Aviva Premiership Team of the Week: Round 3
1: Logovi’i Mulipola (Leicester Tigers)
The Tongan prop has taken on the mantle of number 1 loosehead at the Tigers in the absence of Marcos Ayerza, and he is certainly relishing the role. His ball-carrying is, as you would expect of any Tongan, bruising, and his scrummaging is solid, although it helps having the mighty Leicester pack behind you. Still, Sarries are no slouch in that department, and the Tigers just about edged it on Saturday.
2: Thomas Rhys Thomas (London Wasps)
So good they named him twice? Perhaps not, but the Welshman, who was a new arrival at Adam’s Park over the summer, typified a strong performance from a Wasps pack that excelled against London Irish. Dai Young will be keen to get the most out of the man he worked with back in his Cardiff days, and he will certainly add grit and experience to the Wasps front row.
3: Paulica Ion (London Welsh)
The Romanian journeyman (pictured above) makes the team as a symbol of a London Welsh pack that performed valiantly against the Chiefs, even winning a penalty try. Having set up a rolling maul from a lineout on the 22, they rumbled their way to the 5 metre line before Exeter could drag it down; enough to concede a penalty try in Dave Pearson’s eyes. A strong performance from the experienced Ion.
4: Samu Manoa (Northampton Saints)
The cornerstone of the Saints pack makes the team for the second week in a row on the back of a MOTM performance against Bath. Both breaking and making tackles, he was seemingly everywhere. He has rapidly become a vital part of the Northampton team, and with Lawes back from injury they have plenty of choice in this department.
5: George Robson (Harlequins)
Another man to make the team for a second week in a row, meaning the second row partnership remains unchanged. An incredible scoring record for a lock over these first few games is a testament to his work rate and desire to carry the ball. Away from the glory of scoring tries, Robson does the nitty gritty stuff just as well as any other lock, as well as bossing the lineout.
6: Kelly Brown (Saracens)
There wasn’t much to shout about at Wembley on Saturday, but the performance of Kelly Brown merits at least a cheer. The Scottish utility back-rower tackled everything that moved, covering every blade of grass to keep up Saracens’ exemplary defensive effort at the beginning of this season.
7: Julian Salvi (Leicester Tigers)
Salvi has emerged as probably the most valuable player at Welford Road recently, especially after the regrettable retirements of Ben Woods and Craig Newby. He was at his foraging best here, turning over ball and generally making a nuisance of himself at the breakdown. Along with Mafi and Waldrom, the Tigers can boast a back row unit amongst the best in the game.
8: Ed Jackson (London Welsh)
Ed Jackson makes the team purely for his role in the dramatic events that led to London Welsh’s inaugural Premiership win. When the chips were down and everything pointed towards their third loss in as many games, Jackson kept his cool to power over from short range and send the Exiles players into ecstatic celebration.
9: Joe Simpson (London Wasps)
The young scrum half was at his sniping best on Saturday against London Irish. He teased the Exiles’ defence at the breakdown with sharp breaks, one of which resulted in a smartly taken try, another setting one up for Varndell. More performances like this will play him right into the England reckoning.
10: Nick Evans (Harlequins)
There is no understating the importance of this man to Harlequins. He is yet to sign an extension to his contract past this year, but if he keeps performing the way he is they will surely go to any lengths necessary to tie him down. He was up to his usual tricks here, making breaks and setting up tries, as well as nailing all his kicks. The stand out 10 in the league by a country mile, he taught Cipriani a lesson at the Stoop. Special mention goes to Stephen Jones, who orchestrated a bonus point victory for Wasps on Premiership debut.
11: Tom Varndell (London Wasps)
The forgotten man of English wing-play grabbed a brace here to remind us that he hasn’t gone away. Once talked of as a future England superstar, his form has dipped over the past couple of seasons, but he was back to his best on Saturday. His first try proved his power, barging over from short range, while his second showcased his raw pace, striding away from the Irish covering defence.
12: Jordan Turner-Hall (Harlequins)
Another man to impress for Quins, and another man with designs on a national berth. He was on hand here to finish a move started by Evans, and there was plenty left to do when he received the ball. Stepping round the full-back, he then managed to hold off 2 tacklers from 5 metres out to crash over the line. A promising performance from a man who could yet have a big future.
13: Henry Trinder (Gloucester)
Trinder rounded off a fine team move for Gloucester to cap an excellent performance for the young centre. It was one of the Cherry and Whites’ trademark length-of-the-field efforts, with Trinder having a hand in the build-up before receiving the ball back and scampering away from some coving defenders to cross the whitewash.
14: Matt Jess (Exeter Chiefs)
In an excellent weekend for English wingers, any number of players could have taken this spot. Jess sneaks it though, based on not only a fine performance against the Exiles, but also his consistency over the first 3 rounds. He was on hand here to provide an assist for full-back Arscott before tearing down the wing himself to finish off a good move for the Chiefs.
15: Nick Abendanon (Bath)
The Bath full-back put in a sterling performance against the Saints on Friday night, always full of running and consistently hitting a gap. He took his try well, but the moment that sticks out in the memory is his physics-defying kick down in the left hand corner. Under immense pressure and with no angle whatsoever, he somehow gained 40 metres. Dangerous going forward and solid in defence.