Team of the Week: Champions Cup

Date published: January 16 2017

With Round 5 of the Champions Cup in the books we pick out the best players who shone over the weekend across Europe.

Leinster and Racing 92 were big winners over normally respected opposition in Montpellier and Leicester Tigers, while Exeter Chiefs raised eyebrows with their win over Ulster on Sunday.

See who made our selection below.

Team of the Week: Champions Cup

15 Tiernan O’Halloran (Connacht): The full-back had a blinder over the weekend in Connacht’s clobbering of Zebre. He scored two tries towards his side’s tally as well as providing a sublime assist. O’Halloran beat three defenders while running for 139 metres. Alex Lozowski and Maxime Médard also deserve mentions for great attacking displays for their teams.

14 Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs)Nowell produced a great performance over the weekend when the winger gave off a great assist which contributed to his side’s win over Ulster. He also ran 108 metres to keep his side constantly on the front foot. Adam Byrne and Chris Ashton were also fantastic over the weekend with the young Irishman scoring a try while Ashton grabbed a brace for his side.

13 Michele Campagnaro (Exeter Chiefs)Campagnaro was excellent for the Chiefs as they overcame Ulster. The outside centre put in a scintillating performance in the 13 jersey after scoring two tries, beating three players on attack while running for 111 metres. The Italian also made five tackles in his channel. Elliot Daly also deserves a shout after scoring for Wasps in their clash with Toulouse.

12 Scott Williams (Scarlets)Williams proved to be excellent defender over the weekend, fortifying his channel against a deadly Saracens backline. His attacking performance was fantastic after beating three defenders on attack while scoring a five-pointer in his side’s draw with Saracens. All Black legend Ma’a Nonu deserves a mention for scoring a try and giving off an assist in Toulon’s win over Sale Sharks.

11 Charles Piutau (Ulster)Despite his side’s loss over the weekend Piutau’s class was undeniable. The former All Black scored two tries while running 125 metres which constantly kept the Exeter Chiefs under pressure. He also beat a whopping 11 players on attack. Matt Healy and Marc Andreu get a mention after both players each scored two tries.

10 Dan Carter (Racing 92)Dan Carter was illustrious as ever in the 10 jersey, as he contributed heavily in his side’s 34-3 demolition of Leicester. Carter showed his mobility by beating four defenders on attack as he made over 50 metres on nine runs and made a sensational offload. Connacht scrum-half John Cooney showed his dynamism when he filled in at fly-half and was superb, scoring a try and providing a try assist.

9 Luke McGrath (Leinster)Huge competition for the nine spot this week from Conor Murray, Kieran Marmion, Xavier Chauveau and Wasps’ match-winner Dan Robson, but Leinster number nine McGrath was instrumental in his side’s destruction of Montpellier over the weekend. The scrum-half made two clean breaks, beat two defenders while also grabbing a five-pointer in the try-fest, constantly sniping with nine runs.

8 CJ Stander (Munster): Plenty of competition this week from Thomas Waldrom, Teimana Harrison, So’otala Fa’aso’o and Duane Vermeulen but the ever-reliable number eight typified Munster’s work ethic at Scotstoun as they ground out a tough win over Glasgow Warriors. Stander carried 13 times, beating three defenders, and made nine tackles.

7 Thierry Dusautoir (Toulouse)Outstanding in Toulouse’s loss to Wasps as Dusautoir proved there is still plenty left in the tank at the age of 35. The former France captain won multiple turnovers at the breakdown to keep Wasps at bay, and deserved more than a last-minute defeat. Eight tackles and eight carries summed up a productive afternoon.

6 Jack Conan (Leinster): Tom Wood, Talalelei Gray and Thomas Young all caught the eye but the Leinster back-row was a shoe-in for this spot after his hat-trick on Friday against Montpellier. Good work-rate from the flanker who beat eight defenders on his 17 carries, nearly topping 100 metres with the ball in hand.

5 Gerbrandt Grobler (Racing 92)The young South African has become a regular start over the last few weeks for the reigning Top 14 champions and was excellent against Leicester, scoring a try before the break and finishing with eleven tackles, 15 carries and three offloads. One to watch.

4 Tim Swinson (Glasgow Warriors)On the losing side against Munster but Swinson celebrated his new contract by turning in a superb performance, making two clean breaks from his ten carries for over 60 metres. The Scotland international did his bit on defence too eight tackles, but it wasn’t enough. Courtney Lawes also impressed.

3 Greg Holmes (Exeter Chiefs)Strong cases from Zander Fagerson and Finlay Bealham here, but the former Wallaby prop gets the nod after weighing in with 11 tackles in Exeter’s win over Ulster on Sunday. Always tough stop with the ball in hand as well from close range.

2 Ashley Johnson (Wasps)The conversion from back-row to hooker for the former Springbok seems to be complete. Johnson enjoyed one of his best games in the two shirt for Wasps with Tommy Taylor sidelined. Made good ground as ever on his ten carries but it was in defence, with 15 tackles, and eleven lineouts won where Johnson excelled. Keeps out Rob Webber who had his best game since joining Sale.

1 Rob Evans (Scarlets)Another fine scrummaging display from the Wales prop, who fared well up against Saracens’ Juan Figallo at Parc y Scarlets as the Welsh region were unlucky to come away with a draw. Also made an impressive ten carries with the ball in hand. Raphaël Chaume and Matt Mullan both miss out.

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