There were plenty of strong performances in the first round of the 2018 Six Nations, so Sam Tremlett faced a tricky task selecting a Team of the Weekend. Who makes the cut?
Six Nations Team of the Weekend: Round One
The first round of the 2018 Six Nations saw a host of players deliver strong displays and here is Rugby World‘s Team of the Weekend – let us know what you think of the selections.
1. Mako Vunipola (England)
The older of the two Vunipola brothers was everything you could possibly want from a modern-day prop against Italy. A constant irritation for the Italians at the breakdown, he was a willing ball-carrier and showed great hands, especially with his offload to Dan Cole in the 26th minute. He also put in some important tackles, two of them back-to-back in the 36th minute when England were under a lot of pressure. A great performance.
2. Carys Phillips (Wales Women)
The Wales Women’s skipper may be the daughter of coach Rowland but this performance showed there is no nepotism in her selection at hooker. Not only did she excel at scrum and lineout time as the hosts dominated in the set-piece, but she also came to the fore with crucial turnovers in the second half as Wales held on for an 18-17 win in the face of a Scotland fightback.
3. Tadhg Furlong (Ireland)
One of the finest front-row players in the world, the man is a mountain. Every time he got the ball it took three Frenchmen to bring him down and he gives go-forward ball continually. He frequently leads the carrying stats and was solid in the scrum, as well as making eight tackles.
4. James Ryan (Ireland)
To many, Ryan was behind Devin Toner in the second-row pecking order, but Joe Schmidt gave the Leinsterman his Six Nations debut against France and, boy, did he repay that faith. From start to finish he was sublime, especially in his set-piece work at the scrum and lineout. The top tackler for the Irish with ten, he will be one of the first names on the team sheet for Italy next weekend.
5. Alun Wyn Jones (Wales)
Jones showed what a true world-class lock looks like on Saturday. A frequent target in the lineout and from the kick-off to the final whistle, Jones did not drop a ball the whole game. In a match where Wales were the underdogs, Jones led from the front and gave a proper captain’s performance, linking up well with a few slick offloads and a couple of marauding runs.
6. Aaron Shingler (Wales)
Martyn Williams’s Man of the Match, Shingler was everywhere on the pitch. With ball in hand he consistently got over the gain-line with his running game, and he also showed great hands with his passing skills and link play. In defence he was disruptive at the lineout and a lot of his work went ‘unseen’, which is always the classic sign of a productive back-rower.
7. Josh Navidi (Wales)
Shingler’s fellow flanker Navidi also had a strong game. He got off to a flying start with a couple of crucial turnovers during the early stages, which halted Scottish momentum. He is pretty much impossible to move when he is over the ball and he proved to be a decent link man, too, when Wales launched attacks.
8. Sam Simmonds (England)
A lot of the focus before the start of the Six Nations had been on the absence of Billy Vunipola at No 8 in the England side. Well, for the foreseeable future it appears they will do pretty well with Simmonds in the role. He brings intense pace off the mark, shown by his two tries against Italy. He may not be as physically imposing as Vunipola but he brings something different to England’s game. He also set up Jack Nowell with a beautiful no-look pass and his work-rate in defence was excellent as well – he made 23 tackles, more than any other player.
9. Conor Murray (Ireland)
The conditions in France were terrible, especially for scrum-halves, but Murray, along with Johnny Sexton, controlled the pace of the game well. With his trademark box-kicks, Murray put the back three of France under significant pressure and his passing, to set up the eventual winning drop-goal, was always on point.
10. Johnny Sexton (Ireland)
Given his high standards, this game probably wasn’t his best, but he did control the match well with the boot. His missed penalty just past the hour mark nearly cost Ireland the match but he more than made up for it in the closing minutes as Ireland worked through 41 phases to deliver a dramatic win. First, Sexton produced a a pinpoint cross-kick to Keith Earls to gain valuable metres and then he slotted an unbelievable drop-goal to win the game when the clock had gone red. Rhys Patchell, George Ford and Tommaso Allan also had good games on a weekend when fly-halves delivered.
11. Teddy Thomas (France)
In a pretty dour game there were few moments of sheer brilliance, but Thomas’s try in the last ten minutes was a quality piece of skill. He took the ball past Rob Kearney, Jacob Stockdale, Johnny Sexton and Keith Earls on his way to the try-line and, had it not been for Sexton, it would have been the key to producing a surprise win for France.
12. Owen Farrell (England)
Despite not reaching his usual accuracy off the kicking tee, Farrell, along with George Ford, pulled the strings for the England back-line to great effect. He scored a try himself, set up by Ford, and then reciprocated later in the game.
13. Jade Le Pesq (France Women)
In a strong attacking display by the French in a 24-0 win over Ireland in the Women’s Six Nations, Le Pesq was a constant support runner and got her just reward with two tries. She’s pretty versatile, too, because during the 80 minutes she also had spells at scrum-half and on the wing.
14. Anthony Watson (England)
Man of the Match against Italy, Watson got England off to a flying start with two brilliantly taken tries in the corner. The second, in particular, showed his change of pace and finishing ability. Later he got shifted to full-back – will we see more of him at 15 later in the championship?
15. Leigh Halfpenny (Wales)
Before the game we noted he had a point to prove in attack – and he duly showed how good he can be. He was as solid under the high ball as ever, but against Scotland he also showed dynamism and a new string to his bow with two tries, his first at Test level for five years. He was also world-class from the kicking tee. His 24 points was his highest Test haul, surpassing the 23 he amassed at Murrayfield in 2013.