15. Mike Brown (England)
The fact that Voldemort’s sporty brother is in the team of the week yet again may be tedious, but it is an indication of the consistently high standards that Brown produces. In attack he was once again England’s most prominent weapon, beating seven defenders and making a huge 145 metres with the ball in hand. His opposite number, Leigh Halfpenny, was flawless from the tee and brave in defence, but few could argue that the Englishman is not now deserving of the tag “Europe’s best fullback”.
14. Andrew Trimble (Ireland)
Trimble may look like a chap who perhaps spends his spare time singing old hymns with the local choir, but don’t be fooled – he’s tough nut and a top finisher. His awareness and strength to step inside for his score showed his nose for the try-line and he worked his socks off in support throughout the game.
13. Brian O’Driscoll (Ireland)
Could I really have picked anyone else? Luther Burrell had another impressive outing for England, but this was vintage O’Driscoll on the great man’s final appearance in Dublin for his country. Soft hands, vision, deceptive strength and awareness were all on show as he created three tries in a manner that very few others can, or ever could, replicate. Home games for Ireland will lose just that bit of magic without BOD.
12. Billy Twelvetrees (England)
One of several players to deliver their best performance in an England shirt this weekend, Twelvetrees finally lived up to the expectation with a delightfully varied attacking display. The speed he put on passes and his kicking game – after the first quarter – added another dimension to the England attack, and his grubber for Burrell’s try was placed to perfection. Shut down Jamie Roberts as well, which is the equivalent of tackling a runaway rhinoceros with your face.
11. Leonardo Sarto (Italy)
It might seem odd to pick a player on the end of 40-odd-point hammering in the team of the week, but for 60 minutes Sarto was arguably the most dangerous man on the park, and certainly in the Italian team. He may not have seen too much of the ball but he made 76 metres off four runs, beating six defenders and making two clean breaks, as well as scoring an extremely well-taken try. The Azzurri would be best advised to get the ball to him more often.
10. Johnny Sexton (Ireland)
In a weekend where half of the number 10s delivered nightmare performances, this spot was really only between the Sexton, Owen Farrell and Luciano Orquera. And whilst the latter two both put in big performances for their country, it’s impossible to look beyond the Irishman, who scored two tries as he looked to milk that devastating Leinster midfield axis to the very end. Always flat and looking for gaps, Sexton oozed confidence and class in a much-improved display.
9. Danny Care (England)
Care once again was the standout scrum-half of the weekend, and once again it wasn’t just because of his abysmal haircut. He scored the equivalent of an open goal when the Welsh forwards were idiotic enough to turn their backs on him five metres from their own line, but the score still required awareness and quick thinking. His service is vastly improved from previous seasons, too, and he is now much more efficient at digging the ball out of the dark places.
1. Cian Healy (Ireland)
This was trademark Healy. He may have a face that looks like it’s taken a fair bashing from a frying pan but he’s not in the team to look pretty. He was one of Ireland’s chief sources of go-forward ball, carrying 16 times which, for a prop, is a hell of a lot. He got the nudge on in the set piece, too, after Castrogiovanni was replaced and was rewarded for his efforts with a close range try.
2. Scott Lawson (Scotland)
It wasn’t the best weekend for hookers, although Rory Best was very solid at the set piece. Lawson, however, has improved the Scottish lineout to the point it now at least looks solid and he carried with energy and purpose throughout the game. His workrate around the park and in the set piece is also a vast improvement on the flaky Ross Ford.
3. David Wilson (England)
The look of joy/fear on Wilson’s face as he burst through into clear ground in the opening exchanges of the England v Wales game was worth the admission price alone, and he then had the audacity to flick a reverse offload to Robshaw as he was finally hauled down. In addition to his key role in the build-up to the opening try, Wilson also stayed straight in the scrum and forced Jenkins to scrummage illegally in a futile attempt to gain an upper hand.
4. Devin Toner (Ireland)
I could have easily given it to Joe Launchbury again, but Devin ‘Lurch’ Toner has impressed with the way he has expanded his game from just being an easy lineout option. His physicality at the breakdown was an important asset for his side and, with 18 carries, he got his hands on the ball as much as anyone. Of course, at roughly 500 metres tall, he was a typically reliable source of possession off the lineout, too.
5. Courtney Lawes (England)
The Saints man was in imperious form at Twickenham at the weekend, hurtling like a human missile into Welsh carriers and playing a key role in the English effort to halt Welsh momentum at source. He is a growing authority in the lineout, too, and his ‘out-the-back’ offload for Burrell’s non-try was one that even a certain Irish centre would have been proud of.
6. Tom Wood (England)
Another man who, along with his Northampton colleague in the second row, was a key reason why Wales felt like they were running in quicksand at times on Sunday. His relationship with Hartley and Lawes in the lineout is also providing a useful option at the set piece and his workrate in defence was second to none, topping the tackling charts with 16. His new beard is regal, too.
7. Chris Robshaw (England)
It might not have been a typically brilliant performance from the England captain but his leadership throughout the game was first class. He set the example on the defensive line by rushing up time and again, boxing Welsh runners in and giving them nowhere to go, even if it meant he occasionally missed his man himself. Robshaw was also a nuisance at the breakdown, getting his foot through on the ball on more than one occasion.
8. Ben Morgan (England)
At first viewing I thought that Big Ben had been relatively quiet, but then I saw the different qualities he brings to the team. Whilst he may not have made the out-and-out yardage of Vunipola, his handling in the midfield constantly put others in space and his ball control at the back of a scrum that was under pressure late on was first class. Despite the lack of fireworks on the carry, he still made the most metres out of any forward on the park.
By Mike Cooper (@RuckedOver)
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images