Nick Easter’s Six Nations Team of the Week: The ‘absolutely magnificent’ Ireland star and rookies making their mark

James While
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Nick Easter's Six Nations Team of the Week powered by eToro. Images features the entire team plus images of Duhan van der Merwe, Finn Russell and Aaron Wainwright.

Nick Easter's Six Nations Team of the Week powered by eToro.

After a thrilling weekend in the opening round of the 2024 Six Nations, Planet Rugby’s James While sat down with England legend Nick Easter to get his picks for the Team of the Week.

We have teamed up with eToro, the official investing and trading partner of Premiership Rugby, to cover the 2024 Six Nations, previewing and reviewing the entire tournament.

Without further ado, here are Easter’s picks for Team of the Week.

Six Nations Team of the Week

15 Hugo Keenan (Ireland): Another brilliant outing for a world-class full-back in France as Keenan’s all-round game shone in a memorable win. For England, Freddie Steward was huge under the high ball, and it was his offload to Tommy Freeman that started the England comeback in fine style.

14 Tommy Freeman (England): The Saints star really showed how much power he’s put on since his World Cup omission in a barnstorming display for England, where his appetite for work was enormous. Calvin Nash also impressed me on his debut for Ireland and a nod to Scotland’s Kyle Steyn, always a tough competitor.

13 Henry Slade (England): A really triumphant return for Slade after his World Cup omission, he recovered well from a couple of defensive errors to shine, especially in terms of his kicking game and I was pleased to see him thriving, but he must remember to take his own defensive line with him when he rushes out. Slade’s opposite number, the super consistent Italian Juan Ignacio Brex, was also in fine fettle, and his offload to Lorenzo Cannone was utterly superb from a very accomplished player.

Abrasive backs

12 Bundee Aki (Ireland): This guy is a coach’s dream, and his work rate once again stands out for me. There’s no more improved player in the world than the Irish 12, and he continues to shine. I’d also like to shout out Tomas Menoncello for Italy, who partnered with Brex brilliantly to cause England a lot of issues.

11 Duhan van der Merwe (Scotland): A man I coached during my stint at Worcester Warriors, Duhan is an incredible athlete, but his best quality is the lines he takes when searching for work off his half-backs. James Lowe from Ireland is truly the modern all-round winger boasting fabulous defence, and he’s a coach’s dream in terms of his rugby IQ and clearance work. He pushed Van der Merwe all the way in my eyes.

Half-backs and Player of the Round

10 Finn Russell (Scotland): It really pleased me to hear Russell’s maturity in understanding that Scotland’s win wasn’t what he had hoped for. That shows me that Finn is really growing into an uncompromising leader, and his personal performance wasn’t the reason Wales mounted a comeback, although he’ll want to be more consistent in his kicking next weekend. Ireland’s Jack Crowley looked to the manner born for Ireland, and he will take a lot of confidence from his outing and kick consistency.

9 Jamison Gibson-Park (Ireland): Absolutely magnificent. He tore Maxime Lucu to pieces with pressure at the base, his kicking was pinpoint, and he even grabbed a try himself. He’s my Player of the Round in an inspirational performance, just seeing off the excellent Alex Mitchell for England and the impact replacement Tomos Williams, who inspired the Welsh comeback in Cardiff.

Wales stars and an England debut to remember

8 Aaron Wainwright (Wales): My old mate Adam Jones singled out Wainwright in his eToro previews this weekend, and the eight stepped up to the plate with a brilliant personal day out, demonstrating his massive engine and work rate. Caelan Doris also shone for Ireland as always, and his classy stepping is a superpower for a man of his size.

7 Tommy Reffell (Wales): The epitome of the word ‘dogged’. He was a perpetual thorn in the Scottish rucks and kept Wales’ momentum going right down to his steal in the last moments. Josh van der Flier was as abrasive and mobile as ever for Ireland against France.

6 Ethan Roots (England): A really impressive debut for a big man stepping into Courtney Lawes’ even bigger shoes. His carrying is a given, but he performed well in lineout and defence, especially that tackle, and clear in the 71st minute, which proved to be a crucial moment. I like his aggression and spike. A word too for France’s Francois Cros, the only member of the French pack that lived up to their billing as he put in an absolutely tireless display in a crushing defeat.

Irish second-rowers

5 Tadhg Beirne (Ireland): A man that topped eight of the nine stats published by the Six Nations; I was blown away by his brilliance, and particularly the manner he took France’s underpowered line out apart after Paul Willemse was carded. In Cardiff, Adam Beard‘s leadership of the forwards was crucial in their second-half display, and he also impressed me greatly.

4 Joe McCarthy (Ireland): An absolute shoo-in as he showed precisely why he’d been selected over Ryan Baird and James Ryan. Simply massive, brutally abrasive and very impressive, he was thrown into the mixer of facing a mammoth French pack in his first Six Nations start and laid down a marker in everything he did. England’s Maro Itoje also enjoyed a great day in the Rome sunshine as he contributed some important moments.


3 Uini Atonio (France): The man mountain was a tank in the scrum and one of France’s only positives as he squashed Andrew Porter where possible, exposing one of the very few Irish weaknesses. He did not get many chances with the ball in hand, but his scrummaging earned his wage. Zander Fagerson‘s incursions in loose play are always a feature of Scotland’s play and England’s Will Stuart carried tirelessly for England over in Rome.

2 Dan Sheehan (Ireland): Another consummate display from an impressively skilled hooker as he added yet another try to his record, in addition to his solid scrummage and pinpoint line out. Elliot Dee was also a key part of the Welsh fightback in Cardiff, and I’d be surprised if he didn’t start against England next week at Twickenham.

1 Pierre Schoeman (Scotland): Schoeman may have had a few issues in the scrums, but the loosehead prop was outstanding in open play, making 15 tackles, one turnover and scored a try. Danilo Fischetti of Italy got through plenty of defensive work as he completed 16 hits during a 67-minute stint on the field. My old mucker Joe Marler was as solid as a brick wall in the set-piece and a perpetual nuisance in the breakdown, carrying 21 times off nine and ten.

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