Six Nations 2013 Round 3: Team of the week

halfpenny
15: Leigh Halfpenny
Nerves of steel and a precision boot in horrific conditions, slotting six out of seven kicks, were on show once again on Saturday. Consistently amongst Wales’ best performers.

14: Alex Cuthbert
It wasn’t really a weekend for wingers, with conditions dictating three relatively scrappy affairs, but Cuthbert’s line for his try was a thing of beauty. Showed good pace and power to make it to the line.

13: Manu Tuilagi
Bulldozing power and impressive pace were the hallmarks of Tuilagi’s game against France. That and the bravery to keep playing with half his ear hanging off his head. The man is a warrior.

12: Wesley Fofana
Fofana confirmed what everyone in world rugby except Philippe Saint-André realised long ago: he is a centre. Ironically he scored his try down the wing, but several silky breaks from the midfield confirmed that is where he’s meant to be. There is not an skill that he doesn’t possess.

11: Craig Gilroy
With no disrespect to Gilroy, whose performance was a solid one, he is here probably more thanks to a lack of viable contenders than anything else. He did show impressive agility and drive to get over the line from five metres out, though.

10: François Trinh-Duc
This is a controversial one. Trinh-Duc didn’t do anything particularly brilliantly, but then neither did any fly-half this weekend. Farrell unusually lost his head, one Jackson was quite good with the ball but average from the tee while the other didn’t have any ball to work with. Burton for Italy was woeful, while Biggar gave a nice pass for an assist but little else. Trinh-Duc gets it for keeping France competitive for 50 minutes until he was inexplicably subbed for the meltdown-prone Michalak, whereupon France promptly fell to pieces.

9: Greig Laidlaw
Superb from the tee, which proved the difference, Laidlaw made sure that the fact his side had only 29% possession and 23% territory mattered not. An utterly baffling win, but fair play to Laidlaw for making sure Scotland were clinical – not an adjective that is regularly levelled at them. Parra is unlucky to miss out after proving he should have been starting for France all along.

1: Ryan Grant
His yellow card was probably a tad harsh, and he contributed to a scrum that comprehensively disrupted their Irish counterparts. 12 tackles, considering he was off the pitch for ten minutes, is a titanic effort for a front-row forward. Gethin Jenkins’ performance merits a mention as he continues the road back to form and fitness.

2: Richard Hibbard
Not a vintage weekend amongst the hookers, either. Some faltering line-outs in Edinburgh and all-round average play at Twickenham means Hibbard makes it almost by default. He did put in a big tackle, after all.

3: Adam Jones
Back to somewhere near his best. Much is made of Italy’s forward power; Jones made a mockery of that, destroying Andrea Lo Cicero at the scrum. A much-needed reminder that on his day he is a world-class tight-head.

4: Joe Launchbury
The languid Launchbury had another good afternoon in a white shirt (does he ever have a bad game?!) topping the tackle charts with 15. He possesses impressive pace for a lock forward, which means he can be a danger in the wider channels as well as the tight.

5: Jim Hamilton
Giant Jim was outstanding for Scotland on Sunday. It was a day made for him: tight, tense and full of physicality. He disrupted Ireland’s line-out while smashing green shirts back all afternoon. A deserved man of the match.

6: Kelly Brown
Scotland’s captain was so important to them that room has been made for him at no.6, despite him playing at open-side on Sunday. In reality it doesn’t matter where he plays, you can be certain that he will put his body in places he really shouldn’t for the team. The picture of him holding up the Centenary Quaich, blood streaming from his face, was the perfect way to sum up the warrior spirit that Scotland showed in winning a game they never should have.

7: Chris Robshaw
Another man of the match performance from the England skipper sees his claim on the Lions no.7 shirt continuing to strengthen. His hunger for work is so impressive, and he is the very definition of what Stuart Lancaster wants England to be about.

8: Louis Picamoles
17 carries and 81 metres made are stats worthy of a man of his stature. ‘The Iceberg’ was back to something near his best, charging over the gain-line time and again. It is a shame for the French that his teammates could not join him.

By Jamie Hosie

Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43

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29 comments on “Six Nations 2013 Round 3: Team of the week

  1. Pretty fair assessment bit still not convinced by Gilroy. He flatters to deceive in my opinion. But not a vintage week or even year for wingers. Shame the tournament was robbed of Zebo.

    Now for my Lions team based purely on 6N so far! This is a hard one as some have improved and others have dropped back.

    Healy, Best, Cole (but all 3 only hanging in there by their fingertips – Welsh and Scottish front rows could easily come through here)
    Launchbury, Gray
    Robshaw, Faletau, O’Brien
    Youngs/Laidlaw (undecided)
    Farrell
    Barritt, O’Driscoll/Tuilagi (how do you decide?)
    Cuthbert, Zebo
    Halfpenny

    I’ll look forward to the comments.

