Jacob Whitehead selects his ‘dream team’ from the latest set of championship matches
Six Nations Team of Round Four
Everything is looking rosy for Wales after the fourth week of the Six Nations. Losses for Scotland and France have put them eight points clear at the top of the table, with only the French able to catch them.
Related: Six Nations table
It was a weekend which featured the best match of the championship so far, a fixture that both teams attempted to lose and a game with more one-way traffic than Cardiff city centre.
The Lions picture is getting murkier as the tournament continues, with the amount of back-row talent coming to the fore remarkable. But which of them made this round’s dream team?
Six Nations Team of Round Four
15. Max Malins (England)
Certainly couldn’t be accused of getting the Ollie Lawrence treatment and not seeing the ball!
Made some mistakes, but absolutely fearless to keep bouncing back and running the ball from deep. His tactical aggression was a large part of the joyous spectacle of attacking rugby on offer at Twickenham.
14. Anthony Watson (England)
Has been his side’s best back throughout the tournament and delivered another virtuoso turn at Twickenham. One burst summoned a time machine to take England fans back to the era of Jason Robinson. A try and a win on his 50th cap.
13. Gaël Fickou (France)
Nominally played at inside-centre on Saturday, but swaps positions so often with Virimi Vakatawa that I’m shifting him out to 13.
His pivot pass to Antoine Dupont set up the try of the tournament so far, and massively busy in defence – 13 tackles for a back!
George North had another very good game against inauspicious defending.
12. Owen Farrell (England)
His name should be prefaced with ‘much-maligned’, but the England captain will have quietened some detractors with his best performance for more than a year.
Showed off an under-appreciated carrying game, somehow outshone Vakatawa on the offload front and kicked metronomically.
11. Louis Rees-Zammit (Wales)
A beautiful interception to cap off the Welsh win and unselfishly passed to Taulupe Faletau in the first half when he could have scored himself.
Shane Williams called him a Lions starter in commentary and, in this form, it is far from unlikely.
10. Matthieu Jalibert (France)
The best performance at Twickenham by a visiting fly-half since Bernard Foley tore England apart in the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
He was twinkle-toed, a mercurial passer and his kicking made up for a rare off-day for Antoine Dupont with the boot. Startling to think that a player as talented as Romain Ntamack will struggle to get his starting jersey back.
9. Ben Youngs (England)
England actually managed to shackle Antoine Dupont remarkably well, despite the scrum-half’s early try.
Youngs kept the French fringe defence fixed with the sniping threat he provides when at his best, while his box-kicking made Jonny May and Anthony Watson look excellent in the chase.
1. Cyril Baille (France)
A rampaging performance from the Toulouse prop. He’s a frightening presence in the tight channels, is one of this new breed of jackling props and has hands softer than a princess’s pillow. The French scrum struggled after he left.
2. Ken Owens (Wales)
Julien Marchand was excellent for France, busting up the middle with impunity.
However, a word here for Owens, whose finish for the second try of his double was as equally surprising as it was impressive. He also contributed to a perfect lineout performance.
3. Tadhg Furlong (Ireland)
Tadhg Furlong, are you human or are you dancer? A thunderous performance in the loose, garlanded with some more, ahem, delicate touches.
Came out at least the equal of dangerous scrummager Rory Sutherland.
4. Maro Itoje (England)
Charlie Ewels had one of his best games for England, but Itoje put the team on his back when it mattered. Scored the crucial try (with a pick-up harder than it looked) and deserves credit for cutting down a crippling penalty count.
Romain Taofifenua picked up two important turnovers in a rare Six Nations start.
5. Iain Henderson (Ireland)
Made a mammoth 21 tackles and was a major part of the disruption wreaked upon the Scottish lineout, which was perhaps the main factor why the hosts failed to get a foothold at Murrayfield. Ireland could easily contribute three second-rows to the Lions.
6. Tadhg Beirne (Ireland)
It was nearly impossible to pick the back row this week. Curry, Watson, Navidi and Beirne were all excellent, but Beirne just shades it over Josh Navidi on the blindside for me.
Deserves credit not only for his turnovers but also his lineout work, while the crucial try was a cherry on the cake.
7. Tom Curry (England)
Curry or Hamish Watson? It’s interesting to think that both players entered international rugby as defensive spoilers but have now evolved into one of their team’s most crucial carriers.
Curry gets selected, primarily because he was forced to keep up with the lung-busting, free-flowing pace of Le Crunch. Possibly saved the game for England with his turnover just before the break.
8. Grégory Alldritt (France)
Did not deserve to be on the losing side. The man with a permanent black eye won a crucial turnover and made 14 brutal carries.
Still only 23 in a position where players often do not peak until their late twenties.
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