The penultimate weekend of Six Nations has blown the Championship wide open, after Wales denied Ireland a grand-slam. This epic effort in Cardiff is unsurprisingly rewarded in Oli Davis’ team of the week:
Fullback- Leigh Halfpenny (Wales):
Metronomic with the boot, impeccable under the high ball and menacing in attack, Halfpenny was at the centre of an impressive Welsh victory over a well-drilled Irish side. His 15 points punished Irish ill-discipline and ensured the visitors struggled to build any telling momentum. His diving catch to call a mark in the first half was typical of his all-round display. Stuart Hogg and Scott Spedding also deserve a mention for their enterprising performances.
Right Wing- Yoann Huget (France):
In a turgid game at the Stadio Olimpico, Huget looked lively at times, often seeming to be the most likely to ignite the fairly dull display. His pass to Yoann Maestri for France’s first try was executed well as the Frenchman drew two defenders before leaving Maestri with a simple finish.
Outside Centre- Jonathan Joseph (England):
The Bath flyer added to his tournament-leading try tally with a well taken finish early on against Scotland. His immense agility combined with electric acceleration makes you question why England doesn’t get him on the ball more frequently; his impact is game-changing. Jonathan Davies of Wales had an effective game too, controlling Wales’ assured backline with aplomb.
Inside Centre- Jamie Roberts (Wales):
His 14 tackles were crucial to Wales’ watertight defence against Ireland on Saturday. His try-saver on Tommy Bowe when the winger had the white line in his sights was a significant moment of the match, swinging the momentum firmly in Wales’ favour. Robbie Henshaw put in a strong performance, looking the most likely to spark Ireland’s backline into life.
Left Wing- Jack Nowell (England):
185 metres made from 16 carries is an incredible return for the Exeter Chiefs talisman. An accomplished performance saw him consistently break the Scottish line almost at will. His first Twickenham try towards the end was richly deserved and he was unlucky not to be awarded Man of the Match. With both Wing positions up for grabs in the England squad, Nowell should really look to solidify his place heading into the World Cup.
Fly-Half- Dan Biggar (Wales):
George Ford deserves high praise for the seemingly easy way in which he went about unlocking the Scottish defence, even managing to score a well-taken try under the posts. However Biggar out-duelled the talismanic Jonathan Sexton, putting in a determined display and orchestrating his Welsh side around the field. His drop-goal eased mounting Irish pressure; a critical momentum-shifting moment in Wales’ favour.
Scrum-Half- Ben Youngs (England):
After being on the fringes for a sustained period of time, Youngs is finally producing a consistent run of eye catching performances for his national side. His kicking out of hand was accurate, which it hadn’t been against Ireland, and his sniping around the fringes of breakdowns kept the Scots on their toes all afternoon. He was awarded Man of the Match for his efforts.
Number Eight- Loann Goujon (France):
74 metres made for the La Rochelle man is telling of his determined effort in attack for the visitors to Rome. He was certainly impressive with ball in hand, proving Philipe Saint-André was at least correct with one of his many changes over the course of the tournament. Billy Vunipola put in another complete performance and his cousin Taulupe Faletau was crucial to Wales’ defensive performance.
Openside Flanker- Sam Warburton (Wales):
A real Captain’s performance, Warburton was complete in defence. He made an enormous 23 tackles as well as winning turnover ball twice and stealing Irish lineout. Despite being sin-binned, Warburton is coming into a rich vein of form at the right moment, he was justly awarded Man of the Match.
Blindside Flanker- Thierry Dusautoir (France):
After being blighted by injuries over the course of the past few years, the monumental leader that is Dusautoir is finally receiving a sustained period of playing time. He is certainly making the most of it as he calmed French nerves, leading them throughout a tough encounter in Italy. Dan Lydiate of Wales continued to perform at an elite level, always available to do the hard graft.
Second Rows- Courtney Lawes (England) and Luke Charteris (Wales):
Lawes’ return to England’s engine room made everyone realise how much England had missed his elite performances. In defence, Lawes was strong and powerful, making bone-shuddering hits as well as winning two turnovers. He has really developed into a fine leader and a crucial component to an England pack that is arguably the best worldwide.
Charteris staked his claim to being player of the round, let alone making the team of the weekend. 31 tackles is a monumental display of determination, something the gigantic Welshman brings in abundance. He also stole 3 Irish lineouts and won turnover ball, Charteris stepped up when his country needed him most.
Tighthead Prop- Nicolas Mas (France):
The experienced Montpellier man was called in by Saint-André to nullify a usually imperious Italian front row. Mas proved more than capable despite his added years as he sent the Italians back on numerous occasions at scrum time.
Hooker- Scott Baldwin (Wales):
Baldwin has become somewhat of a revelation for Wales, putting in a string of accomplished performances that have left the previously favoured Richard Hibbard on the bench. His work in the loose and the tight was impeccable; the Welsh number two jersey must surely now be his to lose.
Loosehead Prop- Eddy Ben Arous (France):
Ben Arous was a perfect foil for Mas, continuing the veteran’s dominance on his side of the scrum in shunting the Italians back consistently. His ball carrying is also effective; he has been one of the finds of the tournament.bookmark me