Aviva Premiership Team of the Week: Round 2
1: Mako Vunipola (Saracens)
The young New Zealand-born English prop has a bright future, and showed it here for Sarries. Part of the pack that dominated Sale in the scrum, he also made some telling contributions in the loose, linking up well with forwards and backs alike. Plenty more to come from the big man, who is still only 21, a baby in prop-terms.
2: Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints)
This was the most destructive in the loose Hartley has been for a long time. He broke first-time tackles all day, and exploded through some weak defence for his side’s bonus point try. A true captain’s performance, leading from the front of Saints’ mighty pack.
3: Shaun Knight (Gloucester)
After being annihilated last week by the unstoppable Saints forwards, Knight’s inclusion is a symbol of the Gloucester pack’s utter dominance over that of London Irish. They bullied them in the scrum and in the contact area, and the young Englishman was the cornerstone of this dominance. A mature performance from another English prop with a big future.
4: Samu Manoa (Northampton Saints)
Manoa is a man mountain in the engine room of the Saints pack. He rucked and mauled and got his hands dirty all day long, and carried well in the loose too. His inclusion here is more an indication of the wider dominance of the hugely impressive Saints forwards.
5: George Robson (Harlequins)
The bald and bearded second row put in a performance that will have pleased all England fans, and which points towards a tough battle for the second row shirt come international selection time. Industrious in the tight encounters, and on hand to bag a brace of tries, it was an excellent day for the Quins lock.
6: Chris Jones (Worcester Warriors)
On an afternoon full of positives for Worcester, Jones typified their gutsy effort at Welford Road. No one gave them a chance against a star-studded Leicester outfit, but the flanker refused to lie down and made a nuisance of himself all afternoon, almost grabbing a bonus point for his team.
7: James Scaysbrook (Exeter Chiefs)
The combative flanker is a mainstay of the Exeter pack, who put in a mighty effort against the giant Saints unit. He has played every game of Exeter’s tenure in the top flight thus far, which tells you everything you need to know about how important he is to them. He was excellent again this weekend, foraging well and carrying impressively in the loose.
8: Ben Morgan (Gloucester)
Morgan’s first try for his new club will have Gloucester fans hoping for a big season from the former Scarlets No.8. Picking up from the back of the ruck, he showed considerable strength and no small amount of pace to evade the Exiles’ scrambling defence. A promising performance from the man born and bred in Gloucestershire.
9: Tomas O’Leary (London Irish)
O’Leary arrived from Munster over the summer, after coming off the boil somewhat over the past couple of seasons. He, along with all London Irish fans, will be hopeful that he can put in more performances like this one. He scooted over from 5 metres out for a crucial score, and generally managed well even behind a pack that consistently went backwards.
10: Olly Barkley (Bath)
On a beautiful day at the Rec, Barkley put in a performance of the highest quality. He kicked all his goals, his distribution was excellent, and his defence was rock-solid, a try saving tackle on slippery winger Wade in the first half particularly sticking out in the memory. A mature performance from the former England man. Special mention must also go to Freddie Burns who ran the show at the Madejski.
11: Kyle Eastmond (Bath)
The rugby league convert had a miserable campaign last year, side-lined by injuries for most of the season. He showed what he was capable of here, jinking and powering his way through 6 defenders before dotting down for an important try for Bath. Along with Biggs and Abendanon Bath have a very exciting back 3 with plenty of counter-attacking potential.
12: Dom Waldouck (Northampton Saints)
A few seasons ago big things were expected of Dom Waldouck; there was even talk of an England place. Injuries and all the problems at Wasps meant that potential was never quite fulfilled, but he looked back to somewhere near his best this weekend. Along with a couple of sniping breaks, he showed quick hands and surprising strength for a man of his size.
13: Manu Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers)
After what has been a poor run of form by his standards, Manu needed a big performance here, and he put in just that. The reason he must be picked at 13 for England is because he offers that spark, that ability to break through tackles when he has no right to, to make something of nothing. He showed that this weekend, with his second try a prime example of his brute strength, brushing off tackles left, right, and centre to go over in the corner.
14: Vereniki Goneva (Leicester Tigers)
The big Fijian linked brilliantly with both Tuilagi inside him, and Scott Hamilton on the other wing. For all Tigers fans worrying about the rather large hole that has been left by Tuilagi the elder, they need not do so any longer. Goneva has power, pace, and an awareness about him that could make him one of the signings of the season. A quality all round performance.
15: Alex Goode (Saracens)
The young English fullback set up a try and was solid at the back for Sarries all afternoon. His jinking break and link up play with Chris Ashton for his try will have the England coaches purring, and he looks set to challenge Foden and Brown for that 15 shirt come the Autumn Internationals.