With the first round of the 2017 Six Nations in the books we pick out the best players to make our Team of the Week.
England’s lacklustre performance is telling as they receive just one selection despite defeating France, while there is plenty of praise for Scotland and Wales.
Let’s see who made the cut.
Team of the Week: Six Nations, Round 1
15 Stuart Hogg (Scotland): Two vital early tries from the Lions favourite against Ireland to set the Scots on their way, first gathering up that bobbling pass from Finn Russell before throwing a delightful dummy to fix up Rob Kearney prior to scoring his second. Hogg topped 100 metres on 12 runs, beating three defenders, and made four tackles. Scott Spedding was excellent.
14 George North (Wales): Scored his first try since September and looked back to his old self on the wing for Wales in Rome, even if he pushed his hamstring to the limit on the long run for his try. Seven runs for the Northampton wing as he made 108 metres.
13 Robbie Henshaw (Ireland): Switched from inside to outside centre after the Ireland international worked tirelessly to get his side back in the game at Murrayfield, with 19 carries beating six defenders along with seven tackles. Garry Ringrose and Jonathan Davies both shone.
12 Alex Dunbar (Scotland): Very smart try to take Scotland to 21 points when Dunbar positioned himself in the lineout before striding over past a perplexed Ireland. The Glasgow Warrior carried rarely but managed two clean breaks from three runs, and impressively made 17 tackles in defence. Big impact from Ben Te’o.
11 Virimi Vakatawa (France): A constant threat, exemplified with one beautiful chip and chase as England’s slightly tight defence always looked wary of the damage Vakatawa could cause out wide. The giant wing’s stats are quite something; 18 runs, 121 metres, two clean breaks and four defenders beaten. Elliot Daly was inches away from scoring.
10 Owen Farrell (England): Ended up at fly-half and that’s where Farrell lands in our side, edging out Finn Russell and a highly impressive Sam Davies who must start next weekend. As for Farrell, his tactical kicking and place-kicking played a major role but it is his nine carries and fine assist for Ben Te’o that sealed his case.
9 Greig Laidlaw (Scotland): Captain Fantastic did it again for Scotland with those late penalties, but Laidlaw helped out with the tactical kicking game and put in his share of tackles too for his country, with eight overall. Baptiste Serin pushed him close and was bizarrely taken off early.
8 Louis Picamoles (France): No doubt here, even if Sergio Parisse had flashes of brilliance in Rome. Picamoles was out of this world for France and as we said in ‘Hot/Not’, deserved more than to end up on the losing side. Seven defenders beaten, four offloads, multiple runs, but also nine tackles.
7 Maxime Mbanda (Italy): Justin Tipuric was certainly close but Mbanda walked away from Sunday’s game with 25 tackles to his name on his fourth cap for Italy, with the kind of performance that will cement his spot in the back row moving forward. Great energy. Hamish Watson also went well as did James Haskell from the bench.
6 Sam Warburton (Wales): Very good afternoon’s work for Warburton with 13 carries and four lineout takes plus a steal, as he delivered a much-needed effort for his country after relinquishing the captaincy. Always grafting away. CJ Stander was close, as ever.
5 Alun-Wyn Jones (Wales): First Test as captain since taking over from Warburton and Jones was his typically energetic self, leading his side for carries with 14 and making nine tackles. Truly one of the best around at his position right now.
4 Jonny Gray (Scotland): How does he keep doing it? Gray, per the official Six Nations stats, made 14 carries, the most by a Scottish players, and 28 tackles in Saturday’s win. 28! That’s far more than tackles than actual years Gray has been alive (22 for the record).
3 Tadgh Furlong (Ireland): No other way to put it, Furlong took Scotland prop Allan Dell to the cleaners early on at Murrayfield. The dominance of those scrums suggested that Scotland were in for a long afternoon. More than did his bit in the loose as well with 12 carries and nine tackles.
2 Ross Ford (Scotland): Called into action far earlier than expected when Fraser Brown trotted off and Ford put in a great shift, turning in ten runs but crucially 19 tackles and eight lineouts. There’s life in the old dog yet after his 104th cap.
1 Jack McGrath (Ireland): Not the greatest selection of looseheads to choose from but McGrath played his part in that scrum battle and made seven carries and nine tackles to cap off an industrious afternoon.