Fly-half is an area of fierce competition for Wales, which would usually be a good thing – the issue is, however, that no-one has yet really grabbed the jersey and made it their own. If it is currently a three way battle between Biggar, Priestland and Hook, the Blues’ Rhys Patchell will surely soon have to be seriously considered as the starting fly-half. On Friday night, in a Cardiff team plagued by injury and shorn of many of its biggest names, Patchell orchestrated an unlikely victory over the much-fancied Glasgow Warriors. There was one booming penalty from within his own half, as well as a smartly-taken try that showcased his eye for a gap, as well as some impressive strength to barge over the line. If none of the squad incumbents really catch the imagination in the Six Nations, do not be surprised to see Patchell feature at some point soon.
Before anyone gets carried away, we are not suggesting that Benjamin is ready for international rugby just yet. He has looked rusty in most of his outings so far, but against Montpellier on Sunday there were flickers of the old Benjamin – the player that had Tigers and England fans alike talking of a bright future when he signed a couple of years ago. Injuries have cruelly denied him a chance to fulfil that promise, but with a brace of tries against strong opposition, that showcased power, pace and excellent awareness, Benjamin is back on the radar. And when you consider the injury list England have in his position, if he continues to perform to this level there is no reason why he can’t play himself into contention for England’s Six Nations squad.
It was a hell of a weekend for wingers. Fitzgerald is another that has struggled over the past few seasons with injuries, and it is easy to forget that in 2009 he was one of the pre-eminent wingers in the Hemisphere – he was a test Lion in South Africa, after all. On Saturday, in Leinster’s astonishing demolition of the Saints, Fitzgerald bagged a hattrick of tries. If the first was about capitalising on a shocking error from Ken Pisi, the third was all about Fitzgerald’s hard work off the ball, to get on the ball-carrier’s shoulder and accept the final pass. If he stays injury free, he will be firmly back in international contention.
The young Connacht scrum-half is quite a prospect. It was an excellent weekend for Irish rugby in general, but their scrum-halves in particular impressed, with Eoin Reddan and Conor Murray both key cogs in their respective regions’ wins. If that means Marmion may not get a chance internationally in the near future, it is surely only a matter of time. On Sunday night, in Connacht’s historic win at Toulouse, Marmion’s opportunistic dart over the line made the difference. If he continues this kind of form Connacht will do well to hold onto him, as he looks towards gaining international recognition.
It has been a tough season for Burns. Playing behind a pack going backwards isn’t easy for any fly-half, but the Gloucester 10 has looked particularly out of sorts at times. It was hugely encouraging, then, to see him put in such a dominant performance at the weekend. He varied his game brilliantly, and when he chose to run he attacked the gain-line – there are few fly-halves that look so dangerous when doing so, certainly in England anyway. With rumours aplenty about where he will be next season, there is one thing that is for certain – England fans everywhere will want to see him play behind a dominant pack more often, whether that is at a rejuvenated Gloucester or somewhere else.
By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images