The Northampton Saints scrum-half appears rejuvenated by the arrival of the world class talent that is Kahn Fotuali’i. While the Samoan is yet to fully find his feet, Dickson’s upturn in form surely has a lot to do with the fact he is no longer the undisputed no.1 in his position at the club. His strengths lie in different areas to his rivals in England’s EPS – while Ben Youngs and Danny Care possess searing pace and an eye for a gap that Dickson cannot match, the Northampton man’s slick service and intelligent marshalling of his pack stand out above all else. Certainly, there is less of the crabbing across field that at times blights Youngs and Care. All that said, he did make a lovely break against Sale in the build-up to one of his team’s tries. With a different style of game, he offers Lancaster an intriguing potential bench option.
The winger everyone loves to hate appears to have some of his mojo back. His try at the weekend against Harlequins – the only one in the game, and ultimately the deciding factor in the result – showcased the knack that won him so many admirers when he initially burst onto the scene: getting on the shoulder of the man making the break. So many of his initial international tries came from that intelligent support play – something that seems to have been so lacking in his game in the past season or so. With other English wingers staking strong claims for international recognition, Ashton will need to show more of this play to convince Lancaster he is still the man for the job.
A slightly left field selection this one, but after Morris’ inclusion in Ireland’s initial (albeit rather large) training squad for the Autumn Internationals, why shouldn’t he be spoken of in terms of international recognition? The winger/fullback has excellent positional sense, and is very solid under a high ball. He has obviously learnt a lot from one of the great Irish winger-cum-fullbacks, and new Tigers coach, Geordan Murphy, and continuing to work under his tutelage can only be beneficial for Morris. It may be unlikely to happen in the near future, but if he continues to improve and show the kind of good form that has made him a regular starter at the Tigers, there is no reason why an international cap or two should not be in Morris’ future.
Only two years ago, Henry Pyrgos was at the back of the queue for a Scotland place behind the likes of Mike Blair, Rory Lawson, Chris Cusiter and Greg Laidlaw. Fast forward to present day and the man who carries the expression of an innocent schoolboy is now well and truly one of the most important players not only for Glasgow but for Scotland as well.
Pyrgos has so far collected nine caps for Scotland – albeit as Laidlaw’s understudy – but the former University of Loughbourgh graduate has asserted himself brilliantly in the PRO12 so far this season. His most dominant performance came last weekend against Zebre where he slotted home three difficult conversions and one penalty to help Glasgow maintain their unbeaten record. With star scrum-half Nikola Matawalu only just returning from injury and the indifferent form of Chris Cusiter, Pyrgos has the opportunity to hold down his place in the Warriors side while also solidifying his status as one of Scotland’s best 9s.
At the beginning of this season Madigan was readying himself for a year in which he would be battling the likes of Ulster’s Paddy Jackson and the newly-departed Johnny Sexton for the Irish No.10 jersey while hopefully leading Leinster to another RaboDirect PRO12 title. New arrival Jimmy Gopperth has been brilliant for Leinster so far this season, but when they welcomed Cardiff to Dublin, Madigan took his chance with both hands.
He spread the play expertly, making Cardiff chase the ball all evening on his way to leading his side to a comfortable 34-20 win. Madigan chipped in with a try for himself while also slotting all of his conversion attempts and two penalties. He clearly stated his intensions in front of a home crowd who would love nothing more than to see another Irish No.10 dominating for the Dubliners. He demonstrated his natural talent, showcasing his pace, willingness to back himself and keen eye for the gaps. He has a conversion rate of 86.96 per cent in the PRO12 and has scored 15 tries in his short professional career.
By Jamie Hosie (@jhosie43) and Alex McLeman
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images