Team of the Week: Champions Cup, Round Three

Date published: December 10 2018

Now that the dust has settled on Round Three of the Champions Cup, we have gone through the action to pick the best players from the matches.

Gloucester and Toulouse lead the way this week with three representatives apiece included in what’s a healthy mix of teams in our line-up.

So without further ado, here’s our selection.

Champions Cup: Team of Round Three

15 Thomas Ramos (Toulouse): The first of two Toulouse players in our backline, Ramos continues his fine form in 2018/19 as he claimed a 14-point haul off the kicking tee against Wasps. We love his combination with fly-half Zack Holmes as while they are not blessed with size, both can cut defences to pieces with their quickness of thought and feet. A mention also goes to Matthew Morgan for that score.

14 Cheslin Kolbe (Toulouse): A tough one here as both Santiago Cordero (Exeter Chiefs) and Sean Maitland (Saracens) performed well over the weekend. But Kolbe’s individual try against Wasps was out of the top drawer and sees him grab our 14 jersey. The Springbok is such a dangerous man even in the tightest spaces and showed that again at the Ricoh Arena, finishing with 10 defenders beaten on Saturday.

13 Will Addison (Ulster): One of the players of the round after his superb outing on Friday. The former Sale man, ignored by England, has become a firm favourite at his new PRO14 home and was excellent against Scarlets, setting up Jacob Stockdale’s try with a fine outside line. Sofiane Guitoune of Toulouse also impressed but with that assist and a crossing to his name, it had to be Addison as our 13.

12 Rory Scannell (Munster): It was far from a classic at Thomond Park as Munster eventually pulled away for a comfortable win over Castres, but the performance of Scannell definitely stood out. The Ireland international rarely has an off day at the office and he was assured once again on Sunday as he ran hard, intelligent lines that resulted in a try-scoring performance. A mention goes to Toulon centre Julian Savea.

11 Ollie Thorley (Gloucester): We seem to be lauding the 22-year-old Cherry and Whites wing on a weekly basis at the moment. Thorley was excellent again for Gloucester in their win at Exeter Chiefs, a break from his own 22 setting up a crucial try. Such a threat.

10 Finn Russell (Racing 92): This was a tough call with Toulon’s Anthony Belleau and Munster’s JJ Hanrahan equally impressive, but Russell has shaded it for our liking. The Scotsman was a genuine threat with ball in hand, creating havoc in the Leicester defence at times with ball in hand. Made three clean breaks and beat four defenders from his 10 carries for 55 metres. Goal-kicking was also accurate.

9 Willi Heinz (Gloucester): It was a match largely made up of box-kicking and Heinz definitely got the better of Exeter Chiefs scrum-half Nic White in this regard as both sides resorted to a tactical kicking game in the awful conditions. Apart from doing his core duties well and controlling things nicely from the base of the ruck, the New Zealander showed excellent support play to run on to Thorley’s offload for his try. Comes in ahead of Racing 92’s Teddy Iribaren and Glasgow WarriorsGeorge Horne, who were both instrumental in their sides’ victories.

8 Viliame Mata (Edinburgh): The former Sevens man once again showed those skills from the smaller format of the game with an eye-catching display against Newcastle Falcons on Friday. Mata made an astonishing 114 metres – quite a feat for a number eight – while the Fijian also made almost double the amount of carries (27) as any other player on the pitch. Mata beats out Ben Morgan, who terrorised the Exeter defence with his bulk and power and scored an excellent try in the Cherry and Whites’ upset of the Chiefs.

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7 Sam Underhill (Bath): It is quite frightening really that Underhill is still only 22. Gave everything in a tireless performance and was desperately unlucky to be on the losing side. Did brilliantly to stifle Leinster at the breakdown but it would not be enough for the win and Underhill was unlucky to lose out on the man-of-the-match award to James Ryan. Meanwhile, Toulon’s Raphael Lakafia seemed to thrive with the added responsibility of the armband, scoring a brilliant try as the men in red and black overcame Top 14 rivals Montpellier.

6 Adam Ashe (Glasgow Warriors): Saracens’ Michael Rhodes¬†was unlucky to miss out on our team after making 15 tackles and 12 carries in a performance of the highest quality against Cardiff Blues. But we could not leave Ashe out, who scored a crucial brace in his side’s victory over Lyon. If the 23-year-old continues in this vein, he could add to his six international caps in February.

5 Leone Nakarawa (Racing 92): The French outfit were full value for their bonus-point win over Leicester Tigers and the Fijian was leading from the front in the forward battle. Nakarawa shone on attack and eventually gained 53 metres from a match high 18 runs with three clean breaks, as many defenders beaten and four offloads. Also did well on defence with nine hits and comes in just ahead of James Ryan of Leinster.

4 Gerbrandt Grobler (Gloucester): The South African second-row was one of his team’s unsung heroes in their triumph over Exeter Chiefs at Sandy Park. Grobler did his bit at the coalface of the Cherry and Whites’ forward effort, especially on defence where he made a match-high 20 tackles. Also performed well in the line-outs and edges out Edinburgh’s Grant Gilchrist.

3 Henry Thomas (Bath): The England international was one of his team’s standout performers in a losing cause at home against Leinster at the Rec. Thomas stood up well in the scrums and did his bit on defence with eight tackles, but made his biggest impact on attack where he gained 33 metres from nine runs which included one clean break, two defenders beaten an offload. He was rewarded with a try for his efforts.

2 Julien Marchand (Toulouse): Continues to grow in stature and came to the fore with another barnstorming performance in a memorable away victory for Toulouse at Wasps. Marchand was particularly impressive with ball in hand and finished with 45 metres gained from eight carries with one defender beaten and he also managed an offload.

1 Mako Vunipola (Saracens): Made a winning return to action after a two-month injury lay-off and showed Sarries supporters what they missed with a fine shift in their home victory over Cardiff Blues. Vunipola ran hard, winning 20 metres from 13 carries and beat three defenders, but also shone in defence with eight hits. Beats out Cian Healy of Leinster.