It was an enjoyable opening weekend of the RBS 6 Nations, and there were several outstanding contributions. Here is our Team of the Week for Round 1.
1. Thomas Domingo
The cornerstone of a disturbingly impressive French pack that destroyed a heavy Scottish unit. Made some effective carries as well to make him the first name on the teamsheet for this side.
2. Leonardo Ghiraldini
Played like a flanker and seemed to be everywhere, alongside Sergio Parisse and Alessandro Zanni. Dylan Hartley deserves a mention for his composure in Cardiff, but Ghiraldini was the standout hooker for me.
3. Martin Castrogiovanni
Another of the Italian front row to make the side, Castro caused Ireland’s scrum problems, and was also prominent in the loose.
4. Richie Gray
It’s hard to miss the giant, blond-locked Scottish second row, but his impressive contribution made sure that he stood out in a Scottish pack that was second best.
5. Tom Palmer
Who said England’s lineout would miss Tom Croft and Courtney Lawes? Palmer stepped up and matched the heights he reached in the Autumn.
6. Tom Wood
An outstanding debut for Wood in a very tough arena, and he helped make the lineout a dominant force against Wales. Was always in the thick of it and just what I want to see from a flanker.
7. Alessandro Zanni
Italy’s openside had a phenomenal game, frustrating Ireland at the breakdown and standing shoulder to shoulder with his captain Parisse.
8. Imanol Harinordoquy
The Biarritz Number 8 needed something special to keep Parisse out of this side, and took just 55 minutes to do it. He has lovely hands, remarkable pace and unmistakeable presence and no doubt enjoyed the dominance of his forwards.
9. Morgan Parra
Not a weekend for vintage scrum-half performances, but Parra just about deserves his place here. An armchair ride and pretty good service to release the French backs when they fancied a run.
10. Toby Flood
A coming-of-age as a Test match fly-half? Suddenly looks confident and composed, and with a 100% kicking record to match an almost flawless display.
11. Maxime Medard
Two tries were enough to warrant a place in the Team of the Week, and looked as dangerous as ever for the French. Notable pace and great sideburns.
12. Jonathan Davies
Wales’ best player with a forceful game at 12 marred only by his trip on Chris Ashton. He could well be cited, and his absence would be a devastating blow from Warren Gatland who is a little short of players like this.
13. Alberto Sgarbi
Sgarbi characterised the Italians’ new style of play, showing that they aren’t afraid to put width on the ball. Having made minimal progress over the last couple of years, they at last showed some intent to play rugby.
14. Chris Ashton
Aside from his premature celebration for his first try, Ashton had another positive game. He’s a top-class finisher, and combined with his hunger for work and ability to pick a line and support a half-break, he’s probably the best winger in the competition.
15. Ben Foden
Foden showed a physicality against Wales that few thought he possessed. His hit on Stephen Jones in the opening minutes set the tone, and he made yards at close-quarters as well as in open space.