1: Soane Tonga’uiha (Northampton Saints)
Credit should also be given to both Paul Doran-Jones and Brian Mujati for the effort put forth by Saints in the scrum against Ulster, but Tonga’uiha was dominating. Pride was restored for the big loosehead who also had a good game carrying the ball.
2: Benjamin Kayser (Clermont Auvergne)
The hooker is the first of five selections from Clermont, but it could have easily been more. Consistent at both the lineout and scrum, Kayser was also powerful in the loose and the Leinster defence struggled on more than one occasion to get him to the ground.
3: Adam Jones (Ospreys)
Despite only playing 35 minutes (and missing the final few minutes in the sin bin) Jones was the standout tighthead of Round 4. The arrival of Jones from the bench reversed the momentum swing which the Toulouse scrum was beginning to achieve. He solidified the scrum extremely well and helped see out a memorable victory for the Welsh side.
4: Samu Manoa (Northampton Saints)
Northampton bounced back tremendously from their defeat at home to Ulster in Round 3 to return the favour and win at Ravenhill, and no one was more responsible than Manoa. The big lock was at his marauding best as he carried the ball over and past the gain line time after time. His physicality was also evident at the breakdown too, helping turn over Ulster ball at key points during the game.
5: Steve Borthwick (Saracens)
The former England captain played a big role in Saracens’ impressive victory over Munster. He was imperious at the lineout, competitive at the breakdown, and effective as a ball carrier. The lock is arguably in the form of his life.
6: Nick Williams (Ulster)
The Irish province may have been beaten by Northampton, but blindside flanker Williams was a constant, physical threat for the home side. Williams’ ability to offload was also evident when he made line breaks, something which happened with alarming regularity for the Northampton defence.
7: Justin Tipuric (Ospreys)
The openside flanker continues to put his hand up, not only for Welsh selection, but also for Lions inclusion. He went up against the much vaunted Toulouse pack and came off the winner at the breakdown, consistently securing quick ball for his side. Tipuric was also vital in holding up a Toulouse maul over the Ospreys try line late in the game, consequently denying them a losing bonus point.
8: Imanol Harinordoquy (Biarritz)
It was far from a vintage week for number eights, but Harinordoquy maintained his high standards in abysmal weather conditions at Parc des Sports Aguilera. Although he didn’t excel in any one area, he was solid in every aspect of his game and made little to no mistakes when many around him were struggling in the adverse weather.
9: Morgan Parra (Clermont Auvergne)
Parra fought off stiff competition from Dimitri Yachvili and Kahn Fotuali’i for his place in this week’s side and was certainly pivotal in Clermont’s historic victory against Leinster. He made Leinster’s defence pay time after time with incisive, sniping runs, whilst his distribution skills never faltered as Clermont’s backs shone in Dublin. His goal kicking was also prolific, as he scored 20 points with the boot, and deservedly picked up the Man of the Match award.
10: Frederic Michalak (Toulon)
Sale may have been completely dominated by Toulon in their trip to the south of France, and Michalak’s performance was superb in orchestrating their demise. Often used as a scrum half to allow for Jonny Wilkinson’s presence in the team, Michalak looked at his best in the 10 jersey. Accurate kicking both from hand and at goal, coupled with intelligent passing, had the Frenchman looking like the player that burst onto the international scene over 10 years ago.
11: Jamie Elliott (Northampton Saints)
Elliott could be an unpopular decision with many considering the top performances from wingers such as Eli Walker and Napolioni Nalaga, but without him Northampton would surely have lost to Ulster this weekend and effectively ended their chances of qualification. The winger was competent with ball in hand during the game but really came alive in defence, putting in two try-saving tackles late in the game to secure the victory for Northampton.
12: Wesley Fofana (Clermont Auvergne)
The hard-hitting centre may have touched down for Clermont’s only try of the game, but he was responsible for an even larger contribution outside of scoring. He consistently drew defenders to him with his physical threat, creating space for the likes of Aurelien Rougerie and Sitiveni Sivivatu outside him.
13: Aurelian Rougerie (Clermont Auvergne)
The Clermont theme continues at outside centre with the selection of Rougerie. The elusive running lines of Rougerie were the perfect foil for the physicality of Fofana. The centre was also powerful in defence as the captain excelled both with and without the ball.
14: Sitiveni Sivivatu (Clermont Auvergne)
The fifth (and final) Clermont selection in the backs is that of former All Black, Sivivatu. He exposed Leinster frequently with his pace and often surprised with his power, gaining extra yards after contact. The winger also displayed his fantastic offloading skills, consistently bringing other players into action after the tackle, most notably in the build up to Fofana’s try.
15: Delon Armitage (Toulon)
The fullback was in superb form, running in a great solo try as well as helping Toulon keep Sale scoreless in their match. If Armitage maintains this form then he surely adds his name to the already congested list of full backs competing for an England jersey.
By Alex Shaw