Six Nations Team of the Weekend: Round 2

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15. Mike Brown (England)
Despite looking like a type of character you might see drinking White Lightning in a Tesco Car Park, the Harlequins man is rapidly becoming the go-to man in the English backline and one of the most effective attacking full-backs in Europe. 117 metres gained with the ball in hand, three clean breaks and six defenders beaten on a pitch resembling treacle was evidence of that. A mention to Rob Kearney too, who didn’t put a foot wrong against Wales.

14. Andrew Trimble (Ireland)
In a tactical arm wrestle, Trimble demonstrated that a kick really is only as good as its chasers by hurtling after every up-and-under like a man possessed, forcing the turnover on more than one occasion. One fleet-footed dart through the Welsh defence was also memorable in a game that did not allow too many clean breaks. Plus, any man that can keep George North quiet for 80 minutes deserves some recognition.

13. Brian O’Driscoll (Ireland)
The veteran’s 138th Test Match (yes, 138) proved to us one thing – BOD is now made almost entirely of rubber. After being clattered in a borderline hit by opposite number Scott Williams, the legendary centre caught his breath and bounced back up, just in time to see the Welshman leave the field with a damaged shoulder. This wasn’t magical O’Driscoll, this was hard-as-nails O’Driscoll, and he was a lynchpin in the midfield for his side during a relentlessly physical game.

12. Wesley Fofana (France)
In a match that was decided by three casual moments of French brilliance, the Clermont man shone by being central to two of them. Quiet for 70 minutes, the silky centre roused himself for 10 in the second half and took the game away from the Azzurri by gliding past Luke McLean for his team’s second try, and then passing a gorgeous ball over the top after breaking free in the build-up to the third. Genius on tap.

11. Jonny May (England)
After going off with a broken honker in Paris the previous week, the Gloucester flyer had a lot of ground to make up this round. And boy did he make it up, galloping 92 metres and beating seven defenders, despite the fact that his first meaningful touch of the ball didn’t occur until the 41st minute. Those dancing feet and his searing acceleration have added another dimension to the England attack, and he should be looking forward to playing on a decent surface in a fortnight’s time.

10. Jonathan Sexton (Ireland)
Irish fans must have been delighted to see their fly half showing no ill-effects of his troubled time at Racing Metro against Scotland last week, but the former Leinster man was only just warming up. Sexton executed a masterclass of tactical kicking against Wales, varying the points of attack and communicating clearly with his chasers so that they had the best chance of forcing a turnover. Weighed in with a solid defensive effort, too.

9. Conor Murray (Ireland)
Just pips Danny Care to the spot thanks to the fact that he performed consistently well for the full 80 minutes and has a better haircut. His box-kicking worked perfectly in harmony with Sexton’s and they never allowed the back three to settle, in stark contrast to the inaccuracies in opposite number Mike Phillips’ kicking game. He showed good communication with Paddy Jackson for Ireland’s second try as well.

1. Alberto De Marchi (Italy)
I challenge you to find a sight more glorious than that of a prop out in the centres, making line breaks. De Marchi managed this rarest of front row feats not just once, but several times, making a sensational 46 metres from just five carries. Add to that the fact that he was part of a scrum that had the vaunted French front row in trouble on several occasions, and you have a pretty strong day at the office for the 27 year old.

2. Dylan Hartley (England)
A force renewed this year, Hartley presided over a magnificent 21 successful lineouts with a 100% success rate. But that wasn’t the only impressive aspect of the Saints captain’s performance against Scotland – his ferocity in the loose and inclination to crash into rucks at top speed make him one of the best ‘clearers’ in the European game, helping his side recycle the ball quickly.

3. Dan Cole (England)
After a difficult time in the set piece against France the England tighthead dealt with the situation in his own typical way – by looking grumpy and getting on with it. He caused Ryan Grant all sorts of problems on a tricky scrummaging surface but once again it was his tireless work in the loose that caught the eye, claiming two turnovers at ruck-time to pilfer the ball off the hapless Scots.

4. Paul O’Connell (Ireland)
He may have only played 54 minutes but Mr Angry was out in real force in Dublin on Saturday. Leading a ferocious forward effort, he showed his opposition no quarter and was at the heart of the rolling mauls which skewered the Welsh resistance. A constant rallying point in defence as well, you could almost feel the energy lift whenever the Munster legend was involved, leading from the front as usual.

5. Courtney Lawes (England)
Remember Courtney Lawes? That reckless dunder-head from Northampton who was only good for giving away penalties and getting onto highlights reels with the word “Hit” in the title? Well, he’s gone. Instead, the new Courtney Lawes was in prime form against Scotland, running a near perfect lineout and getting really stuck into the opposition set piece. Always eager to carry hard and a terrier in defence, the Saints man may have calmed down but he still has his ‘edge’ and is turning into top-quality international second row.

