RaboDirect Pro12 Team of the Week: Round 1
1: Gordon Reid (Glasgow)
Gordon Reid was the only bright spark in the Glasgow pack that was dominated by Ulster, and he fought hard against an in-form John Afoa. He carried well and managed to break the gainline on more than one occasion. We can expect Reid to continue this work ethic throughout the season.
2: Enrico Ceccato (Treviso)
The choice for Hooker of the weekend is a difficult one. Herring had an excellent league start for Ulster and proved it by winning against the head, and Ross Ford (Edinburgh) held an excellent Munster pack at bay, but Ceccato has to be named as argubly the best scrummaging side in the league, Ospreys, could not get the better of him due to the excellent work at the front. His rucking ability shone through in a dissapointing game.
3: John Afoa (Ulster)
The Kiwi and former All Black showed his ability against the Tigers in the preseason friendlies when he came on and dominated leading to a penalty try. Against Glasgow he worked hard with former Aironi star, Nick Williams, and caused Glasgow plenty of difficulties across the field.
4: Donnacha O’Callahan (Munster)
Donnacha raised his hand and seemed to lead the Munster pack at Murrayfield. With the IRFU player Management in place, O’Connell and Ryan were unavailable for selection. O’Callaghan has rekindled form of old and barrelled around the field picking and driving the old fashioned Munster way.
5: James Down (Cardiff Blues)
James Down was by far and away the standout player in a poor game at the Sportsground. As many locks will testify, it’s not the work on the ball that matters, and Down tackled hard and kept Connacht pegged back. His work at the breakdowns should be utilised as instructional videos for aspiring locks.
6: Robbie Diack (Ulster)
A busy week for the newly Irish-qualified flanker. He tackled hard and stole more lineout ball than Ulster had line outs! He was a well-desevered man of match and will certainly make Mark Anscombe think about how he will re-introduce Stephen Ferris.
7: Willie Faloon (Connacht)
Faloon came off the bench against Cardiff and made an instant impact. The conditions were poor but Faloon forced the Blues into various mistakes which allowed Miah Nikora to put three penalties over. Connacht will improve.
8: Nick Williams (Ulster)
As with Robbie Diack, Nick williams provides a great headache for Mark Anscombe, in the position held by Ulster favourite Pedie Wannenburg and Chris Henry. The Kiwi, who scored twice against Falcons in the preseason, again crossed the line, and only a great steal by Glasgow denied him. The game plan seemed to be get the ball to Nick, recycle and spread and this led to the opener for Mike Allen.
9: Chris Cusiter (Glasgow Warriors)
The Scotland International came on to steady a faltering Glasgow side and he did just that, steadying the ship with his experience and skill from the base. He has kept his speed and as with any good scrum half hid just enough to get away with it! He frustrated the Ulster defence and recycled quickly, and his quick thinking released former Ulsterman Tommy Seymour into the corner.
10: Ian Keatley (Munster)
Keatley showed at Murrayfield the kind of outside half he wants to be. He kicked eleganty, released passes after commiting a defender and even crossed the line himself. A total of 18 points on the night in what was argubly the biggest contest of the weekend. Jonny Sexton should be looking over his shoulder for the Ireland 10 shirt.
11: Tim Visser (Edinburgh)
I am sure that as a contributor to The Rugby Blog I could be accused of a bit of favouritism. What is not arguble is Visser’s potent scoring ability. Picking up three tries, he has now started his personal campaign of becoming the league’s top tryscorer for the fourth year running. His finishing was clincial against Munster and he was rightly disappointed to lose that game.
12: Andy Tuilagi (Newport Gwent Dragons)
Not only did Andy get across the whitewash, he acted as an excellent playmaker picking apart the league’s new boys, Zebre Rugby. He made strong runs into the defensive line and used his strength to clear out rucks. He may struggle against a stronger defensive line, but the hallmarks of a great centre is spotting the weakest links and exploiting them.
13: Alex Dunbar (Glasgow Warriors)
Instrumental in defence he controlled the backline admirably, and made some big hits himself. For an Outside Centre he was excellent at the breakdown, causing problems and forcing penalties for holding on. He provided a nervewracking moment for the Ravenhill crowd by breaking through several tackles before being pulled down by Jared Payne, and he is an easy selection in this side from round one.
14: George North (Scarlets)
George North is everything a winger should be: strong, quick on his feet and lightning fast. With two tries against an admittidely poor Leinster side, he started where he had left off last season, as arguably one of the best wingers in the world. He can expect a Lions call-up.
15: Jared Payne (Ulster)
Jared Payne may as well be a new signing for Ulster and he certainly looked eager in attack. He was vocal to the wings, dictated the pace of defence and he was instrumental in Ulster’s opening try against Glasgow, identifying the overlap and throwing an inch-perfect pass.