Six Nations Team of the Week: Round 3

danny care

15. Mike Brown (England)
Brown was once again in top form at the weekend, giving further fuel to his acceleration onto the list of top full backs playing the game. The Englishman was not only defensively flawless – with one cat-like reflex-catch a particular highlight – but he also made 82 metres with the ball in hand (more than anyone else) and showed wonderful awareness for his team’s try. Not afraid to exchange pleasantries with the great O’Driscoll either, which is always great to see.

14. Yoann Huget (France)
Despite three cracking matches on display, this weekend wasn’t really the best showcase of European wingers, which is why I’ve picked the Toulouse man in my team despite playing in an otherwise abysmal French side. That he still managed to beat two defenders and look threatening during such a blunt display from his side is the sign of a class player and he was one of few to walk away from Cardiff with his reputation intact.

13. Alex Dunbar (Scotland)
The Scottish commentators on the BBC are usually forced to be optimistic about minute, irrelevant details – such as the re-introduction of a collar to the Scottish shirts (bravo, by the way) – so it was incredibly refreshing to hear them have something legitimate to be cheerful about. We’ve known Dunbar as a solid defensive centre, but in Rome we got to see him pick intelligent lines and gallop his way in for two superb tries. A real step forward for the Scottish midfield.

12. Jamie Roberts (Wales)
Roberts is one of those awkward players who is very hard to stop, despite the fact that you know exactly what he is going to do. In a typical example, his chin will reach you about 10 seconds before the rest of him does, but even though you have time to prepare you still find yourself unceremoniously being used as an impromptu doormat. The Lions centre is a man who has perhaps lived off his 2009 pomp for too long, but on Friday night he had his timings and his angles all right, launching himself over the French line time and again.

11. Jonny May (England)
I thought long and hard about this one and I’ve gone for the Gloucester flyer despite fluffing a fairly simple chance early on and then not backing himself to reach the corner in the second half. There are times when he looks like a headless chicken with the ball in hand and doesn’t know where he’s going, but I comfort myself in the knowledge that, if he doesn’t know, the opposition won’t either. Against Ireland he made 80 metres (that’s 80 metres forwards, goodness knows how many sideways) and beat six defenders with sheer pace and footwork.

10. Duncan Weir (Scotland)
It could be argued – successfully – that Priestland, Farrell and Sexton all had better games than the Scotsman, but the Glasgow fly half wins the spot this week for having balls the size of space hoppers. His last minute drop goal was not easy and he was under a heck of a lot of pressure, but nailing it after the fortnight Scottish rugby has endured was a huge lift to his team and the game in Scotland in general. Chapeau.

9. Danny Care (England)
A very close call between the Quins man and Rhys Webb, who finally injected some zip to the Welsh attack, but Care wins for his ability to be in the right place at the right time. His anticipation for Brown’s break and change of direction was superb and showed the benefit of working with someone week in, week out at club level. He also runs like a man from the 1950s as well (arched back, bolt upright), which adds entertainment value.

1. Gethin Jenkins (Wales)
Surprised everyone by turning in a scrummaging performance that had the much-vaunted French front row travelling backwards on more than one occasion. Was everywhere in the loose and made hit after hit in defence – it was as if somebody had wound the clock back nine years. He was harshly dealt a yellow card along with his opposite number for ongoing scrum instability (when the issues were mainly on the other side), but he sealed his place in the team of the week with a hopelessly scuffed attempted chip through the French defence.

2. Rory Best (Ireland)
I haven’t always been a fan of Best, and not just because he looks like a bulldog chewing a wasp, but on Saturday he put in a superb shift at hooker in a losing cause. Hitting 18 out of 18 lineouts – an area of supposed weakness for him – set the platform for a very solid display in the tight, where he was also part of a dominant scrummaging effort. Now if he could only cheer up for just one game…

3. Mike Ross (Ireland)
I can’t believe I’m picking him, but almost every other tighthead this weekend seemed to give away penalty after penalty. Ross may have been invisible elsewhere around the park but he was a rock solid presence in the set piece which formed the basis of more than a couple penalties.

4. Joe Launchbury (England)
Give him wings and harp, and he could almost pass for a cherub sitting on a cloud by the gates of heaven. But don’t be fooled by the young lock’s cheeky-chappy appearance – he was a demon in defence and at his disruptive best against Ireland, weighing in with three magnificent turnovers and hitting tackle after tackle. His diving tap on Dave Kearney was one of the moments of the weekend.

5. Richie Gray (Scotland)
Scott Johnson has shown this season that he shares Philippe Saint-André’s coaching philosophy of dropping your best players before a game and substituting off your top performers during it, so it must have been a real relief to the Scottish fans that One Direction’s largest member was not only selected, but lasted the entire 80 minutes. He responded with an immense display consisting of 11 carries and 12 tackles on top of strong work in the set piece.

