After the second weekend of the 2024 Six Nations, Planet Rugby’s James While sat down with former England defence coach Paul Gustard 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 Gustard’s picks for Team of the Week.
Six Nations Team of the Week
15 Freddie Steward (England): Steward was yet again huge under the high ball in England’s stuttering performance at Twickenham, dominating the airways and carrying powerfully. At Murrayfield, Harry Paterson put in a memorable personal performance for Scotland despite the loss.
14 Calvin Nash (Ireland): Nash impressed in his second match for Ireland as he crossed in their rout of Italy and demonstrated a huge appetite for seeking work off his wing. France’s Damian Penaud is always there or thereabouts, and he was his usual running threat without quite getting the returns we expect from him.
13 Gael Fickou (France): Fickou might be noted for his defensive brilliance, but it was his work in attack and carry that caught the eye as he crossed for a vital comeback try for Les Bleus. In Dublin, Robbie Henshaw reminded us of all of his versatility as he was a focal point with ball in hand of the Irish attack as he carried eight times for 86 metres and was unlucky perhaps to have his try effort ruled out.
12 Stuart McCloskey (Ireland): It’s staggering to think that McCloskey is Ireland‘s third choice inside centre, but he did everything possible to advance his claims in an impressive outing as he worked well with Henshaw and Jack Crowley in Ireland’s midfield. Scotland’s Sione Tuipulotu also shone but may be lucky to have not seen a card for his no arms clear out on Gregory Alldritt that saw the French skipper carried off with a gashed knee.
11 James Lowe (Ireland): There really isn’t a more industrious and complete left winger in the Northern Hemisphere right now and again Lowe fused brilliant clearing and kicking with elusive running, crossing for yet another try. France’s Louis Bielle-Biarrey is unlucky not to get the nod after an impressive outing that saw him cross for a crucial try in Les Bleus’ comeback at Murrayfield.
10 Jack Crowley (Ireland): The Irish fly-half debate continued powerfully in the lead up to the 2024 Six Nations but after two games Crowley’s assured performances have been so impressive the shirt looks like his for the foreseeable future, despite an average day off the tee at the Aviva. England’s George Ford might be miffed at having his conversion charged down but it was his control and territorial intelligence that was at the heart of the England comeback against Wales.
— Planet Rugby (@PlanetRugby) February 11, 2024
9 Ben White (Scotland): So near yet so far. White’s knowledge of the French players gained playing in Toulon allowed him to put in a high-quality individual performance, although England’s Alex Mitchell also showed how vital he is for England, and I cannot help but notice just how far Ireland’s tempo went up after the introduction of the outstanding Jamison Gibson-Park.
8 Ben Earl (England): A close call but Earl’s pace and power off the base is making a mockery of those who dare to suggest he doesn’t fit their idea of the shape of a Test eight. The Saracen carries like a bulldozer as the Welsh defence will attest as he scored for an impressive individual try. Jack Conan also impressed me hugely as he demonstrated once again that he’s one of the best direct line carriers in the game.
7 Tommy Reffell (Wales): The epitome of the word ‘dogged’. He was a perpetual thorn in the English rucks and kept Wales’ momentum going – and also answered his critics with some wonderful moments carrying with ball in hand. Scotland’s Rory Darge is a similar player to Reffell, and he demonstrated his threat in an impressive outing at Murrayfield.
6 Francois Cros (France): Cros’s interventions, a turnover and a powerful 12 metre run off the back of the scrum when playing at eight after Alldritt went off were both key in creating the opportunities for both of France’s tries as the Toulouse man put in another classy performance. It was a great weekend for sixes with Alex Mann shining for Wales in his second Test and Ryan Baird enjoying himself with ball in hand, running riot against Italy.
5 Dafydd Jenkins (Wales): A mature performance that belies the Welsh skipper’s years, he was brilliant in causing England no end of issues in the lineout and drive and almost inspired his team to end their Twickenham hoodoo. One of my own Stade Francais players, Paul Gabrillagues, put in a massive 60-minute shift at Murrayfield, demonstrating his incredible work-rate and defensive skills.
4 Joe McCarthy (Ireland): Yet another towering performance from a huge man, his defensive reads are out of the top drawer and he looks like he’s loving every moment of Test rugby. England’s Maro Itoje also enjoyed a great day in the Twickenham gloom as he contributed some important moments, especially packing down with 6’1″ Sam Underhill as England’s seven-man scrum got enough go forward to allow Earl’s moment of brilliance off the base.
3 Dan Cole (England): Cole was only on for some 29 minutes but it was his huge presence that saw England gain dominance at scrum-time, winning two crucial penalties, one that proved to be the decisive score. Finlay Bealham was a tank in the scrum and prominent in the loose as he once again showed that the Irish tighthead shirt doesn’t exclusively belong to the great Tadhg Furlong and there’s a few good judges in Ireland right now that think Bealham is the form man.
2 Dan Sheehan (Ireland): Another consummate display from an impressively skilled hooker as he added another brace of tries to his record, in addition to his solid scrummage and pinpoint lineout. Like Cole, Julien Marchand came off the bench to add real bristle to the French breakdown work and to solve their wayward throwing issues at the lineout. I am sure he’ll be reinstalled as the starting hooker in the next round of the tournament.
— Guinness Men's Six Nations (@SixNationsRugby) February 11, 2024
1 Cyril Baille (France): Baille was his usual powerhouse self in both scrummage and carry but it’s that sumptuous pass to Matthieu Jalibert that allowed Fickou to scoot over on the right wing that will be firmly embedded on his Instagram highlights reel this week. Ireland’s Andrew Porter showed he’s been putting in some work around his scrummage technique and impressed in an all-action display in Dublin, especially in terms of his handling at first receiver in a number of moves.
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