the squad. He has all the attributes of a quality inside centre: distribution, defence, kicking game, and a handy eye for a gap. They were all on show at the weekend, but whilst he crossed the line sadly it wasn’t quite enough to drag Gloucester with him.

13: Jonny Leota (Sale Sharks)
Sale finally recorded a long overdue win at the weekend, and their midfield rock that is Jonny Leota was in fine form. He crashed over for an important try in the first half and generally marshalled the midfield well. Mention to Matt Hopper at Quins who is also looking good at the moment.

14: Tom Williams (Harlequins)
Williams has made himself a key member of the Quins team, and weighed in with two assists against Gloucester at the weekend. The second was particularly excellent, gliding through a gap and drawing a handful of defenders to him before throwing almost a blind pass for Hopper to scurry over. Mention to Nick Scott for pure drama at the Kassam as he intercepted a Bath pass to win it at the death for Welsh.

15: Mike Brown (Harlequins)
His release from the England squad spurred Brown on to a fine performance in a tantalisingly close win for Harlequins. He showed all his strength to crash over in the corner for his try, and was typically solid under the high ball throughout the game.

By Jamie Hosie

13 thoughts on “Aviva Premiership Team of the Week: Round 8

  1. “Mention to Alex Hopper at Quins who is also looking good at the moment.”

    Does this mean Matt Hopper?

      1. A shame you didn’t also mention Joel Tomkins, who is going from strength to strength in the Sarries back line. Watch the Wasps game at the weekend to see some great running and defending from the former Wigan man.

  2. Varndell will be in the England team when he learns to defend. Unless you play Barbarians rugby (score as many as you can and hope the others don’t score as much) then I don’t see a place for him.

  3. Seems to me that Nick Easter is winning man of the match almost every time he plays at the moment. Clearly, he is currently the best Number 8 in the Premiership and possibly in the British Isles.

    Sad and short-sighted that Lancaster has left him out of his plans. Protestations that he will be too old for the next world cup hold little water when both Dowson and Waldrom are in the squad. Waldrom can’t even get a game at 8 for his club at the moment.

    This Saturday saw him give a lesson to England’s preferred choice, Ben Morgan. Whilst Morgan is the future, surely he could only have benefited from training alongside Easter in the England squad.

    1. Tend to agree on club performance so far although it wasn’t long ago that most of us were moaning that he wasn’t dynamic enough on the international stage. He has also had his attitude to training questioned – now I don’t know if this is true or not, but that could be a reason why he’s not in the squad (and indeed why he might not be a good role model for Morgan!)

      1. I was never one of the moaners. Speed is not everything, particularly for a number eight and I always thought that the control he bought was worth a little loss in dynamism.

        As for his training attitude, I’d have thought that if O’Shea and Robshaw don’t have a problem with it at Quins, then there shouldn’t be any reason for it at England level.

        Oh well, no point worrying over what isn’t going to be. For whatever reason, Lancaster has taken against him and is unlikely to change his mind, even if he does seem to be cutting his nose off to spite his face

    2. I don’t think you can call it short-sighted. A long term view has been taken that he will be too old come the next world cup – he will be 37. There is a strong argument to say that is too old.

      Dowson and Waldrom are a few years younger, so I don’t agree with your implication that they contradict that philosophy.

      However, I am of the opinion that Dowson’s form this season doesn’t merit a place in the squad. This comes back to the issue of the EPS and the July selection Lancaster is bound by, so raises a whole new debate.

      As for Waldrom, he hasn’t played at 8 because he has stepped into the 7 position left by Salvi’s injury, not because he has played badly.

      1. Nick point taken – although I’d note that Simon Shaw was still playing for England at that age and Brad Thorn was about the same when he won the RWC with the Kiwis. Not to mention Radike Samo in the Wallbies squad this autumn

        re. Waldrom and Dowson the point is not so much that they are as old as Easter but that they are not the future. So when Lancaster claims he is building with an eye to the future and therefore will not include Easter, it is somewhat disingenuous.

        Lastly, on Waldrom at Leicester, this is a bit of a personal opinion in that, to me, number 8 is a more influential position than blindside, so you will always want your best number 8 playing there. I accept that Cockerill may feel that blindside is more important and is therefore prepared to have Waldrom playing there rather than at 8

        1. There are some older players out there that have been successful. So I can see that it’s not completely fair to say Easter would be too old.

          On Waldrom, he has been at openside not blindside; which, as I’m sure you know, is a very different skillset. Waldrom probably fits that better than Crane, hence his selection at 7 and Crane at 8 – but I guess your point is still valid to an extent. 8 is part of the spine of a team that is often talked about as being key, so you want your best options there.

          And YES! Dowson certainly isn’t the future of England. At least I hope he isn’t…

          1. Dowson’s not the one for me either, picking him would show pretty mch no ambition. His only saving grace is that he can play across the back row, but then when you think about it so can Haskell and (at a push) Waldrom.

            Easter’s issue is definitely his age. I think it’s a bit unfair levelling criticism at Lancaster for not picking him- my guess is he’s had a word with Easter and told him he’s not in his plans as he builds towards 2015. That may even have contributed to him playing so well- the weight of England off his mind.

            Finally, whilst Waldrom may not be the youngest man in the Premiership for me he has the fitness and athleticism to keep going until 2015- a view clearly shared by Lancaster as he continues to pick him. A combination of him and Morgan could be very effective over the next few years.

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