    • Hibbard and Jones to shade Best and Cole after the last week for me.

      BOD rolled back the years for 40 mins in Cardiff but hasn’t done much since, so I think it’s either Tuilagi & BOD or Barritt & Tuilagi on current form.

      Think (but not absolutely sure!) O’Brien has played enough 8 to allow for Wood, Robshaw and O’Brien to be in without having players badly out of position.

    • Staggy, what has Gray done to get into your team? He doesn’t even look the best 2nd row in Scotland let along B&I?

      Barritt? I hope we can do better than a speed bump in the centre. We need a centre who can pass of both hands there. You’ll notice I’m not volunteering who mind as I can’t think of who but please no, not Barritt.

      I agree with the rest with the caveat that you also mention – Sco and Wal front rows could push those 3 out of selection. It’s a tight call.

      • Brighty – I thought long and hard about the second row with Coombes and Parling in the frame. Hamilton had one good game only, as have the Irish 2nd rows. I think Gray has actually had two pretty good games. Definitely off the pace in the first one I agree but much more active around the park in the last two and always there or there abouts in the lineout, so for me he shaded it over Parling.

        Barritt. I know what you mean, but to be fair to him, he’s actually put together three very consistent performances, without the pretty boy stuff. Scott was the other one I was thinking of, but I thought Barritt shaded the battle between the two of them on the day, and is more experienced.

        Front row could be anyone’s call by the end of the 6N. Really impressed with how Wales have improved in this area over the last three games. Going to be interesting in Cardiff!

        Oh and when are you going to get that spoon taken down – I’m sure that there are some French supporters who want it!

    • A good line up.
      I Agree with the front row, Cole and Healy are going to have to work for it to keep Jenkins and Jones at bay. Although I think Cole’s lackluster scrummaging this weekend was largely to do with the two men on his left.
      Evident about 52 minutes in at a French scrum, just after Youngs/Vunipola had come on but prior to Domingo/Kayser coming off, France first collapsed the scrum after a good England drive and then engaged early on the 2nd attempt, giving England a free kick which then led to Tuilagi’s try.

      The scrummaging at the Millennium stadium will surely be fierce. Second and Third row seem bang on the mark. Although if Morgan can return to fitness; relieving Wood back to his native position against Italy and Wales, O’Brien will surely have some stiff competition if Wood can replicate his Man of the Match performance at #6 he displayed against the All Blacks.

      Youngs I’d definitely pick over Laidlaw. Laidlaw is good but Youngs has been better in the open and with Halfpenny/Hogg at #15 and Sexton/Farrell at #10, there will hardly be any shortages of kicking ability. Laidlaw would be my sub Scrum Half choice though.
      Farrell I’m also not too sure about, I personally would need to see him retain his “Iceman” composure against Italy and Wales before I choose him ahead of Sexton.
      Centres sound good, although out of the three I can’t choose who I’d start with and who I’d have on the bench. My initial thought was simply O’Driscoll and Tuilagi to either carve Australia up or simply move them out of the way. But the more I think about the likes of Barnes, Beale and Ioane; the more appealing Barritt’s defensive capabilities start to appear.

      Then the back three. The only positions even harder to choose than the centres. Mr. Reliable still has the #15 jersey as far as I’m concerned, with Hogg as his replacement. Although it will be interesting to see what effect Hogg can have on my rankings when the two favourites go head to head in a fortnights time at Murrayfield.
      Cuthbert has probably been the best winger of the 6 nations so far, but that’s not saying much as you said yourself it hasn’t been a wingers year so far.
      From the little I saw of him; Zebo would probably take the other wing position but that is subject to change, very subject. With the broken foot he’s not expected to be fit for another 8 weeks, or the end of April. It would be very shortsighted of Gatland to pick him (selection is also in April) based off of his sole performance against Wales. Come April, he could very easily be replaced by, well by anybody.

      • How about Halfpenny onto the wing and Hogg to fullback? Hogg has been pretty immense so far and with Halfpenny’s ability to play wing I reckon that would be a pretty good option. They would probably be quite interchangeable as well.

        Shortages on the wing is an interesting turn of events – over the autumn it was considered a place of strength (think Ashton, Bowe, North, Cuthbert, Visser). Funny how form and injuries can change things so quickly.

        • Hmm might agree with you regarding Halfpenny and Hogg in retrospect, particularly if Zebo can’t make it back in time. Where have our wingers gone? It’s certainly not all down to the weather, although that hasn’t helped. Have defences improved too much? Space was certainly at a premium at Twickenham at the weekend and it needed a special move from the Welsh to break through the Italians (obviously disregarding the bizarre bounce of the rugby ball for the first one).

