There were some exceptional individual performances this past weekend, making some of the selections for this week’s team very difficult indeed. Here are the fifteen that arguably impressed the most.
1 – Joe Marler (England) Decimated Max Bustos in the scrum for the second week in a row. Huge work rate with his carrying and tackling around the fringes.
2 – Ole Avei (Samoa) Honorable mention to Rob Webber, but the roly-poly Samoan was outstanding for the Manu. His offload to Taiasina Tuifu’a was pure magic.
3 – David Wilson (England) Different Argie loosehead, same result. Capped a superb tour with a second top class performance. Two penalty tries for his pack says it all.
4 – Eben Etzebeth (South Africa) At absolute menace in the tight-loose and rock solid in the lineout. Not many players can claim to be world class at the age of 21.
5 – Paul O’Connell (Lions) Tough call to leave out Sam Whitelock, but big Pauly was at his best against the Waratahs. Two big turnovers and a huge engine. Next up, the Wallabies.
6 – Alasdair Strokosch (Scotland) Absolutely magnificent performance from Strokers, he terrorised the breakdown and made countless tackles. Deserved the victory that his team couldn’t give him.
7 – Siya Kolisi (South Africa) Welcome to international rugby! Came on for Arno Botha and looked completely at home with a typical barnstorming display.
8 – Louis Picamoles (France) Just shades his opposite number for his sheer will. Took on the All Blacks almost single-handedly until his unfortunate injury. Sad end to an otherwise superb season from the big man.
9 – Fumiaki Tanaka (Japan) The little whippet was the heartbeat of the victory over Wales. Is there a quicker scrumhalf in world rugby? Doubtful.
10 – Aaron Cruden (New Zealand) No stars at flyhalf this week but Cruden did everything he was asked to do. Rarely makes mistakes and kicks his goals week in, week out.
11 – Julian Savea (New Zealand) Full marks to Marland Yarde for his debut, but Savea was once again a destroyer on the wing. Big runs and big tackles from one of the world’s best at the moment.
12 – Matt Scott (Scotland) Put in a wonderful shift, full of running and strong in defense. If he played like that every week he would have been in Australia instead.
13 – Jonathan Davies (Lions) Massive performance just when it was needed. A test certainty now that Jamie Roberts has been struck down with injury.
14 – Fergus McFadden (Ireland) Hardly put a foot wrong and scored a hat trick as his team thumped Canada. Just rewards for a player who is as reliable as it gets for club and country
15 – Israel Dagg (New Zealand) The black jersey tends to bring out the best in players, none more so than Dagg. In ordinary form for the Crusaders, he earns full marks for an excellent performance against France.