With the first full round of June internationals now a thing of the past, we take a look at which players shone over the weekend.
The southern hemisphere big three unsurprisingly dominate, with South Africa, New Zealand and Australia recording impressive victories over England, France and Ireland respectively on Saturday.
Team of the Week: June Tests
15 Willie le Roux (South Africa): The 28-year-old heavily involved himself at the weekend, making 14 passes, third-most behind scrum-half Faf de Klerk (69) and fly-half Handre Pollard (19) and freeing up space for his team-mates to run in to. Le Roux also got himself on the scoresheet with an excellent try in which he attacked the line superbly. Meanwhile, Elliot Daly did well for England and Israel Folau continued his fine recent form with another impressive display as the Wallabies overcame Ireland in Brisbane.
14 Sbu Nkosi (South Africa): It was debutant Nkosi who sparked the South African comeback with his barnstorming carry getting the Boks close – allowing Faf de Klerk an opportunity to make his sniping dart for the first try – and then turning try-scorer himself when he was rewarded for persistent endeavour when he chased up on his own grubber kick to profit on Elliot Daly’s mistake. Overall, he beat five defenders and made four clean breaks for 106 metres. Nkosi shows there is no substitute for sheer athleticism. Elsewhere, Ben Smith was as dangerous as ever in the All Blacks’ win over France while Jonny May shone for England and deserves a mention.
13 Michele Campagnaro (Italy): Although he ended up on the losing side, the Exeter Chiefs centre seems to be getting back to his best after a lengthy layoff that saw him ruled out since September 217 with a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament. Campagnaro beat four defenders against Japan, making 105 metres in the process as well as three offloads as Italy fell 34-17 to Japan. Elsewhere, Samu Kerevi got the better of opposite number Robbie Henshaw in the Wallabies’ win over Ireland, as he made 11 barnstorming carries for 51 metres with two clean breaks and two defenders beaten.
12 Hadleigh Parkes (Wales): Besides James Davies, Parkes was Wales’ second-best player on Saturday. The New Zealand-born centre carried strongly, making four tackle-busts and two offloads from 12 incursions. But what was perhaps even more impressive was his work on defence as, not only did he make the most carries for Wales, but Parkes also put in the most hits with 14 tackles as Wales kept Argentina to just one try. Comes in just ahead of Kurtley Beale and Ryan Crotty, who offered stiff competition after both catching the eye.
11 Rieko Ioane (New Zealand): Speedsters Kenki Fukuoka and Aphiwe Dyantyi were in red-hot form for Japan and the Springboks respectively but we felt Ioane deserved it with a brace that took his All Black tally to 13 in 14 matches. Remarkable record, really. The 21-year-old was a constant thorn in the opposition defence and, although he may not see the ball that often, the wing possesses the required concentration levels to take the chances when they come his way. In the end, he made 144 metres with three clean breaks and four defenders beaten.
10 Bernard Foley (Australia): Despite only scoring two tries, the Wallabies created a number of other chances with the fly-half and Kurtley Beale linking up nicely. Rhys Patchell played well for Wales, South Africa’s Handre Pollard improved as the game went on and, on a rare start at pivot for either province or country, Ireland’s Joey Carbery also had his moments, but Foley was reliable throughout for Australia. He showed variety in attack and defended excellently, making 13 out of 14 tackles as the visitors struggled to make inroads through the home side’s defence.
9 Faf de Klerk (South Africa): An outstanding return to the national team for the Sale Sharks scrum-half, who basically controlled the match after England’s impressive opening 20 minutes. The 26-year-old was a threat around the fringes, constantly keeping the visiting defence on their toes around the breakdown, and also displayed impressive game-management. In a competitive position, with Will Genia (Australia) and Gareth Davies (Wales) standing out, De Klerk’s effort was a level above his rivals and deservedly takes his place in the XV.
8 Duane Vermeulen (South Africa): Another overseas-based Springbok to earn a spot in our team. The number eight, who has spent the past three seasons in Toulon, was superb at the breakdown as England struggled to get to grips with his power and technique at the contact area. Vermeulen won a number of turnovers, always made ground when carrying the ball after running for 37 metres from 14 carries and duly won his battle with Billy Vunipola. As a result, he edged out Amanaki Mafi and Ross Moriarty, who impressed for Japan and Wales respectively.
7 James Davies (Wales): Following Ellis Jenkins’ superb display last weekend, Davies added his name to a long line of outstanding opensides in Wales. Many have called for the Scarlets flanker’s inclusion for the past few years and he proved them correct on Saturday by putting on a breakdown clinic. Argentina struggled to get quick ball after Davies and co. constantly disrupted them at the contact area. Michael Hooper was industrious for Australia and Tom Curry was England’s best forward against South Africa, but Davies deserves recognition for his performance.
6 David Pocock (Australia): It is no coincidence that the three back-row positions are taken up by the players who dominated the breakdown in their respective games. Everyone knows about Pocock’s ability to steal ball but it is another thing preventing it and Ireland’s game plan played into the flanker’s hands. He duly excelled and took the place from Japan’s Kazuki Himeno, who was another to impress in their superb victory over Italy at the weekend.
5 Scott Barrett (New Zealand): Came into the world champions’ starting line-up and delivered a superb all-round performance against France. Impressed with his ball-carrying and did particularly well in the build-up to his brother Beauden’s first half try. Also did well in the lineouts and on defence and beats out Scotland’s Lewis Carmichael, who made a fine debut in his side’s triumph against Canada.
4 RG Snyman (South Africa): The Bulls enforcer made his Test debut but looked like a seasoned international for the Springboks. Brought plenty of physicality to the Boks’ forward effort and looked good on attack. Managed a try assist and eventually gained 53 metres from eight carries with one clean break and a defender beaten. Also did well at the lineouts and made a crucial steal at the end of the Test. Japan’s Wimpie van der Walt also impressed against Italy.
3 Owen Franks (New Zealand): Part of the All Blacks tight five who put in a dominant performance which laid the platform for their flashier team-mates to shine in their win against France. Franks was, as usual, solid in the scrums and also did well in performing the rest of his core duties, especially when cleaning out the rucks which he did with great intensity. Beats out Dillon Lewis of Wales.
2 George Turner (Scotland): All Blacks stalwart Codie Taylor is unlucky to miss out after a fine effort against France but we simply had to include Turner after his hat-trick against Canada in Edmonton. Turner came on as a first half replacement and, although all three his tries were all from mauls, it was a special achievement as he became the first Scottish player to score three tries at Test level since 2007. Shota Horie also shone in Japan’s win over Italy.
1 Keita Inagaki (Japan): The Sunwolves front-row was one of his team’s heroes as they put Italy to the sword in Oita. Inagaki stood up well in the scrums but it was his defensive efforts which caught the eye and he completed 17 tackles which was more than any other player in that match. Australia’s Scott Sio and Rob Evans of Wales also played well.