Now that the dust has settled on the opening round of the July internationals, we’ve gone through the action to pick the best players from the weekend’s games.
The All Blacks lead the way with five players in our XV after an excellent triumph over Ireland in Auckland. Wales are next best with three representatives after a narrow loss to South Africa, who have two players included along with Australia, while Argentina, France and Ireland contribute one apiece in a hotly debated selection.
July internationals Team of the Week
15 Jordie Barrett (New Zealand): A massive display by an All Black icon, Barrett’s ability to neuter the Irish aerial game and return with interest sees him selected in front of Springbok replacement Willie le Roux. Barrett’s fine performance was rewarded with a well-taken try and 12 points from the boot courtesy of three penalties and three conversions.
14 Damian Penaud (France): There’s no better wing in world rugby right now than this flying Frenchman and his brace proved key to seeing off a spirited Japanese first half performance. New Zealand’s Sevu Reece was equally electric for the All Blacks in Auckland.
13 Rieko Ioane (New Zealand): Centre has been a bit of an issue for the All Blacks in recent time but Ioane is making his mark by bolting on physicality and powerful defence to his undoubted running skills and he takes our berth over the consistent Springbok Lukhanyo Am.
12 Samu Kerevi (Australia): The Wallaby’s second half running caused the English defence no end of issues as he got gainline go-forward, allowing others to feed off him in support. Damien de Allende is our runner-up, always excellent for South Africa in a tight battle against Wales in Pretoria.
11 Louis Rees-Zammit (Wales): Two sizzling tries from Rees-Lightning reminded us of his undoubted pace, but since the Lions tour, he’s bolted on a much stronger aerial and defensive game and now looks a complete wing, marginally seeing off the equally impressive Wallaby, Marika Koroibete.
10 Beauden Barrett (New Zealand): Damian Willemse was exceptional when moved by South Africa from 15 to 10 during the match versus Wales, but our vote goes to another Barrett, this time the Beauden variety, as the stellar fly-half yet again shone in the All Black jersey.
9 Aaron Smith (New Zealand): The veteran number nine’s ability to open up defences with miss passes is something that sets him apart from any other scrum-half in the world and again he was at his skilful best against Ireland. For Argentina, young Gonzalo Bertanou had an exceptional day against Scotland and is our runner-up.
8 Ardie Savea (New Zealand): The Springboks’ Jasper Wiese is unlucky to miss out after a solid shift at Loftus Versfeld but, after some debate, we’ve opted for Savea, who was arguably the player of the weekend. The 28-year-old came to the fore with a superb all-round performance in which he made 16 tackles, gained 61 metres on attack and scored two well-taken tries of which the second one was a superb individual effort.
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7 Josh van der Flier (Ireland): Although Ireland were beaten in most facets of play against New Zealand, the Leinsterman can hold his head high as he emptied the tank during an impressive 80-minute shift. Van der Flier was particularly effective with ball in hand as he took the fight to the All Blacks with some strong carries. Wallabies captain Michael Hooper also had some good moments in a memorable win over England.
6 Tommy Reffell (Wales): The Leicester Tiger comes in on the blindside flank – although he played on the openside – but we simply had to find a place for him in our team after an outstanding Test debut for Wales in a losing cause against the Springboks. Reffell made his mark at the breakdown as he won two crucial turnovers while also catching the eye with a big defensive effort, finishing with 15 tackles made. Scott Barrett also impressed.
5 Guido Petti (Argentina): Los Pumas sealed a hard-fought victory over Scotland in Jujuy and Petti was at the forefront of the home side’s onslaught with an outstanding performance. The Bordeaux-Begles stalwart’s lineout work was of a high standard and he did well with ball in hand too, gaining 28 attacking metres. Petti was also effective on defence and comes in ahead of behemoth Springbok Lood de Jager.
4 Will Rowlands (Wales): The Dragons second-row was named as Wales’ Player of the Year last month and showed why he is so highly rated with a fine display in his team’s narrow defeat to South Africa. Rowlands did what was expected of him in the lineouts but made his biggest impact as a ball carrier with 43 metres gained from six runs, including one clean break and a defender beaten. He beats out his direct opponent Eben Etzebeth.
3 James Slipper (Australia): There were outstanding performances from England’s Will Stuart and Ofa Tu’ungafasi of New Zealand but Slipper gets the nod after a fine showing off the replacements bench for the Wallabies in Perth. Slipper came on in the 26th minute as a replacement for Allan Alaalatoa and shone in the execution of his core duties, especially his scrummaging which was solid throughout.
2 Malcolm Marx (South Africa): Wallaby Dave Porecki had a good game against England but it’s Springbok ‘Bomb Squad’ member Marx who gets the nod after making a big impact off the bench against Wales. He was outstanding in the execution of his core duties with his lineout throw-ins and defence particularly impressive. Marx also impressed as a ball carrier and crossed for a deserved try shortly after joining the fray.
1 Ox Nche (South Africa): The Springboks battled to get going against Wales but Nche was one of the players who hit the ground running and delivered a fine all-round effort. The 26-year-old stood up well in the scrums, was a willing ball carrier and also put in some big hits on defence. George Bower also had some good moments for the All Blacks.