6. Dan Lydiate (Wales)
At last, something approaching his 2011/12 form. The Racing Métro flanker was at his tree-chopping best on Friday night, hammering down the likes of Louis Picamoles with consummate ease. Each hit denied Les Bleus building any momentum and, when your stats read “15 tackles made, 0 missed”, that is a lot of momentum being stopped at source.

7. Sam Warburton (Wales)
Another one of the Welsh contingent to make a statement after their literal mauling at the hands of Ireland last week. Chris Robshaw was impressive for England but the Welsh captain had it all in his performance – big tackles, turnovers, carries and a try that included a go-go gadget arm. The battle between the two captains in a fortnight will be worth the entry fee alone.

8. Sergio Parisse (Italy)
Once again, the captain was a standout player for his side and, although he seems more ably supported by his teammates these days, he is still their go-to man. His drive into the heart of the Scottish defence set up the Italian’s first score, but his delightfully gliding outside arc and timed pass for Furno’s try was another example of one of the best rugby brains in the business in action. Plus, he’s a beautiful man, according to my other half, and that is apparently very important too.

By Mike Cooper (@RuckedOver)

Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images

36 thoughts on “Six Nations Team of the Week: Round 3

    1. Did you read the article ‘RuckinRugby’? Or just the list of names?

      Good team! Agree with the article that other 10s could have been put in there, but for that moment of composure & game changing play. Duncan Weir is worth the selection.

  1. I think if you read the comment by his name, you’ll see that I acknowledge that the other home nations fly halves – and Tomasso Allan actually, come to think of it – all had far better games. He just wins for his cajones. And because the importance of that drop goal for Scottish rugby can’t be underestimated.

  2. Gotta love TheRugbyBlog

    According to the player ratings, Rory Best was the worst Irish player among the XV yet he makes this Team of the Week.

    I suppose that’s why we love this game of ours – it’s all so subjective.

    1. Best did drop off a lot of tackles, and not from aggressive running by the attackers, just poor technique. so he wouldn’t be my pick (although no standout hookers this week really)

      The subjective comment is very true – different authors with different opinions, makes it far more interesting!

    2. I’m biased but I reckon Lawson would be in for an honourable mention for his performance sorting out a previously abysmal lineout and actually hooking the ball (ahem Ross Ford ahem). He put in a solid shift elsewhere as far as I could tell.

  3. I don’t think Gethin Jenkins was that good. I’m mystified as to how he got man of the match. He made 6 tackles, which is fine, he made 1m, which is fine. 5 won 4 lost on your own scrum is hardly a great stat implying front row dominance. The yellow card came because both front rows were failing to scrummage, not just France, but I’d put that down to Alain Rolland’s running of the scrum, offering them no help at all.

    I’m still not impressed by Danny Care. His constant attempts to burrow around the fringes rather than using the ball or at least handing it to someone who might make ground with it were driving me insane the other day (and every other time I watch him play). Whether he’s not getting the call from the fly half or he thinks he’s going to make it past two front rowers, it’s not always the best decision. Butchered a try with England men over on the right and you could see the call coming from a frustrated Owen Farrell – passed left.

  4. I am glad the Scottish centre got a shout. Not only did he look good he did it with the pressure of knowing Scotland had scored 0 tries so far.

    Parisse – sigh. If he’d been in any of the other teams playing this weekend he wouldn’t have looked so awesome, he gets cut too much slack for being in a “poor” team. I thought he was mostly average as well on Sat and seems to have become a bit of a chunterer. I’d go for Fale – yeah, biased; I’ve said before that I wouldn’t split up the welsh backrow, they’re a unit.

    Tomasso Allan must be 10 of the week in a mixed week for 10s – 1 excellent drop goal does not make up for 79 mins of ineffective, stuttering outside half play that ruined most of the excellent ball his forwards made. The Scottish outside backs were unlucky to be playing outside Weir on Sat.

    Jake Ball would partner Launchbury for me – he was like a man possessed out there on Fri night.

    May – pfft. Seriously, he can make as many yards as he wants, if he doesn’t score gilt edged wingers try scoring chances then he wouldn’t make my team. He may well come good. He well may end up brilliant but that performance on Sat was somewhere well short of where an international wing should be. I know it’s the wrong side but I’d swap him for Nowell or Lamont.

    1. You admit to being biased, so fair enough on Faletau, it’s clearly the natural choice on those grounds.

      But from a non Welsh perspective, Faletau didn’t do enough to put himself above all the others. Whilst I’d argue there wasn’t a complete performance from any of the no.8s, Faletau isn’t the stand out option in any aspect of the game.

      Defensively there was a huge shift put in by Ben Morgan as part of England’s collective effort. For me that surpasses Faletau’s efforts.

      For attacking, Picamoles, despite being stopped on many occasions by the Welsh backrow, still had a bigger influence on the gainline vs. Faletau.

