Planet Rugby

November Tests: Team of the Week

25th November 2013 13:04

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TEst team of the week Nov 25 2013

Green monsters: Jamie Heaslip and Flip van der Merwe

Now that the dust has settled in the northern hemisphere, Planet Rugby's scribes thought it only right to sit down and select a XV of the Week.

It was a tough XV to settle on and some positions made for difficult decisions that took a bit of time.

But we got there in the end so herewith our stand-out players from a busy international weekend.

15 Rob Kearney (Ireland) - Kearney's try - Ireland's third in 20 minutes - practically made a whole country pass out in giddy delight. The full-back looked as though he'd stepped straight into the match from 2009 - catching everything, thumping everyone back and showing the cutting edge in attack that has not always been present in his game. 114 metres made, three defenders beaten and seven tackles. He deserved to win. Credit to Israel Folau (107 metres, one fine try) and Canada's James Pritchard for his haul of 27 points, including two tries against Portugal.

14 JP Pietersen (South Africa) - Slim pickings amongst the right wings but Pietersen's try was one of the most influential of the weekend. It was a textbook case of creating an opportunity out of nothing thanks to pressurising a kicker. A mention for Pumas wing Juan Imhoff, who also scored his first Test try in over a year.

13 Ben Smith (New Zealand) - Conrad Smith has barely been missed. The Highlander's sojourn at outside centre might turn into a permanent move long-term after Smith was at his effective best against Ireland, running the ball twelve times for 102 metres and beating tacklers on the way. He has had a superb 2013, hence his nomination for the IRB Player of the Year Award.

12 Gordon D'Arcy (Ireland) - This was exactly the kind of performance that nobody thought Gordon D'Arcy had left in him. Recalled in place of Luke Marshall, D'Arcy was in full-on beast mode against the All Blacks - running effectively and making enough tackles to keep them at bay until the death. A vintage showing from the slightly younger half of Ireland's veteran centre pairing. Credit to Ma'a Nonu for a storming second half and Wesley Fofana who beat five defenders from inside centre.

11 Yoann Huget (France) - A well-taken try by the Toulouse wing dragged France back into contention against the Springboks and Huget could well have bagged a second after the break if it weren't for an unkind bounce. A mention for Wallaby newbie Chris Feauai-Sautia, who marked his second cap with his second Test try.

10 Aaron Cruden (New Zealand) - Cruden started and finished one of the great comebacks in sport on Sunday. With Ireland 19-0 up, the fly-half's cross-kick to Julian Savea got the ball rolling before he had a hand in Ryan Crotty's score. And of course, he landed that touchline kick. Mention for Argentina's Nicolas Sanchez.

9 Conor Murray (Ireland) - Why he was overlooked to start against Australia last week remains a mystery but Murray returned with a bang on Sunday, leading from the front for Ireland. He kicked well territorially while his service and game management stood out. Murray opened the scoring too.

8 Jamie Heaslip (Ireland) - Australia advised Heaslip to 'just mark Kieran Read'. He did more than that. Read is the favourite to claim the IRB Player of the Year award but he was overshadowed by the Irish number eight on Sunday. A whopping 21 tackles as he was the stand-out forward in Dublin. Next in line here was Australia's Ben Mowen.

7 Michael Hooper (Australia) - Hooper - pest extrodinaire - was at his baff-snaffling best at the breakdown at Murrayfield as he continually cut short Scottish momentum. Twelve tackles with none missed is also a respectable figure for the openside, who in addition made plenty of carries. Another fine year from Hooper in the absence of David Pocock to make that rivalry more interesting next season. A mention too for Francois Louw whose great efforts were spoiled by his needless yellow card in Paris.

6 Sean O'Brien (Ireland) - Moved to the other side of the scrum as we wanted both him and Hooper in the side after titanic efforts over the weekend. O'Brien got the better of his opposite number as his hunger and bulk caused the All Blacks issues. Sixteen tackles in a workmanlike performance. Mentions for Steven Luatua and Alessandro Zanni.

5 Flip van der Merwe (South Africa) - For us, the Bulls man had his best game in a Springbok jersey. He showed grit up front, making ten tackles to go with a tireless showing in Paris. With Eben Etzebeth going off early and Bakkies Botha lasting an hour, Van der Merwe put in some shift. Huge mentions for two men who gave absolutely everything to the respective Irish and New Zealand cause, Paul O'Connell and Sam Whitelock.

4 Pascale PapÚ (France) - The Stade Franšais lock has had an excellent month, making an impressive return to Test rugby after an injury-enforced absence. He was the one Frenchman who really matched the Springboks' physicality, giving as good as he took. A mention for the hard graft put in by Ireland's Devin Toner.

3 Coenie Oosthuizen (South Africa) - Many felt that South Africa's tighthead would be targeted by the French pack, especially at scrum time, but the 24-year-old stood up to the pressure on the occasion of his first start.

2 Stephen Moore (Australia) - Working his way up to world-leading status when it comes to Test number twos, Moore was at it again in Edinburgh. The hooker made nine tackles and carried nine times in a concerted Wallaby forward pack effort that had enough thrust to see off the Scots. A rock in the middle of the Australia pack. Credit to Eusebio Gui˝az˙ for making fourteen tackles against the Azzurri.

1 Cian Healy (Ireland) - The Healy grandchildren may be hearing about the time Cian barged over Richie McCaw. Unfortunately that day didn't have a happy ending as Ireland lost late on but Healy was a rock for his country, putting in plenty of hits and carries while he scrummaged well. Immense.

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