Aviva Premiership Team of the Week: Round 1
1: Soane Tonga’uiha (Northampton Saints)
A quiet weekend in the loose-head department means Tonga’uiha makes this team almost by default. In a weekend when his brother made his premiership debut at the Kassam stadium, Soane started the season solidly for Saints, and combined well with compatriot George Pisi for the first of his brace of tries. He will be hoping for a similar campaign to the last, when he was probably the most dangerous ball-carrying prop in the league.
2: Schalk Brits (Saracens)
The South African always seems a class apart in the hooker category, and this weekend was no different. One moment of brilliance in the first half, when he ran back a kick and deftly offloaded to Joubert, sticks out in the memory, and there will doubtless be many more to come this season. With his running, kicking, and foraging skills, he is like a hooker, back row forward, and centre all merged into one. He will be vital to Sarries’ chances of claiming back the Premiership title they lost last year.
3: Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers)
The tighthead slot goes to Dan Cole, who put in the kind of consistent performance that has confirmed his position as no.1 at Leicester, ahead of Castro. Not only did he dominate the London Welsh pack in the scrum, but he was at times like an extra back row forward in the loose, foraging for ball and wreaking havoc at the breakdown. With Tom Youngs at hooker and Ayerza to come back, the Tigers have the makings of a very dynamic front row.
4: Geoff Parling (Leicester Tigers)
Parling was superb this weekend, outlining his status as one of England’s foremost locks. He bossed the lineout and acted as a link between forwards and backs on numerous occasions. When put into space 10 metres out from the try line he glided over as if he did it every week. Will surely be a key figure for Leicester and England once again this season.
5: Marco Wentzel (London Wasps)
A try and an assist is not a bad return for a second row, and it was not more than the giant South African deserved here. His work rate was tremendous to keep up with Varndell for his first try, and he then gave a slick offload inside to Tim Payne to set up what would sadly be Wasps’ last score of the afternoon.
6: Tom Johnson (Exeter Chiefs)
After a host of injuries to other players thrust him into the limelight on England’s summer tour to South Africa, Johnson performed as if he were a seasoned international. He looked it again here for Exeter, part of a lineout set-up that destroyed that of Sale, never allowing them a platform upon which to build attacks. Quick as ever in the loose, he took his try well, and will surely remain in contention for a spot in what will be a ferociously contested England back row.
7: Chris Robshaw (Harlequins)
The Quins and England captain led his team’s astonishing fightback from the front. With 20 minutes remaining and his team trailing by 27 points, few would have given them a chance. But Robshaw epitomises the Quins’ never-say-die attitude, and following on from a lovely offload that set up Tom Williams in the first half, he rallied his troops and inspired them to an unbelievable comeback.
8: Thomas Waldrom (Leicester Tigers)
The tank engine put in the kind of performance that made him one of the signings of last season, scoring two tries and carrying as well as ever. With Jordan Crane getting back to full fitness he will have to continue in this sort of form if he is not to be ousted, but for Tigers fans everywhere it will be an exciting battle to see who comes out on top.
9: Danny Care (Harlequins)
Half-back partnerships are always vital, and the Care-Evans axis for Quins proved just that in the second half at Twickenham. Care is a controversial figure, but this weekend he let his rugby do the talking, a series of tap-and-goes a reminder of how nippy he his, always keeping the opposition on their toes.
10: Nick Evans (Harlequins)
A one man show in the second half. He kicked almost faultlessly, scored a try, and set up his teammates. His two assists for Mike Brown were sublime and different in equal measures, showcasing his marvellous array of skills: the first involved some beautiful quick hands down the shortside, and the second was an exquisitely pinpoint crossfield kick. The only downside for Quins when Evans plays like this is what they will do if, heaven forbid, he picks up an injury, as he is streets ahead of every other fly half in the league, let alone at the club.
11: Christian Wade (London Wasps)
Wade started the 2012 season where he finished last time around, in scintillating try-scoring form. He grabbed a brace here, and would have had a hat trick had it not been for his bizarre decision to pass to Varndell when already over the line. The way he rounded George Lowe in no more than 5 metres of space was breath-taking. Mention has to also go to Chris Ashton on his Saracens debut, scoring two and setting up another.
12: Brad Barritt (Saracens)
The hard hitting centre showed once again why he is so important to Sarries. Always willing to commit defenders in offering a hard-running option off 10, this weekend he managed to pick up a try himself after some superb interplay from new man Ashton. With rugby league convert Joel Tomkins outside him, Barritt will need to use all his experience; if successful an exciting new centre duo could emerge.
13: George Pisi (Northampton Saints)
With all eyes on his brother Ken, George put in a fine performance to let us know that he wasn’t in the mood to play second fiddle to his baby brother just yet. He finished both his tries excellently, powering over from not far out, and he rallied in defence late on when his team clung to their lead with 13 men. It will be exciting to see how he links up with Ken over the rest of the season, as that could develop into a devastating partnership.
14: Josh Tatupu (Exeter Chiefs)
Exeter’s Samoan winger looked dangerous every time he got the ball, his break in the first half leading to the first try and setting the tone for what was a miserable afternoon for a new-look Sale outfit. While he didn’t cross the whitewash himself he created havoc for the Sale defence, and epitomised Exeter’s team of unsung heroes.
15: Tom Arscott (London Welsh)
On an historic afternoon for London Welsh, many of their players stood up and put in strong performances. Despite the obvious gulf in class between them and their illustrious opponents, you could never doubt their heart, and none more so than Tom Arscott who looked calm and composed at the back. He took his try well, and if Welsh are to pull off the miraculous and survive this season, they will need more performances like this one from one of their more experienced Premiership operators.