      • Tom – Cole had problems with Domingo, very little to do with the 2 fellas on the other side of him.

        Domingo has excellent technique and the shape to cause Cole problems. He managed to get underneath Cole forcing him to come up – in the same way, in fact, as Domingo did to Cole back in 2010

        The Wales game should be a different matter as Jenkins is an entirely different shape to Domingo, being about 5 inches taller

    • Very little, I would have to agree – but can you think of a winger that performed better? I’m struggling, and he did finish his try very well, so that’s what got him in there.

  2. I just have this feeling one of the centre spots will come from nowhere as I think tuilagi will get the nod, rather have BOD experience to close out a game than to start then go off before the end.

  3. I would have Parra in, appreciate he wasn’t kick perfect, but thought he was at the heart of everything good about the French performance (including a try saving tackle on Tuilagi)

    I haven’t been too impressed by Cuthbert, thought he was a slightly faster Bannahan. However he is a much faster Bannahan, he had a lot of work to do for that try, definitely the pick of the wingers.

  4. Cuthbert was an ankle tap away from another try and he went looking for the ball all day when the weather dictated that the ball wouldn’t get past Biggar (did Jamie Roberts or John Davies get a pass ? ) .He has a strange running style but when he gets up steam is very fast . Still an apprentice really for example his ball watching for Irelands first try helped O’Driscoll’s wonderful pass get the try it probably deserved but he’s a quick learner to get where he is so fast .

    • Biggar did little else didn’t watch the whole game then, shocking assessment of a player who controlled the game well and was instrumental in both tries and place kicking out of hand was spot on

      I suggest you re watch the whole game; you include Cuth who took one ball and ran to the line which was set up by Biggar anyway

  5. Fair comments. Jones, Hibbard and Jenkins are all making a late run for the Lions team, but Ireland shaded the front row exchanges in round 1, hence Best and Healy. Giving Cole the benefit of the doubt after all of the changes in the scrum behind him for one more week. After the Lawes debacle, I’m definitely going for back row in their correct places! Cuthbert has run some good lines and has finished – can’t think of another wing who has really done that yet. Wing is the main area of weakness with the Lions IMO, although quality strength in depth at FH may be a bit thin too.

    Going to be quite interesting to look back at all of my Lions teams for each week at the end of the 6N and see how they,ve changed. Can’t even remember who I put in in week one!

  6. I reckon Laidlaw is playing himself onto the Lions plane. A scrum half/fly half who can kick? Just the sort of player you want.

    In this team of the week I can’t argue with Kelly Brown, but Tom Wood is unlucky to miss out.

    • I like the fact that he has picked “Simon” Best at Hooker!

      Not sure that he has seen any of the 6N based on this selection. It looks more like a team picked after the AI’s.

      • Yeah, some obvious mistakes, but some of the comments would suggest he has been watching the 6 Nations

        There’s nothing to stop Gatland picking France-based players – Lee Byrne is another example.

        For all we know, he’ll come out with a Lions team that includes Iain Balshaw

  7. i love that journalists keep calling Hamilton “Giant Jim” because of the aliteration (seen it on a few other sites). and yet on the day at murrayfield he was the 4th biggest lock (and therefore 3rd smallest…)

    Hamilton is 6ft8 – 2.03m
    Kellock stands at 6ft 8 but is 2cm taller than hamilton (according to scotland site) – 2.05m
    Gray 6ft10
    Toner 6ft 11.

  8. I’m more impressed by Maitland by the week – he showed well against England and Italy in attack, and against Ireland he played a pretty aggressive, hard edged defensive game.

    In a 6nations where the wings haven’t exactly been setting the world on fire, I’d think he’s a Lions contender already.

      • Now, I know what the rules are about eligibility.

        I know there are other nationalities in every team (although I was quite surprised to hear Hamilton speaking in what was basically rhyming slang after the Scotland/Ireland game)

        But there are some times where I find the actual situation not to my taste at all. Witness Michael Bent – steps off the plane and he gets a cap. Had he even visited Ireland before?

        Now that’s fine if that’s the way the IRFU want to play it. But I really wouldn’t want him in a Lions team – even if he’s the best player going

        Same for Maitland. He was even selected for the Maori and almost 2 years to the day, I was watching him score for the Crusaders vs the Sharks at Twickenham. He’s not even played a season before he’s selected for the national team

        People may disagree with me but at least players like Waldrom, Hartley, Barritt, Tuilagi, Strauss, Visser etc, etc have made a life here and established a career with the clubs before being chosen for the national side.

        Funny as it may seem to some, I’d love to see Tuilagi in the lions side. Maitland though? I’d rather they left him at home

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