Following the second round of the 2018 Six Nations, we pick out the best players to make our Team of the Week.
It is a pretty even split this week with England and Scotland leading the way with four nominations, while Ireland and Wales each have three in the side.
Let’s see who made the cut.
Team of the Week: Six Nations, Round 2
15 Mike Brown (England): Dubbed the ‘Peter Shilton’ of rugby by Eddie Jones after this performance, Brown was imperious in the air as usual and gobbled up every kick Wales sent his way, barring one. His three defenders beaten for 118 metres from 16 carries is a good effort. Meanwhile, Matteo Minozzi (Italy) was a constant thorn in the Irish defence and Rob Kearney (Ireland) also impressed.
14 Teddy Thomas (France): Two pieces of individual brilliance sees Thomas gets the nod after the wing followed up last weekend’s effort against Ireland with a couple of sensational scores. The first was particularly outstanding as the Racing 92 man showed tremendous balance, footwork and pace to beat both Finn Russell and Stuart Hogg on the way to the line. Thomas has been a shining light in what has been another disappointing opening to the Six Nations for Les Bleus and, as a result, edges out Ireland’s Keith Earls.
13 Robbie Henshaw (Ireland): We’re sure his inclusion won’t help boost Henshaw’s spirits after he was helped off the Dublin field with his arm in a sling on Saturday. Two very well taken tries against Italy – the latter causing the injury – in a fired up display from Henshaw.
12 Owen Farrell (England): Another top class display from England’s vice captain as he played the perfect game in tough weather conditions alongside George Ford. His kicking game was faultless while he tackled, organised and ran strongly to see off Ireland’s Bundee Aki as our number 12.
11 Jacob Stockdale (Ireland): A tough call here as we considered moving over his team-mate Earls after a workmanlike shift while England’s Jonny May earns a mention for his brace against Wales. However, Stockdale came to the party late on with two scores in a 132 metre showing.
10 Gareth Anscombe (Wales): When Leigh Halfpenny was ruled out with a foot infection only hours before kick-off, the odds appeared to swing in England’s favour. Anscombe, though, was superb in his place, first at full-back and then fly-half, as he made a statement of his attacking qualities with 19 meaningful runs causing England plenty of problems, particularly late on. He’s done his long-term chances no harm at all.
9 Greig Laidlaw (Scotland): Didn’t have the easiest of starts to the game but by the end the scrum-half was Scotland’s match-winner after kicking 22 points, including six second half penalties. Laidlaw controlled the game nicely after the break and was the calm, assured presence that Gregor Townsend’s men desperately needed following their poor performance against Wales in round one. His opposite number, Maxime Machenaud, also played well and France wilted when he went off, while Conor Murray displayed his class throughout Ireland’s encounter with Italy, but Laidlaw was the standout choice.
8 Jack Conan (Ireland): Given a chance to start and as he so often does made a point to his boss that he is serious option for the XV. His mobility in the loose and handling are just two of his strong points and they were prevalent in setting up Murray for Ireland’s second try.
7 Josh Navidi (Wales): Makes our team for the second week in a row. As was the case last weekend, Navidi was his team’s highest tackler with 21 hits. Was clamp-like at the breakdown and effective in slowing down opposition ball. Made some powerful incursions from his 10 carries. Further afield, it was another typically abrasive performance from Scotland’s Hamish Watson as he carried well and also put himself about defensively.
6 Aaron Shingler (Wales): Another brilliant performance from Shingler. He was everywhere on Saturday and unlucky to be on the losing side. Beat three defenders and made three clean breaks for his 64 metres from 16 carries. Typically industrious on defence with 15 tackles. Competed well at the line-out and proved himself a nuisance.
5 Jonny Gray (Scotland): Was one of the Murrayfield outfit’s better performers in round one but the Glasgow Warriors’ lock stepped it up significantly against France. Made a team-high 14 tackles and was much more physical in contact, allowing Scotland to gain the upper hand in the second half. Maro Itoje and Alun Wyn Jones were both impressive in the England-Wales game on Saturday, but Gray had a more defining impact than those two.
4 Joe Launchbury (England): Workmanlike performance. Made 16 carries and 19 tackles. Excellent offload that set up May for his second try, managing to hold off two defenders in the process. Also makes our team for the second week in a row and is a player in fine form indeed.
3 Simon Berghan (Scotland): The tighthead comfortably produced his best performance for his adopted country in their victory at the weekend. The New Zealand-born prop, against a fearsome front-row, held up his end superbly in the scrum and was also excellent in the loose, making 17 metres, which is impressive for one of the bigger units. Andrew Porter had a noteworthy impact for Ireland after coming on for Tadhg Furlong in the early stages and Dan Cole (England) was his usual solid self, but Berghan edges it.
2 Stuart McInally (Scotland): Following an excellent autumn, McInally is quickly becoming one of the best hookers in Europe. Won a close duel with France’s Guilhem Guirado after being solid in the set-piece and displaying plenty of explosiveness in the loose. With Grant Gilchrist’s inclusion, the lineout was much improved and that allowed McInally to concentrate on other parts of his game. Ken Owens (Wales) came close after another all-action performance, but the Edinburgh front-rower’s contribution was slightly better.
1 Mako Vunipola (England): What a shift put in by the loosehead. Showed his stamina as he was only replaced in the 77th minute by Alec Hepburn. Once again, impressive in loose play. 15 carries and 17 tackles. Surely one of the most dynamic front rowers in world rugby.