6. Peter O’Mahony (Ireland)
It turns out O’Connell has a rival in the aggression stakes – O’Mahony was clearly pumped up for this one and physically dismantled the Welsh breakdown, winning four turnovers himself. A brick wall in defence, this was a complete blind-side flanker performance that meant he outshone his opposite number, Test Lion Dan Lydiate, by a long, long way. He even chucked in a cheeky grubber kick for good measure.

7. Chris Henry (Ireland)
Chris Robshaw deserves a mention after another all-action display, but Henry gets the nod because he has stepped in for Sean O’Brien and done a phenomenal job. Tireless in defence, Henry did a great job of frustrating the Welsh pack at the breakdown, constantly slowing ball down and forcing attacks to stall. He picked up a deserved try as well by intelligently ‘driving’ an unstoppable rolling maul, confirming to Joe Schmidt that he has no intention of being a ‘stopgap’ for the Tullow Tank.

8. Billy Vunipola (England)
With thighs the size of oak tree-trunks and a torso similar to that of an adolescent rhinoceros, it’s perhaps not surprising that the Saracens number 8 is a tricky individual to stop when he gets going. But when you can combine that colossal power with such deft offloading ability, then you have yourself a real attacking weapon. Scotland were inept enough to keep allowing the big man space to run at them, and Vunipola took full advantage, smashing his way through six tacklers and making 58 metres in the process.

By Michael Cooper (@ruckedover)

Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images

28 thoughts on “Six Nations Team of the Weekend: Round 2

  1. Care in for Murray any day. Ran the show for England, set up Burrell’s try and kicked a cheeky drop goal to keep the score board ticking over, his kicking was exemplary also. Burrell for BOD as well, the Irish talisman did little more than make his tackles while sexton kept the welsh pinned in their own 22. Burrell got on the score sheet and was a nuisance with his running lines all day. Healy was my pick of the loose heads. Always in the driving seat for the Irish mauls, power and precision from the Leinster prop. Loves a little gallop when he gets the ball and isn’t terrified of being in space.
    Lastly, commemorations on O’Mahony and his performance. He was magical, ruthless, precise, flashy and did the nitty gritty. At times it seemed like Pete vs Wales. It was becoming ridiculous how often his head emerged after Ireland had won a turnover or stopped Wales in their tracks. He’s hardly short on passion either, looks every inch the future Ireland captain. The perfect foil to o’brien when he’s back and with heaslip in the middle, the Irish have themselves a back row that can mix it with the best. Proved it wasn’t Leinster vs Wales. It was Leinster and O’Mahony vs Wales.

    1. Can’t see how you can call Care’s kicking exemplory? His box kick in the first few minutes was so poor it gave Denton a 30 meter run at ours defense. That’s awful.

      He was definitely brilliant with ball in hand but did not have the all round game that Care did.

    2. Nice to see positive comments but I think your forgetting about the ulster boys there. Seeing as though 2 of them scored the tries and Trimble and best were outstanding as well.

  2. Not sure why Dan Cole has had so much credit for his work in the loose this week on this and player ratings. Seems like it is the default script for him. I didn’t notice him doing anything particularly outstanding and the stats seem to back this up..

    ESPN say zero turnovers, 4 missed tackles from 8, and only 1 carry for 3 yards. But these could well be inaccurate.. is there a better/more accurate website

    Agree Cole was better in the scrum than last week, but the opposition wasn’t anywhere near as good. I’d have gone with Castro at tight head, got the better of Domingo, particularly in the first half, something Cole didn’t manage to do last week.

      1. Yeah, not his best. But still pick of the tight heads. Ross, Mas or Jones didn’t out perform him. Ross looks to be keeping the 3 shirt warm for Marty Moore while Mas and Jones are just too old, slow or fat. Both have struggled to scrummage under the new laws, Jones in particular looks half the player he was. Wales really do play with 14 men while the ball is in open field play and he is the man wearing the number 3 jersey. Unless of course you have Jenkins as your loose head, forces Wales to play with 14 during the set-piece and in conjunction with jones, manages to ostracise the welsh attack or defence of another carrier/tackler. Paul James should be the number one and Samson Lee should be given a shot ahed of rhodri jones. Rhodri just isn’t that much of a destructive anything for me. Lee on the other hand is a fan favourite at the Scarlets already, a real wrecking ball and still so young. Must be considered as next in line in my opinion. Gatland has already seen what the Jones are producing at this level currently, and unless it’s Adam jones with a hot dog or burger, it’s certainly not cutting the mustard.

      2. Yes, Jim. I watched the game. Albeit after a few pints!

        More than happy to be corrected – what did he do that was magnificent?

