Champions Cup: Team of the Week

Date published: October 17 2016

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Now the dust has settled on the first round of action in this season’s Champions Cup, we have selected our team of the week.

Saracens, Connacht and Glasgow all produced exceptional victories on the opening weekend on a busy first weekend of action across Europe.

Let’s see who made the cut.

Champions Cup: Team of the Week

15 Nick Abendanon (Clermont): Made eight runs and beat three defenders, setting up one try and scoring one of his own in a strong performance at Exeter. Such a balanced runner who sees off Jean-Marcellin Buttin, who was solid for Bordeaux-Bègles against Ulster.

14 Leonardo Sarto (Glasgow Warriors): Is certainly enjoying playing in this Warriors side since his arrival from Zebre. Sarto made a whopping 150 metres with ball in hand against Leicester, scoring two tries to see off Sean Maitland and DTH van der Merwe to this jersey.

13 Bundee Aki (Connacht): One of the best PRO12 signings… ever? That’s the kind of category Aki is beginning to find himself in after another clutch moment for Connacht, this time with what proved to be the winning try against Toulouse. Aki made an eye-opening 18 runs, beating six defenders, as he punished the Toulouse defence. Mark Bennett also stood out.

12 Wesley Fofana (Clermont): Scott Williams was Man of the Match for the Scarlets in their victory over Sale but Fofana was another level up against Exeter Chiefs. He scored a brace in their victory as his class shone through, beating 10 defenders from 10 runs.

11 Cian Kelleher (Connacht): The recruit from Leinster was phenomenal against Toulouse, and you can see why his former province were upset to lose him. The 22-year-old topped 100 metres against Toulouse and was a menace with the ball in hand, going past six defenders. In hot form too after a brace against Ulster the week before. He edges out Isa Nacewa.

10 Owen Farrell (Saracens): Rust? What rust? Farrell played his first game since England wrapped a 3-0 whitewash over the Wallabies and was excellent in Toulon, bringing his usual authority at fly-half. A real masterclass as he added 16 vital points off the kicking tee too. Gets the nod over the impressive Joey Carbery and also Stephen Myler.

9 Morgan Parra (Clermont): Brilliant off the tee in difficult conditions at Sandy Park, Parra also displayed wonderful game management in the 35-8 win. He finished with four out of four conversions to see off Joe Simpson, who enjoyed his afternoon against Zebre.

8 Louis Picamoles (Northampton Saints): How the French giant seems to simply glide across the field remains somewhat of a mystery. Picamoles was at his colossal best against Montpellier, producing a phenomenal offload for Calum Clark’s try and carrying 14 times for over 100 metres. Unsurprisingly he beat a handful of defenders along the way. A mention for Fritz Lee.

7 Josh van der Flier (Leinster): Man of the Match for Leinster in their win over Castres, on a day where the home side’s pack really delivered. The young Ireland international edges out Connacht’s Jake Heenan after his work at the breakdown and in defence set the tone for Leinster.

6 Julien Bardy (Clermont): Scored the opening try against Exeter and went on to make eight carries in a workmanlike showing. The Chiefs pride themselves on a strong carrying game around the fringes and alongside Lee and Damien Chouly, Bardy negated that threat.

5 George Kruis (Saracens): It shows how far Kruis has come in the last couple of years that we now expect him to deliver in these big matches, but even so, his skills levels against Toulon in the second row were outstanding. Busy on both sides of the ball, including 12 tackles.

4 Devin Toner (Leinster): An 100 percent record at the lineout against Castres and as expected, Toner had a major role to play. The Ireland lock looked in good form as he made his presence felt in the loose on seven carries. Close battle for this spot with Bordeaux-Bègles captain Jandre Marais.

3 Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors): Got the better of Ellis Genge in their personal duel at Scotstoun with a solid performance up front. He made five runs in the impressive bonus-point victory and does enough to see off Clermont’s Davit Zirakashvili as our tighthead.

2 Jamie George (Saracens): Sean Cronin and Fraser Brown put their hand up after their efforts for Leinster and Glasgow, but George takes this one for another busy showing. His line bust and assist for Richard Wigglesworth was superb as Saracens stunned Toulon.

1 Mako Vunipola (Saracens): An impressive 10 runs and 12 tackles from the England international in their victory at Stade Mayol as his stock continues to rise. It’s going to be some battle for the starting Lions jersey but in this form he’s in pole position.

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