      Heaslip influenced Irelands only try and Parisse was heavily involved for both Italian scores. Faletau was relatively quiet with ball in hand

      1. All fair points Rodgers. I think I posted something about this on the rate the players thing – I just find it hard to break up the backrow as they are, I think, more than the sum of their parts. Lyds enables Warbs to do what he does, Fale enables Lyds to concentrate on tackling by being the sweeper/carrier of the trio, Warbs enables Fale to run by being the cover, etc. Each of them individually will often look less than their opposite num in other teams but as a unit I think they are, when on form, the top backrow unit in the 6Ns, Ireland close 2nd when all fit and England a very close joint 2nd/3rd BUT if picking individual players I could see massive difficulty in basing it on just the players attributes e.g. leaving out Vuni or SOB would seem madness on individual performances but I’m not convinced either of those would make the Welsh backrow a better unit.

        1. It’s interesting how you rate those back row units given recent results.

          England beat Ireland, who beat Wales. Yet the back row ranking you give them is in reverse order.

          Comparing Eng to Wales is best left until next week, but I think the ranking of Wales’s back row higher than Ireland comes under the “I’m biased so I’ll pick Wales and you can’t say I’m wrong” category.

          Wales (as a unit and as individuals) were dominated by Ireland, a big part of that was the back row battle. You can’t say that unit is better than Ireland’s and mean it right now…

          …except under the privileges of declaring your bias to one side, of course!

          1. “as a unit I think they are, when on form, the top backrow unit in the 6Ns”

            The key phrase in therefor me is “on form”. Right now, after dominating France, I’d pick em. Right after the ireland game I wouldn’t.

            Let’s avoid the Eng > Ire > Wal rabitt hole as we’d need to draw a circle now … Fra > Eng > Ire > Wal > Fra …. so I’m not convinced it tells us anything.

            “you can’t say I’m wrong” That isn’t something I would say. I’d argue with whatever choices you pout up but I wouldn’t put my choices up here if I was just going to stick my fingers in my ears and repeat “you can’t say I’m wrong!” loudly at the top of my head.

            1. Are you suggesting that after one game won (against France away, typically awful on the road) they are back on form?

              Isn’t form often based on a run of games or multiple occurrences?

              The last 4 games as a unit, they’ve lost 3, won 1. Twice completely dominated, against SA & IRE. You have to go back quite a while to find these three playing together as a unit for a run of games, beating the opposite back row to help Wales to a win.

              …So far back I’d say it wasn’t of significant relevance anymore.

              1. No, I’m saying that right now they are on game 1 of showing their class and I’m willing to go for them in the next game as if they can keep it up then they are the best backrow out there on form.

                As I said, using this years six nations as indicators is tricky both ways – you discount their performance against France but I would say you could then discount the Irish performances against Wales and Scotland. You could, if you used the “but the oppo played crap” logic all the way through. It’s a funny game trying to say A is better than B after 1 result especially when you bring in “ah, but when C played B C were shit but when they played A they were good.” Who’d be a coach?

                1. I’m not discounting it. I’m posing questions on how their top form should be judged on and how far back you can go before it becomes too far away to still credit them so highly. They definitely played well against France, but they haven’t played together in a winning side for a long time before that game.

              2. Ok Rodgers, lets take your logic and apply it like this…

                Wales lost 8 on the bounce culminating in defeat against Ireland in the first game of the 6N last year. They then went on to win the tournament and in the final game, absolutely dominated England at the breakdown. How do you explain that away? And what’s your reasoning as to suggest that that couldn’t happen again?

                Wales are a confidence side, and all it takes sometimes is a dominant performance as Friday was for them, to get their tails up.

                They’re a tried and tested combo with a good win under their belts. England on the other hand now have to make an adjustment given BV’s injury and Morgan is nowhere near an 80 min player.

                For me the Eng v Wal game is too tight to call, but I don’t see Wales turning in another performance like they did against the Irish. Also, lets not forget, as we’re often told, this is usually the only game Wales can be bothered to get up for.

                1. Anarky, I don’t think the things you say are unreasonable. In the context of the conversation the 2013 six nations is irrelevant though, as the unit of Lydiate, Warbuton and Faletau didn’t play a single game together.

            2. Long time reader, but new contributor here.

              Think I have to disagree. Three or four years ago you might have been right Brighty, but I think the competition from England and Ireland is pretty strong at the moment. We very rarely see two back row units playing really well in any one match. I think the England/Ireland match was about as close as you get, and honours were pretty even.
              I agree that it is very difficult to split up any of the back row units.

              Can’t wait to see if the welsh back three continue their form from the France game against England. But I think the front row battle will be more decisive.

