Heineken Cup Team of the Week: Round 2

1: Dave Kilcoyne (Munster)
Kilcoyne provided a solid base at the corner of the scrum as Munster put Edinburgh to the sword. Their set piece was strong, as usual, and whilst Conor Murray won plaudits for his performance at scrum half, it was the front row, and Kilcoyne that helped get him on the front foot.

2: Rory Best (Ulster)
If the British and Irish Lions were to play Australia tomorrow, chances are Rory Best would be most people’s first choice hooker, and he proved why in Ulster’s win over Glasgow. He led from the front and was second only to Nick Williams in terms of metres run (14) and men beaten (three) among the Ulster forwards.

3: Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers)
Perhaps this will be seen as a controversial pick, but Cole gets the nod at Prop. Some may argue that he benefitted from Roman Poite’s interpretation of the scrum, but many cannot deny that his consistency continued to help keep Leicester Tigers stay ahead at the set piece.  Similar to Kilcoyne, he provided a solid foundation for Ben Youngs and the rest of the back line to flourish.

4: Paul O’Connell (Munster)
Twitter was awash with jokes that Ross Ford had simply been practising his throws for the Lions tour as Paul O’Connell was at his disruptive best in the air. Thus was the impact the grizzled veteran had on the match as he took three of Munster’s four wins against the head at the lineout in their 33-0 win drubbing of Edinburgh.

5: Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints)
Courtney Lawes underlined his ambitions to return to the England starting XV at Stade Ernest Wallon on Friday night by tackling almost everything in sight. Nothing got through the 23 year old as he notched up 12 tackles, missing none. He also impressed at the lineout, winning all seven throws sent his way and quietly going about his business at the breakdown.

6: Justin Tipuric (Ospreys)
Leicester’s decision to play Thomas Waldrom at flanker nearly proved to be a fatal mistake in the early exchanges of their clash with the Ospreys, and much of that was down to Justin Tipuric, who dominated the breakdown. With Sam Warburton having a quiet outing at Cardiff Arms Park, Tipuric will hope to defy the odds and oust the Wales captain come the Autumn Internationals, and with performances like this, it is on the cards.

7: Chris Henry (Ulster)
Declan Kidney is likely to be on the hunt for a replacement for the injured Sean O’Brien for the Autumn Internationals, and he could do a lot worse than Chris Henry. The 27-year-old took his try well against Glasgow and despite strong performances from Leicester’s Mafi and Toulouse and France captain Thierry Dusautoir, he played a key role for the Ulstermen across the field.

8: Antonie Claasen (Castres)
Castres needed something special to hold off Northampton and pick up their first win of the tournament, and Antonie Claasen helped provide it. Peter Mahony provided the muscle from the back for Munster and Nick Easter continued to stick his hand up for an England call-up, but Claasen was everywhere on Friday, scoring a try for his troubles in the process.

9: Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers)
A tough call between Youngs and England scrum half rival, Danny Care, but the Leicester man squeezed it. His passing was much more fluid from the breakdown and he exhibited some of the sniping runs which first saw him elevated to the international stage. Care should still be the starting scrum half come the Autumn Internationals, but Youngs is right on his tail.

10: Toby Flood (Leicester Tigers)
Directing Leicester around the pitch efficiently, Flood took control of the game almost from the off. The England fly half has always performed well when Ben Youngs is firing on all cylinders and it showed as he proved instrumental in Tigers’ victory, reminding Stuart Lancaster why he should be considered favourite to retain the number 10 jersey for his country.

11: Napolioni Nalaga (Clermont Auvergne)
The Clermont attack eventually broke down Exeter’s rugged defence and Napolioni Nalaga’s pace was one of the many keys the French outfit used to unlock it. The angles he ran constantly asked questions of the home defence and a brace of tries helped his side move a step closer to the quarter finals.

12: David McSharry (Connacht)
Connacht’s hopes of repeating their famous win to deny Harlequins a place in the quarterfinals of last year’s Heineken Cup were snuffed out by the English champions, but that didn’t mean they didn’t have some highlights of their own. David McSharry illustrated some defensive frailties in the Londoners backline, picking up a try in the process and illustrating how much they miss George Lowe at times.

13: Wesley Fofana (Clermont Auvergne)
Another player who scored a pair of tries for Clermont, Fofana again illustrated why he is currently the form centre in France, and perhaps Europe. He carried for 210 metres in another great performance from the youngster.

