Six Nations 2013 Team of the Week: Round 2
15: Stuart Hogg (Scotland)
We saw glimpses last year of this man’s potential – he is showing us now just how good he could be. The awareness to intercept a try-scoring pass was impressive in itself, but the dazzling 80 metre dash that followed? Breathtaking.
14: Tim Visser (Scotland)
The flying Dutchman was anonymous last week, but was back to his best against Italy. A smartly taken try in the first half capped a performance that saw Visser come looking for the ball a lot more than he had previously.
13: Mathieu Bastareaud (France)
Probably the only player to come out of France’s weekend with any credit (groundsmen included), Bastareaud completely justified his selction – which is more than can be said for the listless Mermoz inside him. He was a one man-wrecking ball in the midfield, getting France front-foot ball which they managed to squander time and again.
12: Matt Scott (Scotland)
Strong, solid and direct, Scott did everything that was asked of him against Italy. He very nearly crossed in the first half only to be denied by a last ditch tackle, but made no such mistake in the second forty as he glided round the last man to send Murrayfield into raptures.
11: Mike Brown (England)
Two games that lacked for attacking ambition meant it was far from a vintage weekend for wing play, and indeed Sean Maitland can count himself unlucky not to make it an all Scottish back three (when was the last time that happened?) Brown, though, makes the team for somehow managing to smash the metres-made statistics, with 76 – a valiant effort in such poor conditions. He was the only man in the game to top 50.
10: Owen Farrell (England)
Seems to grow a little more every game. After showing a bit more in attack last week he recognized that the conditions in Dublin dictated that composure and precision were the order of the day, and duly outshone the man that has defined those two qualities for the last decade or so – Ronan O’Gara.
9: Ben Youngs (England)
One of the tougher calls, as Laidlaw and Phillips were both excellent. Youngs gets the nod, though, for a mature and precise performance in what were horrific conditions for scrum-halves.
1: Gethin Jenkins (Wales)
A return to form at an opportune moment saw Jenkins help Wales to a crucial victory over France. Perhaps he felt he had something to prove playing across the channel, as he has had to sit on the bench for much of this season. Still looks short of complete match fitness, but it was a solid performance from the Welshman.
2: Rory Best (Ireland)
Ireland’s stand-out performer by some distance, Best made a consistent nuisance of himself against England. The Irish line-out, while not the strongest part of their game, went reasonably well too.
3: Euan Murray (Scotland)
What a difference a week makes. Italy have never been lacking for a pack, which makes Murray’s dominance all the more impressive. Superb at scrum time, perhaps the most poignant stat is that Murray topped the tackle charts with 15 – an astounding figure for a prop.
4: Andrew Coombs (Wales)
The Dragon has taken to international rugby like the proverbial duck to water. Coombs was a vital cog in a Wales win that was defined by close-nit charges and terrific defence.
5: Ian Evans (Wales)
Completing an all-Welsh second row partnership, Ian Evans makes the team mostly for the sheer amount of work he got through. 14 tackles saw him joint-top of that leaderboard, and as he continues to return to full fitness he will only get better. With Alun Wyn Jones reportedly returning soon, all of a sudden Wales look to have good strength in depth in this area.
6: Ryan Jones (Wales)
Ryan Jones’ return to the Welsh team was triumphant. Leading out a team who hadn’t won for eight games, his energy and passion galvanised a team that had been looking tired and uninterested. He even managed to employ the choke tackle, a tactic that was used to such great success against his team the week before.
7: Chris Robshaw (England)
With Warburton injured and out of form, and Heaslip having a shocker at the weekend, Robshaw can count himself one of the front-runners for Lions captaincy after leading England to their first win in Dublin in the 6 Nations for 10 years. He topped the tackle count and also popped up all over the pitch with ball in hand. Growing into a world-class captain.
8: Tom Wood (England)
Louis Picamoles topped the stats for carries, metres made and tackles for France – but in such a dire performance, that is not saying much. Wood makes the team for being consistently the unsung hero of the English pack. So often the man at the bottom of breakdowns when penalties are won, he is also an invaluable line-out option.
By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43