The number 8 has been ever-present at Northampton this season, after cruelly being ruled out with injury last year. There was no exception to the rule this weekend as his side played a gritty and gruelling game at Welford Road with Leicester. He imposed himself in the early stages with some barrelling runs, strong scrummaging and was unlucky to be held up for what would have been a well-deserved try. Competition for places is wide open for international selection in the opening few weeks of the season following some surprising and exciting displays. Not being in either EPS squad makes Dickinson highly unlikely to feature over the Autumn, but should injuries arise you can bet he will be on Lancaster’s radar as a replacement.
Compared to last season Wade has made a quiet start this year, but there were flashes of his brilliance against Saracens at the weekend. The Wasps winger is in great shape for selection for the Autumn Internationals following a surprising summer which saw him drafted into the Lions squad. There is no hiding away from the fact that Wade is probably the most dynamic and electrifying winger in the Premiership. He burst down the line to set up a Wasps try and looked constantly dangerous throughout the match. There was speculation aplenty around why the winger wasn’t making it into Lancaster’s plans last season, but there is surely no way he can be overlooked this time round.
Although it may seem obvious, Saracens’ start to the season can’t go overlooked. Owen Farrell has been excellent at the start of this season and continues to belie his years. Excellent kicking, intelligent decision making and incisive passing have been consistent characteristics as he has marshalled his side to the top of league. With Toby Flood and Freddie Burns following close behind, the rejuvenation of Danny Cipriani and the promise of George Ford, fly-half is going to be a tightly contested position. Nevertheless, Farrell and his team remain out on top and Stuart Lancaster’s decision will get easier as this continues.
One of Scotland and Edinburgh’s most talented players who can double as a goal kicking, tricky scrum-half or a mastermind of backline moves as fly-half. His ability to keep the opposition on their toes with his quick and intelligent ball work combined with his goal kicking talents make Laidlaw easily one of Scotland’s most important players.
He captained Edinburgh to the 2012 semi-finals of the Heineken Cup and made his long awaited return to action last weekend against Blues in Cardiff. Laidlaw scored all of his team’s 12 points in the 29-12 loss to the Blues but showed the talent and skill Edinburgh have been missing over the last five RaboDirect Pro12 rounds. Laidlaw is key to the future of both Scotland and Edinburgh, with his goal kicking and rugby brain likely to play a big role.
Yet another example of the exceptional talent Wales have in the backline, Jason Tovey is a duel threat from either fullback or flyhalf who is dangerous with or without the ball in his hands. After a brief season with the Blues in 2012-2013, Tovey is back with the Dragons and where it all began for the 24 year old.
Tovey made his club debut for the Dragons in 2008, as a 19 year old, and in 2010 he was voted Young Player of the Year by the Welsh Professional Players awards and has since gone on to play 92 games for the Dragons, scoring 591 points in the process. His most recent effort saw him score three conversions and three penalties in a 30-7 win over Zebre at Rodney Parade on Friday night. Tovey was masterful in the match, dictating much of the play while taking his chances well. With the Autumn Internationals on the not-too-distant horizon, Tovey could find himself in with a chance of making the squad if his Dragons performances continue to improve.
By Jono Frank and Alex McLeman
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images