14: Isa Nacewa (Leinster)
Fielded an audacious cross field kick from Jonny Sexton and proved his experience by keeping his cool and dotting the ball down, despite the best efforts of George North. He continues to be a thorn in the side of his opponents.

15: Leigh Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues)
Tough on Luke Arscott who did well in Exeter’s loss to Clermont, but Halfpenny’s early try and kicking performance kept Cardiff in touch of a Toulon side who were widely tipped to beat the hosts heavily.

By Nick Winn

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40 comments on “Heineken Cup Team of the Week: Round 2

  1. Dan Cole didn’t benefit from the ref, he benefited from Tandy’s insane decision to keep Duncan on the bench. When Duncs came on the Os even won a 7 man scrum against the head. If Cole can’t sort out the Os 2nd loose tight then he’s not good enough to start for the Lions. Adam is still the front runner.

    I am surprised at the Flood pick – one interception try puts gloss on a performance that looked shaky under pressure for 70 mins. If it wasn’t for that, and the suicidal O’s substitutions, then Biggar would have looked the better player in that match, and I don’t think either of them were the ten of the weekend. I’d have gone for the Montpellier ten.

    As much as I love Halfpenny I’d have gone for the Castres 15. A tiny man but brave and skillful. A lot like Halfpenny in some ways but the Castres 15 put in a match winning performance.

  2. “Adam is still the front runner.”

    He was useless on Sunday. Did absolutely nothing as usual except waddle from scrum to scrum. Dan Cole was outstanding. He’s like Jenkins was in his prime, except not a poor scrummager like Jenkins is. Cole may as well have a 7 on his back, fantastic workrate in the loose and at scrum time. It was when Castro came on that things when pear shaped. Same thing happened last weekend. Cole will make mincemeat of the Aussies, as he has done many times before. Jones was blowing after 20 minutes, as usual.

    • Cole was certainly still on when Duncs came on to cover for the binning and Duncs mashed him.

      “Did absolutely nothing as usual except waddle from scrum to scrum…”, well, the last Lions selection team would argue with “nothing as usual” so you’ve clearly got something against Adam there. 3 grand slams, a world cup semi final and a couple of Lions test caps in a position that everyone agrees is a cornerstone for a winning team. Yep, does nothing.

        • Yeah, he smashed the weak Os prop and was then owned by the good one. So I stand by my initial statement that if he is not good enough to better Duncs then he is not good enough.

          • Seriously, I need to watch this world class display from Duncan Jones as I completely missed it. And even if he did have a hard time, are you saying that Adam Jones has never struggled? Ridiculous argument. Cole is top quality and has an all round game that most props, certainly Jones, can only dream of.

      • Nice citation of his merits there, but a world cup victory and a place in one of the best packs ever in 2003 wasn’t enough to stop vicks having a mare in the first test in 2009 so lets look at current work not past achievements

        • Grundy, I was stating Adam’s record in response to “Did absolutely nothing as usual..”. It was the “as usual” that I took umbrage with as his record does not support that idea, something that Steve did concede. I agree his record makes no difference now.

  3. I must have missed this supposed mashing. More likely Duncan and the Os pack had one good scrum that you’re basing an entire opinion on.

    Ok ‘as usual’ was harsh, he’s a good player, albeit somewhat limited and one dimensional. Cole’s workrate is ten times higher than Jones’, he’s like an extra flanker on the pitch, on top of his outstanding work at scrum time. He could have lasted the whole 80, Jones was struggling to breathe after 20, it was comical watching him waddle to each ruck about ten seconds too late. Cole and Tim Payne milked two penalty tries out of Australia last time England were over there. Has to be given the opportunity to destroy them once again.

    But at the end of the day, Jones is Welsh and Gatland is the Wales coach so it will be Jones don’t worry.

    • As you say, you missed that scrum, so I’d say you missed a lot more. When Duncan came on for that binning the Os went from losing the scrum to winning it, persistently during that binning and again later when Duncs came back on. Even the commentators were mystified as to why mad Tandy didn’t keep Duncs on after the binning because he was clearly dominant.

      The idea that Adam is some sort of unfit fattie who can’t get around the field is a bit of an old one and again, I point at his record. His stats show he makes a lot of tackles in a match, arrives first at a lot of the rucks. Again, he wouldn’t have the record he has if he was average in the scrum and even worse around the field.