    2. So on the basis of Brighty’s argument, we go wholesale for the Irish front row as a unit, the English second row and the Welsh backrow. Half backs maybe England, but of course I’m biased, centres Scotland, and back three England again (still being biased). Not convinced that this rates as team of the week, maybe units of the week!

      1. I know you’re on a windup :-) but maybe there is some sense in what you jokingly say. Priestland played much, much better this week with Webb inside him so maybe pairing him with a different “better” scrum half would be bad for him.

        It does fall down though when you get to halfbacks I suppose as agreed Care was excellent but I wouldn’t have Farrel anywhere near any team of the week so far.

        1. Merely extending your argument to breaking point! Although I do admit to having a smile on my face as I wrote it! :-)

      2. I can’t believe the Scotland centre pairing are being talked about in the context of best unit of the week… how far we have come since the days of Morrison and De Luca!

        1. Have to say that that thought did cross my mind as I was writing it! Personally I thought Scott was outstanding last year in a malfunctioning team, so it only needed a player to come through beside him to make it a decent pairing. And they both seemed to play well last week. England centres only so so, Irish reasonable, Welsh some good and some not so good, France actually did OK, but probably thought the Scottish pairing shaved it. Genuinely!

          Jamie – wait till after the 6N and then open a debate on the best units as well as the team of the tournament. Should provoke some discussion!!

  5. I’m sorry, but for me you can’t get in team of the week by missing five tackles as best did. Hartley too hit 100% lineout throws and Lawson was decent for Scotland, so its not like there is a shortage of hookers going well.

  6. So who would be the 6nations team of the tournament so far?

    I didn’t see Ireland/Wales, but I’ve watched the rest and I was just trying to think this one through. Italy and Scotland are going to lack contributors because… well, they’re not that good, Wales and France have both been blown out in one games, and so the majority of the team must come from Ireland and England, because they’ll be the players who have been most consistent. Injuries have played a part too, otherwise AWJ would be in there.

    So on that basis…

    15. Brown
    14. Huget
    13. Fofana
    12. Burrell
    11. North
    10. Sexton
    9. Care

    1. Healy
    2. Hartley
    3. Mas
    4. Launchbury
    5. Lawes
    6. O’Mahoney
    7. Warburton
    8. Vunipola

    So that’s 3 Frenchmen, which seems too many, but I struggled with TH, and not many centres have lit the tournament up. 2 Welsh, which doesn’t seem many, but there’ve been a lot of injuries in the forwards, 6 English and 4 Irish… Maybe swap O’connell to make it 5, but I truly think the English locks are shaping up to be a special pair.

    1. Thats not a bad team McMurphy, although the two centres have played the other way around thus far. That said, it may well be that you have picked them in their more suitable roles (against the thoughts of their national coaches).

      A few positions are difficult to find a consistently stand-out performer aren’t they?

      Tight-Head – against all instinct I may go with Mike Ross there, over Mas.

      Open-side, I would go for Nyanga here. Why? Because he has been consistently excellent, which Warburton has not. Certainly Warburton had the better game on Friday night, but if this is the team of the 3 games thus far, I think that Nyanga would still be in credit, and secondly, it was not a case of Warburton bettering Nyanga, but instead the Welsh “unit” bettering the French back row, where Lauret was anonymous and Picamoles awful – this rather left Nyanga fighting a lone battle against the Welsh 3.

      As for the Italians, I would suggest that de Marchi and Furno would be closest to the team of the tournie?

      1. Nyanga is an excellent call. For some reason I had it in my head he was a 6, but you’re absolutely right.

        I thought a bit about the young Italian centre, but one good game and flashes in others don’t really trump Burrell, who I think has been a real find for England.

        O’Connell could easily be in at lock, but he didn’t play game 1, did he?

        But my team will def change next week, because Vunipola and Fofana are both gone, and if North carries on in the centres he can’t be at wing.

        I love these silly excercises.

  7. Best over hartley is a bit erroneous surely. Hartley was on top the whole game. On the whole weir issue, wilko got plaudits for running the game and nailing the drop goal in 2003, not by hindering the team and stealing the glory at the end. Jenkins wasn’t immense, hes just been so consistently poor the last few seasons that one decent performance is commended. De marchi or marler for me.
    Don’t think warburton and lydiate were out and out the best wing forwards and johnnie Beattie was very good for Scotland.
    Jamie Roberts looks like he’s rediscovering some of that ’09 lions form, such a unit when he runs lines like that.

  8. Can someone tell me if lydiate ever carries over the gain line too? Or does he just tackle? Gatland likes one trick ponies…

    1. I agree. 15 tackles (none missed) 2 carries and only one meter made. For a big unit he is bordering on useless with ball in hand.
      That is not to say he is not a valuable player. he perfectly complements Warbs and Faletau as a back row unit.

  9. I think Chris henry has been a far better performer than Warburton so would have him in there but looks a pretty fair team to me.

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