Following the fourth and penultimate round of the Six Nations, we pick out the best players to make Planet Rugby’s Team of the Week.
Ireland lead the way with eight nominations, while France are rewarded for a significantly improved display by taking four of the positions.
Team of the Week: Six Nations, Round 4
15 Rob Kearney (Ireland): The full-back’s best performance of the championship. He was solid in the air and also a threat with ball in hand, helping to create Jacob Stockdale’s crucial second try following a fine break. Matteo Minozzi was impressive for Italy and once again Scotland’s Stuart Hogg just misses out but, after 138 metres made and two clean breaks, Kearney edged the duel with Hogg and therefore takes his position in the team.
14 Blair Kinghorn (Scotland): Some way to introduce yourself to the international stage after an excellent display in a losing cause. On his first start, the Scotland right wing was superb and showed a range of skills throughout the contest with Ireland. Finished well in the corner to score his first try for Gregor Townsend’s men and also made plenty of ground throughout, for a performance which saw him edge out Wales’ George North.
13 Garry Ringrose (Ireland): No Robbie Henshaw or Chris Farrell? No problem, as Ringrose returned to the fold in spectacular fashion. The centre, who has been compared to the great Brian O’Driscoll, is a classy operator and was unfortunate not to pick up the official man of the match award. While he is defensively sound, following 12 successful tackles, the Leinster man is even better on attack as Scotland struggled – and ultimately failed – to contain the talented back. Owen Watkin was in contention but Ringrose was outstanding.
12 Mathieu Bastareaud (France): There were two exceptional performances at outside centre so we had to put both in our team. Bastareaud has been revitalised since returning to the France side and followed up his excellent showing versus Italy with another physical display at the weekend. Comfortably won the individual battle against Ben Te’o and, as a result, takes the place ahead of Hadleigh Parkes, who is unfortunate to miss out.
11 Remy Grosso (France): France have been renowned for chopping and changing over the years so where has Grosso been? The wing was constantly one of the most potent attackers in the Top 14 for Castres and has maintained that form at Clermont Auvergne but, at the age of 29, it seems a rather belated selection. At least he has now been given an opportunity to impress and the Clermont man has duly taken that chance. He caused England all sorts of problems at the weekend and, despite Jacob Stockdale continuing his remarkable run of form at international level, Grosso, with 106 metres made, was the standout player.
10 Johnny Sexton (Ireland): Another good display from Sexton, although there weren’t too many contenders for the position this week. Francois Trinh-Duc, Gareth Anscombe and Finn Russell all showed glimpses, while Owen Farrell was a vast improvement on George Ford when he moved to pivot, but the fly-half, alongside Conor Murray, made Ireland tick and was slightly more accurate from the tee than in round three, kicking all four conversions.
9 Conor Murray (Ireland): Maxime Machenaud is very unlucky after an excellent performance against England but you cannot really split up the Murray-Sexton axis. They have been excellent throughout the competition and are arguably the best half-back combination in the world, even if Aaron Smith and Beauden Barrett would have something to say about that. Murray’s kicking game was once again pinpoint and his service was typically sharp from the base as Ireland deservedly secured the title with one match to spare.
8 Taulupe Faletau (Wales): Back with a bang, Faletau showed his many qualities against Italy on Sunday. So fast off the mark and with a wonderful offloading ability and strength in contact, the Azzurri had a tough time containing him in Cardiff as he made a team high 13 carries. France number eight Marco Tauleigne is deserving of his mention here after another impressive outing on the Test scene.
7 Dan Leavy (Ireland): Maybe harsh on France flanker Wenceslas Lauret after his performance against England but it’s hard to ignore Leavy, who continues to grow in Test rugby. He kept a Scottish back-row that dominated England on the back foot in a physical shift.
6 Yacouba Camara (France): Camara was a real thorn in the side of England as his pace, power and ability to slip contact had the visitors on the back foot. He finished with a team high 13 carries which shows just how important he is to the French attack. Superb.
5 Devin Toner (Ireland): Jonny Gray just misses out here after a tireless afternoon toiling away with 27 tackles. We go for Toner, though, as he was a rock for Ireland as usual in both the tight and loose while being a general nuisance at the lineout to Scotland.
4 Paul Gabrillagues (France): The Stade Français forward was excellent for les Bleus in Paris, standing out against a strong English duo of Maro Itoje and Joe Launchbury. Did the nuts and bolts of lock play very well and sees off try-scoring Wales lock Cory Hill.
3 Tadhg Furlong (Ireland): After missing the Wales game due to injury, Furlong slotted back in seamlessly against Scotland. He’s such a force at tighthead prop both in the tight and loose, the Leinster man yet again proved his worth to Ireland. He beats England replacement prop Kyle Sinckler to this jersey, with the Quins man definitely making an impression when he came on against France in Paris.
2 Leonardo Ghiraldini (Italy): Excellent from the veteran as he looks reborn under Conor O’Shea. Solid at the set-piece and with a hunger for work that sees him win the majority of his physical collisions, the 33-year-old was the standout hooker of the weekend.
1 Cian Healy (Ireland): Strong in the basics and also got through plenty of carries for the Irish cause. Joe Schmidt really is blessed with loosehead props having both Healy and Jack McGrath at his disposal. A possible battle with Sinckler this weekend awaits.