There were many excellent performances to choose from as Northampton and Gloucester served up a real rugby treat. George North once again dazzled but it was an England fullback who provided two of the most telling contributions. If it weren’t for the boot of Twelvetrees, this would have been a day to savour for Foden as he danced over the line and then showed excellent hands in assisting in what may turn out to be the try of the season. International inclusion was limited for the Northampton man last year through pure bad luck with injuries taking their toll. However regular starts at club level and playing alongside the weapon that is George North will undoubtedly provide the platform to push on and catch Stuart Lancaster’s eye.
I for one am hoping that it’s not going to be the story of what could have been for Danny Cipriani. The much talked about fly-half’s performance last weekend was a cheery reminder of his capabilities as he came off the bench to mastermind a victory over London Wasps. A lovely inside ball to Cueto, a solid display from the boot and some excellent quick feet for a try of his own meant Sale continued their improved start to season and the former England fly-half notched 21 points. The Autumn Internationals might be too close for a shot at international redemption, but more performances like this may well lead to another opportunity in an England shirt in the future.
Harlequins endured a frustrating opening period against Worcester as, for all their possession, they failed to put daylight between themselves and their opponents. However, international quality shone through as Danny care raced away and Joe Marler bulldozed his way over the line. The Harlequins prop has been outshone by rivals Vunipola and Corbisiero of late and has some real competition for finding his way back into Stuart Lancaster’s plans. Nevertheless, he has certainly done himself a favour with a powerful performance this weekend. He was a constant psychical presence at the breakdown and dominant in the scrum. It will hard to overlook him come the Autumn should he maintain this form.
At just 19 years old, Jonny Gray is already setting the rugby world on fire with Friday night’s Man of the Match showing against reigning RaboDirect Pro12 champions Leinster yet another example of what a talent he is. Once tipped by his older brother, Richie, as the one to watch out of the two of them, the 6ft 6in younger Gray is only three inches shorter than his older brother while weighing the same 19 stones. Joining Glasgow in the summer of 2012 following stand-out performances for Hamilton and Scotland Under-20’s, he has since gone on to collect nine under-20 caps and captain the side in the recent Six Nations.
Eli Walker endured the most frustrating six months of his rugby life after being selected for Wales squad for the 2013 Six Nations Championships, before suffering a back injury which required surgery meaning he missed out on the remaining league campaign, the Six Nations tournament and the recent summer tour of Japan.
Now he is injury free and ready to pick up where he left off following some intense off-season workouts. He has played in all three of the Ospreys’ opening fixtures in the RaboDirect Pro12 with a two-try starring performance against Edinburgh on Saturday reminding everyone what this fiery winger can do. Now that he is back, Walker is hoping to once again challenge the likes of George North, Alex Cuthbert and teammate Daf Howells, who emerged into the international fold during Walker’s injury layoff, for places in this Autumn’s internationals and the Six Nations Championships.
By Jono Frank and Alex McLeman
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images