With the dust now settled across Europe, it's time to pick out the players who stood out from the crowd in Round 6 of the Heineken Cup.
Now that the dust has settled across Europe, it's time to pick out the players who stood out from the crowd in Round 6 of the Heineken Cup.
Ulster, Clermont, Toulon and Munster will host quarter-finals on the weekend of 4, 5 and 6 April, facing Saracens, Leicester, Leinster and Toulouse respectively after a captivating round of action.
So without further ado, here comes our offering – feel free to select your XV in the comments section below.
Heineken Cup: Team of Round 6
15 Mike Brown (Harlequins) – This spot arguably should have gone to Alex Goode, but Connacht's defence was so poor that it is no wonder he made 177 metres. Instead we have given it to his England rival Mike Brown, who make 134 metres against the Scarlets – beating four defenders in the process. Your call Mr Lancaster. A mention too for Felix Jones of Munster.
14 Rene Ranger (Montpellier) – The former All Black had a storming afternoon for Montpellier against Treviso, making 98 metres from two clean breaks along with beating eight defenders. The best sign yet for Montpellier why they splashed the cash on the former Blues back.
13 Jonny May (Gloucester) – Right on England's radar but not as a centre, May slotted into the outside channel for Gloucester and made hay against USAP. An eyewatering 155 metres and six defenders beaten for the flying speedster will have him right in contention for England. A mention for Anthony Tuitavake, who matched Ranger's 98 metres made.
12 Wesley Fofana (Clermont) – Fofana proved that you can stick him in the foulest of conditions and he will still produce magic. France's most important back going into the Six Nations, Fofana made 91 metres and beat five defenders on his way to helping Clermont secure a home quarter-final against Leicester. At times he looks unplayable. A mention for Ulster's Luke Marshall, whose 43 metres and ten tackles against Leicesterwere invaluable.
11 David Strettle (Saracens) – Goode may have missed out on selection due to Connacht's defence but Strettle makes it in, purely on the basis of his delectable chip and chase try to seal his hat-trick. The rejected England winger is constantly in the right place at the right time. A mention for Montpellier's Lucas Dupont who had a storming afternoon much like Ranger and Tuitavake against Treviso, with 104 metres, a try and an assist.
10 Jonny Wilkinson (Toulon) – Solid if unspectacular from Wilkinson; just the man a team needs on a sodden afternoon in Glasgow. Though he missed a couple of penalty attempts, he kicked all fifteen of the champions' points, and matched that figure with his tackle count – none too impressive, even for a man renowned for hitting big. Former England rival Charlie Hodgson deserves a note for his creativity and gain-line guile for Sarries, but his goal-kicking ratio was woeful.
9 Ruan Pienaar (Ulster) – Sometimes, here at PR towers, there is heated debate over whom should make the Team of the Week. There were no arguments to be had over the inclusion of Springbok Pienaar, however, after the scrum-half proved his tremendous worth to Ulster on Saturday. All 22 of his side's points were scored by Pienaar; an opportunistic charge-down try, and an unerring display with the boot that included two booming penalties from inside his own half. He may have fallen out of favour with a section of Bok fans, but he is nothing short of ideal for provincial and Heineken Cup rugby. Scarlets' Gareth Davies is in a very different mould to the South African, but was lively for the Welshmen against Harlequins.
8 James Coughlan (Munster) – There was a hat-trick of fantastic number eight performances this weekend, but the man recently touted as one of the best Irishmen never to play for his country gets the nod from us. Coughlan made more metres (69) than any other player and scored two well-taken tries past slapdash Edinburgh defending. Hulking Kiwi Nick Williams looked to be regaining his best form after returning from injury; a force in the loose and winning a couple of important steals that showed just how strong he is (and how difficult it is to shift him!). Clermont's Fritz Lee also deserves credit for another barnstorming display.
7 Gerhard Vosloo (Clermont) – Clermont were seldom tested by a typically disjointed Racing, but openside Vosloo proved too powerful for the Parisians' rearguard to handle. He beat three defenders and made one clean break on his way to bagging a brace of tries. Chris Henry was also a stand-out as Ulster trumped the Tigers, with a whopping 20 tackles to his name, but a silly scrum penalty blotted his copybook.
6 Billy Vunipola (Saracens) – The performances of Saracens' players should be viewed in the context of a dreadful Connacht display – defending in particular – but big Billy was a colossus in the loose, swatting aside three defenders and gaining over 40 metres with ball in hand. The form of both Vunipola brothers is a great boost for England fans ahead of a Six Nations where power and go-forward will be in high demand.
5 Paul O'Connell (Munster) – Take a bow Pauly. It wasn't too long ago that some people were fearful his body could not continue in professional rugby, but how wrong were they. O'Connell has been a rock in red this season and is arguably playing some of the best rugby of his career, carrying like a trojan and looking in great shape. Today it was announced he'd signed a new two-year contract. Why not make it five?
4 Johann Muller (Ulster) – We feel extremely harsh to snub Alun-Wyn Jones and Elliot Stooke for that matter as both were tireless for Ospreys and Gloucester respectively. But Muller, whose body continues to hold up, gave everything to the cause for Ulster when it mattered most. The South African played a full game, made eleven tackles and took seven line-outs but it was his knowhow and leadership that stood out.
3 Carl Hayman (Toulon) – Hayman has returned to top form in recent weeks and seems to be loving his rugby at Toulon. Solid as per usual in the scrum, he has also been busy in the loose, making eleven tackles against Glasgow Warriors over the weekend. A complete performance.
2 Dave Ward (Harlequins)– First off a mention for Rory Best who, alongside Muller, led Ulster very well at Welford Road. However, with yet another man of the match award taken home, Ward gets the nod here. Quins are without Joe Gray and Rob Buchanan but their absence has hardly been noticeable as new England Saxon Ward stars almost every week. One clean break, four defenders beaten and thirteen tackles from him.
1 Cian Healy (Leinster) – How he has come back from that ankle injury in such sensational form is