      I hope you are wrong about why Gatland will pick him and honestly, given how ruthless Gats is I cannot see him giving two figs about who is or isn’t Welsh. He’d have a front row of Boks, Kiwis and Samoans if they were qualified and the best players (like England? :-)). However, I think you have the hit the nail on the head that whenever Gats picks a Welsh player who is considered by some to not be the best player in that position then this is the argument that will be trotted out. So he cannot win on this one. Take you and I – I believe Adam is better than Cole, you don’t. So if Gats picks Adam you will put it down to bias, I will put it down to good selection.

      It happened on the last tour – Cueto mewling like a baby who has lost his milk that he would have been on the tour if not for the “Welsh coaching influence” – and it will happen again.

      I trust Gats – he was forwards coach last time and picked Vickery to start, it was only after we got crucified up front in the first test that the all Welsh front row emerged.

      • i’d also like to add, that the all welsh front row that emerged didn’t win the 2nd test, the english props won the 3rd test

        • Grundy, the win/loss record doesn’t tell the full story of those tests though as I am sure you well know. That 2nd test was one of the must brutal sporting encounters I have ever seen, leading to a host of players not available for the 3rd test, on both sides. Also, if ROFG hadn’t been there we’d have won it. We all know that a dead rubber 3rd test didn’t have the same intensity so while I was massively proud of all the Lions for winning it I don’t think it is a straight like for like comparison.

      • Just on the sneaky dig about England picking players born over seas, about half the welsh squad were born in England. Roberts, Cuthbert and co were born over here on English soil…its where your heart is, not where you were born.

        • James, I hope the :-) made it clear it was a dig made in jest but I have to say I don’t think the cases you cite are in any way similar. Roberts, Cuthbert, North are British, so as with lots of English/Welsh/Irish/Scottish players they could pretty much play for any of the home nations, so they chose the nation they feel affiliated with. Surely the financial and (at the time) title winning prospects would have been better with England, teams that would have happily had those players?

          Oh, and it isn’t “half the welsh squad” at all.

          Roberts is as Welsh as they come – raised in Cardiff, first language Welsh, etc. Same with North. I don’t know Cuthbert well enough to comment on him.

          The Kiwi’s, Boks, etc. that play over here though are far different and I cannot see there is any “heart” in their choice of playing for England, Wales, or any of the other teams; surely it is a financial and convenience matter?

      • Is it just possible that Duncan Jones was dominant because he was fresh from the bench? Whereas I’m guessing that Cole had been on from the start?

        • Dazza, I agree that would have made a difference. Though the Os loosehead was so crap I’m not sure Cole would have lost much effort against him… Wales are really struggling to find the next generation of front rows. Rhys Gill doesn’t get enough games, the Blues and Os young lads are crap and do not look like they will get any better. There is some hope with the young lads down at the Scarlets and Paul James looks to be playing well for Exeter but the cupboard is pretty bare.

  4. Great to see this thread dominated by front row debate. Who cares who plays out wide, it’s the forwards that will win the Lions Tour.

    • Eamonn, couldn’t agree more. Best moment I ever saw in rugby was the 1st scrum in the 2nd test of the last Lions tour. Still raises the hairs on my neck when I think about it now. Adam has been the cornerstone of Wales success in the last few years, as has been proven by the results we achieve when he is not fit. When Adam has a knock the entire country holds its breath.

  5. Regardless of how many tackles Jones makes when he’s having a good game, he wasn’t on Sunday. He was very poor. Yes the unfit fatty thing is an old one, but it applied against Tigers. Cole has so much more to his game, and is still only 25.

    As for 2009, if only they’d picked a proper loosehead like Sheridan instead of Jenkins (as Toulon have been currently doing all season) to partner Jones. That would have helped.

    • Oh god, you and I really are on a different page when you think Sheridan is the answer … Sheridan couldn’t even do over the Cardiff Blues scrum on Sunday. My nan could do that (and I’m a Blues fan, so it pains me to say it). Sheridan has had a couple of good games against the Aussies where refereeing went his way. I don’t recall him doing much else?

  6. If i weigh in as a fan of both Jones and Cole, id say Mako Vunipola had a better game than Jones, who does look a bit unfit at the moment and is carrying a knee injury. He could still turn things around before the Lions tour. Sorry but Dan Cole is the number one tighthead in Europe at the moment. I actually cant recall the last time he had a nightmare in Leicesters green or England white shirt. that sort of consistency at such a high level of performance and pressure is surely what defines world class?
    Who would be the pick of the 7s for the Lions tour? Id have Robshaw and Tipuric ahead of Warburton at the moment. Ross Rennie isnt playing fantastically in an edinburgh pack that is struggling for form and id always prefer to have o’brien and 67′s like that playing either 6 or 8. Even though there is plenty of talent in those positions.
    Cant argue with the Courtney Lawes selection. It must be a lot more relaxing for the saint when theyre defending, safe with the knowledge they have a cruise missile like him roaming around the field, picking off unsuspecting would be attackers.

