15. Andrea Masi (Italy)
Masi typified Italy’s defiance in the face of an England team that probably did not pay his team enough respect. He was resolute in defence, making 11 tackles, and consistently solid going forward. One of many Italian warriors unlucky to end up on the losing side. Rob Kearney is unlucky to miss out after rediscovering some form.
14. Luke McClean (Italy)
11 carries, 99 metres made: stats worthy of a top class international winger. Took his try with aplomb and was a genuine threat to the England defence, often dancing his way through gaps that appeared not to be there. Also has a very handy left boot on him.
13. Brian O’Driscoll (Ireland)
The warrior that is Brian O’Driscoll continues to defy his body – and common sense – as showed on Saturday when returning to the pitch after seemingly being knocked-out. It wasn’t all bloody-mindedness, though – there were moments of real class as well, a perfectly-placed grubber kick here, a ghosting outside break there. He will be sorely missed.
12. Luke Marshall (Ireland)
Marshall didn’t set the world alight by any stretch of the imagination, but was there another inside centre who had anything remotely resembling a good game this weekend? Gonzalo Garcia, perhaps, but Marshall gets the nod by virtue of being up against better opposition. He helped nullify the combined threat of Fofana and Fritz, while one turnover in the first half sticks out in the memory.
11. Mike Brown (England)
Brown was by far the stand out performer in the England backs – but then that isn’t saying a great deal. He still manages to make metres and one step and go left his opposite number clutching at thin air, almost leading to a try. George North and Venditti can both feel slightly aggrieved to miss out after impressing.
10. Paddy Jackson (Ireland)
Had Orquera knocked his kicks over he would have had this spot down. He didn’t, however, and it cost his team the game. Jackson looked more man than boy this week, and was significantly better from the tee, including a couple of absolute belters from near the halfway line. Again, though, it is a damning indictment of the quality of rugby on show that there were so few contenders for this spot.
9. Conor Murray (Ireland)
Murray’s mastering of what were very difficult conditions for half-backs to play in was the most pleasing aspect of his game. It is a fiercely competitive area looking ahead to the Lions tour, but the Munsterman has done his chances no harm this weekend.
1. Cian Healy (Ireland)
Healy made the most of not being banned to get his hands on the ball as often as he could, completing 12 carries in total. He was part of an Irish pack that bullied its French counterpart in the first half, several incredible driving mauls culminating in a try for captain Heaslip.
2. Richard Hibbard (Wales)
Hibbard looks perfectly comfortable in the international arena, and the physical nature of his game was never more welcome than at Murrayfield on Saturday. Barged over from short range to cap an excellent performance on which the only blight were a few wayward line-out throws. Tom Youngs was also at his bustling best for England – that looks set to be quite a head-to-head next weekend.
3. Adam Jones (Wales)
Two dominant Welsh scrums in two matches against strong packs renowned for being good in the scrum reflects very well on the shaggy-haired Ospreys man. Also completed ten tackles, an impressive shift for any front row forward. Looks back to his best and hungry for that Lions jersey – his battle with the other frontrunner, Dan Cole, next weekend will be fascinating.
4. Christophe Samson (France)
The French still haven’t managed a win but have at least now managed a point. When Yoann Maestri went off injured early in the second half great responsibility fell onto the inexperienced shoulders of Samson, and he handled it well. 14 tackles, the same number as that great tree-chopper Dusautoir, is massively impressive for a lock.
5. Alun-Wyn Jones (Wales)
This was Jones’ type of game – tight, physical, and in need of a healthy dose of warrior spirit, something he possesses in abundance. Completed ten carries and ten tackles, as well as taking six line-outs. A comprehensive return to the starting line-up for the giant lock.
6. Alessandro Zanni (Italy)
Zanni was part of a back row that outplayed its English equivalent in almost every facet of the game. He combined with Barbieri and Parisse to outfox their opponents and arguably should have had a try after a sublime surge from Zanni almost set up Parisse, only for a dubious knock-on to foil them. The stats back up his brilliance: 11 carries, 72 metres made and 11 tackles. Imperious in attack and defence.
7. Sam Warburton (Wales)
This is the Warburton that Welsh fans have been pining after – the 2012 Grand Slam vintage. It is too early to say if he has played himself back into Lions reckoning, but it was certainly a step in the right direction. Along with super-sub Tipuric conspired to pilfer Scottish ball at any opportunity, consistently denying them an attacking platform.
8. Louis Picamoles (France)
It is so tough to ignore the prodigious Parisse, but Picamoles was once again the shining light amongst a largely average group of Frenchmen. Made 83 metres in 13 carries, including the all-important five (or was it four and a half…?) that mattered most in the end.
By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43