June Tests: Team of the Week

Date published: June 17 2014

Now that the dust has settled around the world, we thought it was only right to hand out some praise to the stars of last week's Test matches.

Now that the dust has settled around the world, Planet Rugby thought it was only right to hand out some praise to the stars of last week's Test matches.

June Tests – Team of the Week: Week Two

15 Ben Smith (New Zealand) – Picking a full-back on a weekend where so many shone was an unenviable task. The masterful Willie le Roux came desperately close to clinching our spot, while Joaquin Tuculet, Brice Dulin and Rob Kearney all deserve credit for their respective performances. But it's the electrifying Smith, who sparked New Zealand into life with some of his wonderful running, beating six defenders as he racked up 127 metres, scored a try, and produced a phenomenal cover tackle and turnover on the galloping Manu Tuilagi who gets the nod from us.

14 Alex Cuthbert (Wales) – When you face the Springboks on their own paddock, it invariably helps to have a few bulkier specimens amid your backs. Cuthbert certainly fits that bill, and he was at his barnstorming best in attack in Durban, making 133 metres, two clean breaks, beating six defenders and scoring a superb individual try. The free-running Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino also caught the eye for Argentina against Ireland.

13 Conrad Smith (New Zealand) – Such a class act, belying the trend for bulk and brute force in the modern backline a la Cuthbert. Intelligent, astute and precise as ever – barring one floated pass that was just too far ahead of Liam Messam – Smith ran smart lines, brought others into play, finished with an assist and a perfect eight from eight tackles.

12 Ma'a Nonu (New Zealand) – One of few All Blacks to consistently make ground in a lacklustre first-half display, spinning out of tackles and leaving eight defenders grasping at thin air. His finish was clinical, with his all-round performance – especially three clean breaks – seeing him take our inside centre spot ahead of young Bok prodigy, Jan Serfontein.

11 Bryan Habana (South Africa) – His spell in the south of France has been injury plagued, but he looks back to something approaching his best form in the green and gold. After a super outing against the World XV, the flyer turned on the style again in Durban, dotting down twice and beating a pair of defenders on his way to making 60 metres. Julian Savea was in typically brutish form in Dunedin, while Marland Yarde tarnished a superb attacking display with naivety in defence and with the boot, and Simon Zebo continued to shine.

10 Morne Steyn (South Africa – Yes he was behind a forward pack going forward but 100 percent kicking from the tee and superb decision making in attack puts Steyn ahead of his rivals. Was also solid in defence as opposite number Dan Biggar dealt with green giants.

9 Gareth Davies (Wales) – Several number nines struggled over the weekend but Canada's busy Phil Mack posed a threat to Scotland in defeat. We go for Wales replacement Davies though, who has surely ousted Mike Phillips to a start this Saturday after he caused the Boks plenty of problems when coming on to the field in the 55th minute. Davies shone against the Eastern Province Kings on Tuesday and did so again at Kings Park.

8 Duane Vermeulen (South Africa) – A bruising number eight who had Wales on the back foot. Scored a try and had 55 metres to his name at the end, the hulking Stormer sees off Australia's Ben McCalman, who went well against France and was unlucky not to get a try.

7 Francois Louw (South Africa) – A big part of arguably the best back-row trio in world rugby, Louw's importance to the Springboks is often understated. He has everything a coach wants in a flanker; power, speed, intelligence, a poacher at ruck time, the list goes on. Mention for Michael Hooper as well who, in his first Test as captain, had a difficult game to manage but went well, with his pace such a threat that commentators mistook him for Nick Cummins.

6 Tom Wood (England) – So important to how England operate. Another impressive effort from the Saint as he ticked all the boxes in Dunedin, being their top line-out taker and a real workhorse around the field. One the first names on Stuart Lancaster's team sheet.

5 Geoff Parling (England) – Seems to be back in the driving seat in the ongoing selection battle after back-to-back performances of a high standard. Parling admits to being a line-out geek and it's no fluke he continues to shine in that area. Also the game's top tackler with 18.

4 Victor Matfield (South Africa – From one line-out specialist to possibly the godfather of it, with Matfield leading the Springboks with a calm yet rugged demeanour. It was noticeable that he offered plenty of advice to Lodewyk de Jager when he came on…not a bad teacher.

3 David Wilson (England) – What an improvement from the Bath tighthead a week on from a few handling errors in Auckland. He was solid against Tony Woodcock at scrum time while his work in the loose was excellent. A remarkable 15 tackles in 76 minutes from Wilson.

2 Guilhem Guirado (France) – Firstly a mention for Rory Best, who was busy around the park in Tucumán. However, the performance of Guiardo was something that caught the eye as he carried well and, like his wounded team-mates, took on the Wallabies with both barrels.

1 James Slipper (Australia) – One of Ewen McKenzie first decisions when he was handed the reins in Australia was to make Slipper his number one loosehead, which saw Benn Robinson fall down the pecking order. Slipper was excellent in all areas on Saturday.