    • For me the sevens would be Tipuric and O’Brien at the mo – O’Brien at 7 to have him in the squad and on the pitch if needed as he is brilliant but would not displace Lydiate. So no Robshaw for me – before toys get thrown out of pram (they have been before when I dared to suggest Robshaw wasn’t good enough for the Lions) please read what I said – Tip/O’Brien – so this is not saying Robshaw is crap, it is saying he is not as good as those players and that’s without considering Sam coming back to the fore over the next few months.

  7. Tipuric and Armitage are the two outstanding 7′s in B&I imo.
    O’Brien and Robshaw are 6′s that their countries deem important enough to play in preference of their next best 7.

    • True, although Robshaw has grown into the role in a way that O’Brien hasn’t. The summer games showed how far Robshaw has come.

      Is he as good as Tipuric? Not sure. Don’t think Tipuric has truly been tested at international level yet. Hopefully, he’ll get picked for the autumn tests and be tested against the big boys of the southern hemisphere

      The other string to Robshaw’s bow is his captaincy abilities – which seem to be rather good. That may be enough to edge him over other choices for the Lions.

      Still, whoever is chosen, the back row possibilities for the Lions are somewhat exciting assuming fitness – Robshaw, Wood, Morgan, Croft, Armitage, Tipuric, Warburton, Faletau, Lydiate, R Jones, Denton, Rennie, O’Brien, Ferris, Henry, Heaslip…and I’ve probably missed a couple

      How on earth will Gatland decide from that lot?

      • O’brien outplayed McCaw in two of the summer tests and got most tackles for the Irish team. He was one of the few positives on that tour for Ireland.

  8. Great reading the previous threads, atm I have to agree with Steve and say that Dan Cole was better than Adam Jones, that isnt to say that Jones is a worse player than Cole, I just think he would edge it into the Lions front row right now. As a number 7 I think Robshaw is incredibly underrated, i read a stat that in the summer he made the most turnovers of any seven in any team, now that is impressive. However Tipuric is immense, as is O’Brien, amazing to think of the competiton for the 7 spot. Wish there was a little more competition for the number 2 spot, Hartely it is!!

  9. Differing opinions as always, with Brighty holding up the Celtic end of things (as always – consistent to a fault!). I think that the AI’s will reveal a huge amount about who is likely to be on the plane with the Lions. Step up in intensity and class with some common opponents to really set the opinions going!

  10. It’s nice to see that Welsh fans simply can’t admit when their teams are outplayed or understand why an English player deserves credit. Jones is a class act, but Dan Cole owned him on Sunday, and Flood had a much improved display – he bossed the game like I haven’t seen in a long time and contributed a lot.

    I’m not a Tigers fan, but I can accept when their players do well. Why is this such a hard thing for people to do?

    Incidentally, I don’t know how well Sheridan is playing at Toulon, but he’s currently keeping Jenkins out of the starting team and he’s another Welsh wonder. Curious…

    • What a witless response. To “admit it” I would have to agree with it, which I do not. Because I disagree with something you think is clearly a fact it must simply be because I am biased. You seem incapable of entertaining the grown up notion that subjective opinions can be, and often are, different. Here is a shocker for you – I can think Adam is the best, Steve can think Cole is the best, and neither of us is “wrong” or “biased”, we’re simply disagreeing based on the qualities we saw. To take your argument to it’s absurd conclusion there should be no need for selection committees or even blogs like this one because there is always one inarguable and factual assessment of a rugby match and its players. Hilarious.

      I’ve put my side of the argument over (my opinion of what Duncan achieved over Cole, my opinion of what Biggar achieved over Flood) and have mostly had good natured but disagreeing responses, which is what I would expect when subjectivity is analysed. There is often the chance that opinions may change when debate is entered into. You however had to bring it down to some childish Welsh v English thing … pffft.

  11. Great debate on the front row. I’m a huge Adam Jones fan, and was dismayed when Vickery was chosen ahead of him for the previous 1st Lions test – he is a proven operator at the highest level.

    However, as someone who watches both players regularly, I have to say Brighty that I think you’re kidding yourself with selecting Jones over Cole.

