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.