Six Nations 2013 Team of the Week: Round 1
15: Stuart Hogg (Scotland)
A rare shining light on a dismal afternoon for Scotland. Hogg’s mazy running and astounding pace was too much for England, and he was one of only a few Scots who can say they outplayed their opposite number. Showed great commitment to chase down kick and cross in the final few minutes.
14: Luke McLean (Italy)
Fly-half to wing is not a particularly common switch, but McLean seems to have made it work. Looks more comfortable away from the spotlight that comes with the playmaking position, and he was a constant threat to the French on Sunday with some darting runs. He also has a handy boot on him, which is rare for a winger.
13: Brian O’Driscoll (Ireland)
Write him off at your peril. As convincing a response to the naysayers as is possible, O’Driscoll’s performance was a joy to behold. The blind pass for Zebo’s try was astonishingly good, and his own try showed why he is the master of short-range opportunism. England will have to shackle him to have any chance of victory next weekend.
12: Billy Twelvetrees (England)
Debutant extraordinaire, Twelvetrees delivered the kind of performance that any seasoned international would be proud of. There were no signs of nerves as he looked assured on the ball, challenging the Scottish defenders on the gain-line and fizzing out passes off both hands. Has given Lancaster a very welcome selection headache for next weekend.
11: Simon Zebo (Ireland)
Already an internet sensation, Zebo’s audacious heel-flick was easily the piece of skill of the weekend. He had no right to keep the ball alive, but he managed to do just that and it ultimately led to Ireland’s second try. He also evaded Welsh attention well to score their first.
10: Luciano Orquera (Italy)
An unbelievable performance from Orquera, who was handed the cursed Italian outside-half shirt. He has had a couple of bites of the cherry in the past, but never has he grabbed his opportunity quite like this. He glided through a gap to set up Parisse in the first half, and darted through the line again before offering an audacious offload to Castro for his try. A mercurial performance, he out-Michalaked Michalak.
9: Ben Youngs (England)
The Youngs v Care battle for the no.9 shirt rumbles on. Youngs put in the kind of performance that was reminiscent of his early days, making those arcing runs round the outside that are so beautiful to watch. He also managed two assists with some well-directed passes.
1: Cian Healy (Ireland)
There are few sterner examinations of one’s scrummaging than opposing Adam Jones, and after coming through it with flying colours this perceived weakness of Healy’s game must finally be forgotten. He was, as always, titanic with ball in hand, capping off a fine performance with a bulldozing try.
2: Rory Best (Ireland)
Probably Ireland’s best performer, the Ulster hooker’s outing will have done his Lions credentials no harm whatsoever. Consistently hit his jumpers at the line-out and seemed to be everywhere in the loose. Charged down Biggar which started the move that led to Healy’s try.
3: Martin Castrogiovanni (Italy)
The shaggy-haired cult legend Castro is as loved by his Italian fans as he is his Leicester faithful. Somewhat marginalised at the Tigers this season by the form of Dan Cole, he reminded everyone that he still has a lot to offer. Seeing him crash over the line and his unbridled joy afterwards was the moment of the weekend.
4: Geoff Parling (England)
Rapidly becoming England’s most important player, Parling showed good awareness and hands to cross the line for his first international try. His obvious joy at this achievement clearly spurred him on to greater things, as he topped the charts for tackles made and, less surprisingly, line-outs won.
5: Mike McCarthy (Ireland)
18 tackles is an outrageous amount for a lock, and yet that is how many McCarthy managed, missing none either. Crucial to his team’s defensive efforts in the second half, he also made some strong carries.
6: Fulgence Ouedraogo (France)
It’s debatable whether France deserve any representation in this team after a thoroughly lacklustre performance, but Ouedraogo was easily their best performer. He made 11 tackles, more than any Frenchman other than Dusautoir, and was a handful in the line-out. He also picked some great lines and showed good pace to back it up.
7: Sean O’Brien (Ireland)
Nothing more needs really be said than 23 tackles. An astonishing figure by anyone’s estimation. As Wales threw all they had at Ireland in the second half, O’Brien led the way in defence throwing everything he had right back at them.
8: Sergio Parisse (Italy)
Captain, talisman, leader of men. Rarely has one man been so important to a team. Topping the stats for tackles and metres made, Parisse was totemic once again for the Azzurri. He also showed superb awareness and no little pace to pop up on Orquera’s shoulder for Italy’s opening try.
By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43