    Cole has been consistently awesome for the last year. He was England’s third biggest source of turnover ball last 6 nations and second biggest source in the summer tests. For a prop that is outstanding. He has also consistently decimated opponents over the last 6 months, winning scrum battles against South Africa, Toulouse and (yes) the Ospreys. I was right next to the scrum you cite and the reason for the penalty was Cole’s grip slipped on his bind – good play by DJ, but a mistake that can happen to any player (no matter how good they are). Plus, I’m suprised that you make the assumption that Cole is not good enough based on one f*ck up in one scrum, rather than on the 99% of scrums this season?

    At the moment, Cole is arguably a more destructive scrummager and his tackle count and contribution does significantly exceed AJs at the moment.

    As I said, I really rate AJ, and he should go on the tour, but as far as I’m concerned there is little doubt that Cole is top dog.

    • Mike, I guess I’m going to have to wait and see on this one then. As Staggy has said (and he correctly identified my desire to hold the Celtic end up as well…), the AIs should be the start of seeing where people really are. Cole and Adam should both play NZ and Aus this autumn, so that should be the test of where they both are, a better test than recent as the should be (?) in quality front rows (I think the Os are light at loosehead and the Leics hooker has some way to go). Perhaps the Lions selection could come down to balance – with Hartley almost certain for hooker and Jenkins not playing enough those two slots could both go English and hence Cole might make the most sense. For Cole/Adam, we are talking about two quality players obviously, where we differ is on which we think is the better. I look forward to the AIs helping us out on that one.

  12. An interesting discussion here. Personally I think that Adam Jones is a very good (old school) prop. And Cole is a very good new school prop. Jones is very good i the scrum, but not as mobile as Cole, who runs some very good lines and is frequently the first man at turnover time.
    I wouldn’t be surprised to see Vunipola stake a claim on the number 1 shirt for England by the 6 Nations. Whilst Corbisiero is a very good scrummager, his work in the loose and ball carrying is not as good as Marler or Vunipola. Marler uses his aggression and strength well, but Vunipola is very similar to Cole. Runs great lines, carries well, and has produced some great offloads to use the space around him. As a prop he’s very good, but as an all round rugby player who happens to be a prop, he’s great.

    • I think that part of the reason Wales can afford the luxury of a very good scrummager who I concede is not as good in the loose as Cole, is the balance elsewhere in our front row – Matthew Rhys and Gethin are both very good in the loose, Gethin widely acknowledged as the master of a front row playing like an extra flanker. When you add in our actual flankers, especially the machine that is Lydiate, I would say it means that for Wales we are better off with Adam than we would be with Cole. So I think the Lions front row will come down to the best unit and there I think Cole has the edge as I expect the hooker and, unless Gethin gets a run of decent games, the loosehead to be English.

      • I suspect that Healy could be in with a shout at loosehead. He was probably the best loosehead in the 6 nations, although I don’t know if he’s been on form this season.
        You could be spot on there though. If the balance of scrummagers, ball carriers, fetchers is right, then that could determine who plays and who doesn’t. It also depends what style of play Gatland wants to implement. It may differ from game to game. As for hooker, who knows. I think Hartley is probably the most on form hooker at the moment, but I’m not sure he’s the best hooker. His throwing can be woeful sometimes, and in big pressure matches like Lions test matches, a wayward line-out can cost you dearly.

        • I’d disagree with that given the way Healy and Ross were utterly dismantled by Cole and Corbisiero in the england ireland game

          The thing about Cole is that he is beginning to do both extrememly well – yes, he is a new style prop in that he plays like an extra flanker around the field, but he is also becoming one of the best scrummaging props around – ref. destruction of Irish scrum last 6 nations

          Marler likewise – great in the loose but his scrummaging has come on to such an extent that quins now have one of the best scrums around. I remember last season Marler monstering Mujati of Northampton and then his replacement, Doran-Jones when he came on.

          I think long-term Marler may have the edge on Corbisiero. What a choice to have though!

          • Add Vunipola to this list and England are in good stead for loosehead. But apart from Cole at tighthead, what are our other options?
            Corbisiero – 24, Marler – 22, Vunipola – 21. The future is bright.

          • I agree, never been impressed with Healy as a prop. As an extra centre yes, he makes great inroads for Ireland there, but he is the classic “good in the loose” prop when that plaudit is used to gloss over his inconsistencies in the scrum. I feel if he lost a few pounds he’d make a better backrow or centre.