Planet Rugby

Six Nations: Team of the Week

03rd February 2014 10:29


team of the week vunipola nyanga campagnaro

Selected: Nyanga and Vunipola

Now that the dust has settled across Europe, it's time to pick out the players who stood out from the crowd in Round 1 of the Six Nations.

Wales got off to an unconvincing start defending the title against Italy in Cardiff, while France roared back to pip an impressive England in Paris.

Finally on Sunday, Ireland put in a strong showing against a regressing Scotland outfit in Dublin to nicely set up this weekend's match in the Irish capital against the champions.

So without further ado, here comes our offering - feel free to select your XV in the comments section below.

Six Nations 2014, Team of Round 1

15 Rob Kearney (Ireland) - Played in his 50th Test and capped a memorable performance with his side's third try late on, which sealed their victory over Scotland. Kearney was safe under the high ball and impressed in attack with 79 metres gained. He just edges out Stuart Hogg, who was, as usual, one of the Scots' best players especially with ball in hand.

14 Yoann Huget (France) - Two tries and 74 metres gained by Huget in Paris showed his threat in attack. Though aided by the bounce of the ball, Huget finished both his opportunities well, and managed three clean breaks - more than any other player - as he proved the game's most incisive runner. On the opposing side, England's Jack Nowell endured a tough start to his Test debut, but should be commended for showing the resilience to bounce back, finishing with an impressive three defenders beaten.

13 Michele Campagnaro (Italy) - The only time 20-year-old Campagnaro looked ill at ease inside the Millennium Stadium was when confronted with a post-match BBC interview. His grasp of the English language may have been lacking a tad, but his performance was outstanding on just his third cap; bagging two excellent long-range tries - the first a kick-and-chase, the second an opportunistic interception of Leigh Halfpenny's pass - and finishing with a whopping 107 metres gained and two defenders beaten. No mean feat at the home of the defending champions; an arena where England failed to muster more than three points a year ago. His opposite number, in-form Scarlet Scott Williams, also enjoyed an impressive outing, crossing the whitewash in the process.

12 Jamie Roberts (Wales) - Roberts returned to Test rugby with a bang on Saturday, and was arguably his side's best player. Typically direct and powerful with ball in hand, he provided go-forward and a platform from which Wales could attack. Unsurprisingly, he was used rather a lot by Warren Gatland's men; a total of 17 carries yielding just shy of 50 metres. And his telling contribution came via a powerful midfield break to send Williams galloping home. In Paris, Wesley Fofana had a quiet game by his own standards, but still proved tricky to handle for the English defence, with 47 metres gained, and a clean break to his name. The Clermont flyer was solid without the ball too, making nine tackles and missing none.

11 Sean Lamont (Scotland) - Despite a poor overall performance from Scotland, Lamont can be happy after a fine effort. He combined well in attack with Hogg and crossed the advantage line at will, gaining 75 metres in the process. Lamont also put his body on the line in defence with nine hits.

10 Owen Farrell (England) - Farrell delivered his best performance in an England shirt to date. His kicking game was spot on, playing France back into the corners when England's pack got on top. He was also unafraid to attack the gain line, releasing England's big runners and making 47 metres himself and beating a couple of defenders in the process. This though was about maturity. We forget he is only 22. A mention for Rhys Priestland who shone against Italy.

9 Danny Care (England) - Care's selection over the more pragmatic Ben Youngs was a statement of intent from Stuart Lancaster. It was one that paid off, however, as Care proved to be the heartbeat of the English effort across the Channel. Typically lively and threatening in possession, Care's quick tap-penalty led to a try for Mike Brown, and the scrum-half even took the opportunity to slot a well-taken drop-goal. It was rather surprising to see Lancaster replace him while he looked to be at the peak of his powers. Elsewhere, Edoardo Gori was a thorn in the Welsh side.

8 Billy Vunipola (England) - If you outshine Louis Picamoles then you must be doing something right. Vunipola was absolutely brilliant for England in Paris, providing two assists for both of the visitors' tries. The second one was a brilliant run, beating three defenders before serving up Luther Burrell for a try on a plate. He is such a destructive runner. Vunipola finished with 68 metres from 17 carries. Mentions for Jamie Heaslip and Sergio Parisse.

7 Yannick Nyanga (France) - The marauding openside was simply outstanding; a key factor in France's eventual triumph, and a more than able replacement for his injured Toulouse team-mate, Thierry Dusautoir. A perennial nuisance at the breakdown, Nyanga hounded the English forwards, and made over 40 metres with ball in hand courtesy of several storming breaks downfield, beating more defenders (seven) than any other player in Round One. Ireland's Chris Henry had the beating of the Scottish pack around the breakdown, and showed up well in the loose to gain 15 metres.

6 Tom Wood (England) - A man on a mission, at least to rough up Jules Plisson early on, Wood's work was dogged on the blindside for England in the Paris battle. He made 11 tackles, caught lineouts and hit rucks with fire. England's back-row worked tirelessly and probably deserved more for their efforts, but as a unit they are starting to impress. Wood is a key part of that with his leadership as well. A mention for Dan Lydiate, who after a busy week jetting from Cardiff to Paris and back following the birth of his daughter made 12 tackles against Italy.

5 Pascal Papé (France) - France's captain might just be filling in for Dusautoir - his words, not ours - but he did a pretty good job. France surged and then retreated before coming back right at the death thanks to Gaël Fickou, with Papé on the field throughout. He even made more tackles than Nyanga, a monstrous 14, and was at his physically imposing best trying to handle Courtney Lawes. Lawes also gets a mention for a hugely impressive shift and one notable lineout steal.

4 Joe Launchbury (England) - Lawes might have not made the cut but Launchbury does. His workrate is simply outstanding and at 22 he embodies England's current ethos of picking young, talented players and watching them grow. Launchbury made ten tackles and took his lineout balls, but it was his effort busting from breakdown to breakdown that really caught the eye. He keeps out Devin Toner - the Irish giant putting his hand up by winning five lineouts and making ten tackles.

3 Nicolas Mas (France) - England might have won the lineout battle overall, but the scrum was all about France. It was no surprise to see Mas at the heart of it, hassling Joe Marler on his side with Papé in support while Thomas Domingo got to work on Dan Cole. The extra week's scrummaging practice seemed to pay off handsomely as France looked competitive in that area once more against one of the world's better packs. Eight tackles to boot underlined a strong performance.

2 Rory Best (Ireland) - Best got through a lot of the hard graft up front which allowed his more flashier team-mates to shine. He did his core duties well, especially at the line-outs, where he found his jumpers with ease. The Ulsterman also worked well in defence with six tackles, meaning he beats out Wales number two Richard Hibbard who impressed against Italy.

1 Cian Healy (Ireland) - The Leinster powerhouse showed again why he is so highly-rated with a superb all-round display. Scrummed well, cleaned out the rucks with determination and showed a fine turn of speed when he went on a bullocking run, in the second half, which caught Scotland's defenders by surprise. A mention for the destructive Thomas Domingo.

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