Team of the Week: Champions Cup

Date published: December 12 2016

Europe’s premier competition returned with a number of impressive results over the weekend, as the PRO12 dominated.

Those big wins for Munster, Ulster and Glasgow Warriors didn’t go unnoticed and all three teams are well represented this week having stolen the headlines in Round 3.

See who made the cut below.

Team of the Week: Champions Cup, Round 3

15 Charles Piutau (Ulster) The All Black was, as usual, superb on attack during his side’s impressive win over Clermont at the Kingspan Stadium, giving Ulster much needed momentum with several telling runs from the back. The 25-year-old gained 104 metres from 10 runs which included two clean breaks, four defenders beaten, two offloads and also scored a well-taken try. Beats out Toulon’s Leigh Halfpenny and Simon Zebo of Munster.

14 Sean Maitland (Saracens)The Scotland flyer was rewarded with a deserved brace in his side’s thrashing of Sale Sharks at Allianz Park. Maitland was brilliant with ball in hand, gaining 81 metres from eight runs with two clean breaks, four defenders beaten and an offload. Leinster captain Isa Nacewa also did well in his side’s win at Northampton.

13 Alex Dunbar (Glasgow Warriors)The sturdy midfielder caught the eye with an impressive all-round display in his side’s shock win over Racing 92 in Paris. Dunbar gained 52 metres on attack from six carries and managed a clean break and beat one defender. Also went well in defence with 10 tackles and comes in ahead of Munster’s Jaco Taute, Luke Marshall of Ulster and Toulon’s Mathieu Bastareaud.

12 Wesley Fofana (Clermont): A debut to remember for Kurtley Beale as he scored his first try for new club Wasps, but the Frenchman in outstanding form is our pick at inside centre. Clermont came off second best in Belfast but Fofana was a menace, beating ten defenders (!) and making 114 metres from his 15 carries. Eight tackles as well.

11 Timoci Nagusa (Montpellier)Good finish from the Montpellier try-scoring machine on a day where his team had to work extra hard having lost a man to an early red card. Always a threat and made two clean breaks and over 80 metres with the ball in hand, while chipping in six tackles. Keith Earls went well for Munster.

10 Paddy Jackson (Ulster)One of the most improved fly-halves anywhere in the world this year. Jackson is full of confidence and how it shows at the moment with Ireland and Ulster. Beautiful timing for Luke Marshall’s first try, and the vision and execution for his own try kicking through behind the defence was special. Tyler Bleyendaal, Finn Russell and Camille Lopez all shone too.

9 Conor Murray (Munster): The best scrum-half in the world on current form? Murray had another sublime outing against Leicester with two try-assists, including that audacious pass to Simon Zebo, while making one clean break and beating two defenders. Honourable mentions go to Ali Price, Nic White and Kieran Marmion who all had good games.

8 CJ Stander (Munster): Stander was named Man of the Match in Munster’s 38-0 win over Leicester, largely thanks to his strong ball carrying with 18 runs. Stander ran 59 metres, beat three defenders, make an offload and one clean break. The Ireland international also made seven tackles without missing any. The performances of Ryan Wilson, Samu Manoa and Nathan Hughes are also worth a mention.

7 Simone Favaro (Glasgow Warriors)Favaro was a monster on defence in Glasgow’s impressive away win over Racing 92 at the weekend. The flanker made an incredible 14 tackles without missing a single one as the Scottish outfit kept the French champions at bay. Having a great season with club and country. Chris Henry impressed for Ulster.

6 Iain Henderson (Ulster)Henderson was on fire for Ulster in their 39-32 victory over Clermont. The flanker scored a try from Ruan Pienaar’s cross-field kick while making a big impact on defence with 12 tackles. Also take note of Mamuka Gorgodze‘s performance for Toulon in their 31-20 win over Scarlets.

5 Jonny Gray (Glasgow Warriors)The lock was a defensive beast over the weekend in Glasgow’s win over Racing, exectuing an incredible 19 tackles in one of the standout defensive performances of the weekend. Having some season and surely set to become a British and Irish Lion.

4 Joe Launchbury (Wasps)To see off a Man-of-the-Match performance from Saracens lock Maro Itoje takes some doing but the Wasps captain was phenomenal on Sunday against Connacht. Regularly won vital turnovers on the ground while he carried strongly when in possession, one of which led to him galloping over for a key try. England really are blessed with plenty of top second-rows at the moment. Superb showing.

3 Tadgh Furlong (Leinster)Man of the Match in his team’s victory over Northampton Saints with six carries and seven tackles along with a good scrum that saw him impress. It’s been some year for the Wexford man and no doubt Lions boss Warren Gatland is watching with interest.

2 Niall Scannell (Munster): A solid game from the Irish hooker as he edges Ulster’s Rory Best and Tommy Taylor of Wasps as our number two. Scannell does the nuts and bolts up front and this was an understated showing that included ten carries, as Munster crushed a poor Leicester.

1 Dave Kilcoyne (Munster)Ireland are truly blessed with excellent props right now and Kilcoyne is unlucky to be so far down the pecking order at Test level. 11 carries against the Tigers, he was at his bulldozing best to see of Leinster’s Jack McGrath as our loosehead prop.

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