    1. ESPN turnover stats are actually turnovers conceded rather than turnovers effected (you’ll notice that the turnovers in the player stats add up to those conceded by the team). It’s often the case with the tight 5 that the excellent work they do goes unnoticed and you only notice those players if they have an obscenely interesting game like De Marchi did. Players like Cole are generally at every breakdown and although they’re not always doing something you see, they’re busy around the park securing ball and counter rucking to slow it down.

      1. Thanks for the explanation on the ESPN turnover stat Wookie. Helps to know that!

        As a second row though, I’m well aware of how the tight 5 operate. I don’t think England were particularly effective at ruck time, on occasion the Scots interrupted attacks close the goal line, as is reflected by England only scoring two tries.

        For me, the ease of victory was more a reflection of Scotland offering very little than England putting together a dominating performance.

        1. I don’t disagree. While some things were definitely an improvement from England, Scotland made it far too easy.

          I don’t think there was a great deal of extravagance to what Cole did, he didn’t do anything special, but he was turning up at pretty much every breakdown and it was much more the work rate that impressed than his stats I think.

  3. Also, did anyone else think the Italian loose head was absolutely formidable? De marchi was formidable in the tight and loose, even giving the much vaunted Domingo a hard day.

    1. Jim, it was Castrogiovanni who gave Domingo a rough time in the scrums.

      However, De Marchi really did stand out, both in the loose and in the scrum. Didn’t see the Ireland/Wales game but I though that Marler had a another storming game.

      1. Duuuhhh, sorry about that. Obviously had a moment of madness. I think in my confusion I got excited that someone had found an answer and dominated Domingo!
        Yeah, he definitely stood out, along with a few other Italians that look like they’re made of test mettle.
        Totally agree about marler. He’s good around the park, solid in the tight and he brings tears to the eyes when he makes one of those absolutely monstrous hits. Not where Healy is (there or thereabouts number 1 in the world IMO) but definitely getting there.

  4. Oh how I used to criticise Lawes and Brown! Credit must go to SL for sticking with them and their national and club coaches for improving them. Both are far better players than two years ago. It just goes to show how continuity really does develop some players. A fact that SL is probably not credited with very much. However there are also the Ashton and Goode scenarios to counter this point! All in all though I think SL has answered most of his critics time and time again. Yes he makes some mistakes, but then so do all national coaches, and all of us. I think that he has got far more right than wrong in his time in charge. I’m back to the in SL do I trust camp!

    1. My Bomberometer is back into the black (after being deep into the red for most of last year).

      Can’t remember last time I was in complete agreement with a starting XV (before this 6N), if he gets round to reading this blog we can sort his bench out for him as well ;)

      Always been a Lawes fan, but after Brown’s poor show in Argentina I wasn’t sure he still deserved a spot in the EPS …. very happy to be completely wrong on that one!

  5. Darcy deserves an honourable mention (I thought he was all washed up a couple of years ago)

    Maybe Castro over Cole but not a lot in it.

  6. Who’d have thought we’d see two Englishmen in the back three for team of the week!?

    Unbelievable.

    Although PoM was clearly the outstanding 6 this week, I thought Wood was brilliant. I saw a stat that he hit 36 rucks on Saturday, unbelievable engine. I’m really looking forward to the battle between the two form 6s in two weeks time, could be a real epic battle.

    1. Not just the 6s, the top two packs will collide. Vunipola running at Heaslip, Lawes and O’Connell competing in the air, Cole and co trying to deliver Healy and his pals the scrum dominance they suffered last time at Twickenham.
      The trend continues in the backs too.
      Care vs Murray, Farrell vs Sexton, Brown vs Kearney.
      Looking at the top two players for any given position thus far in the 6N, the majority standout players are English or Irish.

      Monstrous game to look forward to.

      1. Interestingly, I can see both Loose heads gaining the upper hand at Twickenham, which will make the scrums very interesting.

        Moreover, it will be fascinating to see what gameplan Schmidt comes up with as the English back three are all very good at defending a kicking game, so I cannot see quite as much kicking from Sexton.

        I do think that we’ll see the wingers and Kearney attacking the English midfield a lot more, as I would suspect that Schmidt sees an opening here.

        1. Unless I’m going potty (possible) I remember the French putting quite a few kicks in behind May/Brown in game 1, but thought it got better in game 2. Am I imagining this? If the kicks were behind May in the Scottish game, this is something he’s going to have to tighten up on for the Irish.

          1. To be fair May was injured 10 minutes into the French game, so we had Goode there, with Brown out of position on the wing.

            Generally Brown’s positional play is excellent, as is Nowells. I don’t know too much about May positional play to be fair, but I’m sure it isn’t worse that Cuthberts, as his is awful.

  7. Mostly agree, small petty point but technically as North switched to centre fairly early on Trimble didn’t have to contain him for that long before he became Darcy’s problem.

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