Premiership Team of the Month

David Skippers

With an amazing four rounds of Premiership games completed in breakneck speed, Planet Rugby picks its form side from the matches seen since the resumption.

Competition at half-back and in the back-row was particularly strong, but the biggest take out is that 13 of our 15 are English-qualified and homegrown, a testimony to the depth in English Rugby right now.

Unsurprisingly, following four successive victories, Exeter Chiefs lead the way with five nominations, while Bath are the next best with four. Be sure to comment and also leave your own line-up in the comments section below.

Premiership Team of the Month

15 Stuart Hogg (Exeter Chiefs): The flying Scotsman is a creative force of nature. 283 metres of coruscating carrying since restart tells its own story and you can bet your life each metre was fast, direct and devastating. He’s nailed on for a Lions berth, but right now he’s lighting up Sandy Park. He takes the spot from Mike Brown (Harlequins) and Jason Woodward (Gloucester).

14 Ollie Thorley (Gloucester): The electric West Countryman is sparking right now. Six tries since the restart and a total of 18 beaten defenders speaks volumes for the ambition and pace of the Gloucester flyer. England are stacked with wing options, but Thorley’s case is compelling, underlined by his four scores in 21 minutes against the Tigers as he beats Semesa Rokoduguni (Bath) and Chris Ashton (Harlequins) to the position.

13 Semi Radradra (Bristol Bears): The anticipation every time the big Fijian gets the ball energises even the empty stands of post-lockdown rugby. Contributions in the vital wins versus Saracens and Gloucester, no player is more direct, more physical or more effective than Radradra and he’s currently averaging an impressive 108 metres of carry per game. As a result, he comfortably comes in ahead of Sam James (Sale Sharks) and Rory Hutchinson (Northampton Saints).

12 Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs): The homegrown Chief seems to have added another dimension of passing and vision to his game since the resumption. Few players have the deft hands of the Exeter centre and his claims to start for England, whether it be at 12, 13 or even 15, are compelling. Paul Lasike (Harlequins) and Brad Barritt (Saracens) also played well, but it was not enough to displace the Exeter man.

11 Ruaridh McConnochie (Bath): A few people scratched their heads in surprise when the former Olympian was selected for the 2019 World Cup, but Eddie Jones took the Bath flyer as a ‘work in progress’. He now appears vindicated as few wingers are showing the all-round appetite and pace as McConnochie, including Jonny May (Gloucester) and Luke Morahan (Bristol Bears), who just miss out on selection.

10 Jacob Umaga (Wasps): The former England U20 beats off stiff competition for the fly-half birth, with his poise under pressure, ability to beat defenders one-on-one and a knack of rising to the big play characterising his game. Wasps are on a roll right now and part of the reason is Umaga’s willingness to play flat on the gain line. He’s one to watch, with Marcus Smith (Harlequins) and Joe Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs) not far behind.

9 Ben Spencer (Bath): England’s search for a new scrum-half has rather neatly coincided with the reignition of Spencer’s career after his move from Saracens during the enforced break. Blessed with the pinpoint kicking game required for the top level, blistering pace and an ability to keep sides going forward, the Bath half-back is thriving in his new environment and deservedly takes the place from Faf de Klerk (Sale Sharks) and Dan Robson (Wasps).

8 Sam Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs): The theme of blistering pace in our back-row this month starts with Simmonds as his scooting shoes took him over the whitewash five times. His ability to beat players one-on-one is that of a centre or wing and his turnover count is up there with the best around. Maybe there are question marks over his lineout and defence, but his assets in attack are unquestionable, as he gets in ahead of Zach Mercer (Bath) and Alex Dombrandt (Harlequins).

7 Ben Earl (Bristol Bears): England have a rich vein of openside options currently but Earl’s dynamism – 178 metres made and a nose for the tryline – sees him beat off some stiff competition to take the number seven shirt. His versatility is proving useful for Bristol, with a lot of his 17 carries coming off the back of the scrum at number eight. Ben Curry (Sale) was close after a couple of superb performances while Tommy Reffell (Leicester Tigers) impressed in a struggling side.

6 Jack Willis (Wasps): Our overall player of the month, there’s no more effective man in modern rugby than the amazing Wasps flanker. His ability to ignite excellence around him, his reliability in making the killer turnover and his complete rugby intellect is something quite special. No player is more valuable in English rugby right now and it’s only a case of where he starts for England (blind, open or eight) rather than if. A couple of experienced flankers, Chris Robshaw (Harlequins) and Jono Ross (Sale Sharks), have also enjoyed fine months since the restart.

5 Jonny Hill (Exeter Chiefs): One of the form players of the last few weeks, the enormous Ludlow-born lock has already netted seven tries this season and scored a memorable hat-trick at the weekend. At 6’7”, Hill is one of the slickest lineout operators around, as well as being a powerful force in the rolling maul, and seems to be silencing the critics who suggested he was a little lightweight with some abrasive work in the loose. Also considered were David Ribbans (Northampton Saints) and George Martin (Leicester Tigers) but Hill was the standout.

4 Maro Itoje (Saracens): Magnificent Maro is playing rugby at another level right now. He’s like a cloak on the field, enveloping everything in front of him and seemingly all over the pitch, with a work rate and effectiveness that no other English forward can get near to. His jackal and tackle counts are always strong, but his nuisance value is the best of the lot. Peerless. Other second-rows to impress were Joe Launchbury (Wasps) and Dave Attwood (Bristol), who were his closest competitors.

3 Will Stuart (Bath): The unofficial winner of the ‘Worst Lockdown Hair Disaster’, the mulletted tighthead is a fearsome scrummager, blessed with centre’s hands and a flanker’s nose for a turnover. His partnership with Tom Dunn and Beno Obano has made Bath’s pack the most feared scrummagers in the land and he’ll add welcome depth to a problem position when England resume their international campaign at the end of October. Ehren Painter (Northampton Saints) and Vincent Koch (Saracens) also impressed in August.

2 Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs): Cowan-Dickie is one of the most passionate players you’ll ever wish to see. He’s scored four tries since resumption, he’s rumbling around the pitch with menace and his set-piece is peerless. Very much the heartbeat of the Exeter Chiefs side, his battle for the England shirt with Jamie George (Saracens) is a healthy and exciting one, while Tom Dunn (Bath) could also come into the international equation.

1 Beno Obano (Bath): Big Ben is chiming down at the Rec and he beats off a strong challenge from Val Rapava-Ruskin (Gloucester) to nail the loosehead jersey. Powerful scrummaging, crushing tackling and intelligent carrying lines characterise the prop’s game and, at this moment in time, Bath have the most formidable scrummaging side in the Premiership. As mentioned, Rapava-Ruskin was the next in line with Coenie Oosthuizen (Sale Sharks) not far behind.

By James While