4. James Ryan
Taking up the captaincy in the absence of Johnny Sexton, James Ryan provided a leading performance in the Irish second row. Despite only taking the reigns for the seventh time, Ryan looked comfortable with the responsibility, and showed hints of the expected successor to the role upon Sexton’s upcoming retirement.
Heavy hitting in defence, and scoring in attack, Ryan began Ireland’s points tally for the afternoon. Ireland worked the ball well to break into Italy’s 22m line, and found James Lowe who broke along the left wing. The Leinster winger then spassed back inside to Ryan, who jogged through unopposed to score.
5. Ollie Chessum
Despite this being his breakthrough in England’s starting XV, Ollie Chessum is playing with the confidence of a 50-cap veteran. Boundless ability in the breakdown, able to clear the threat or steal the ball, Borthwick has struck gold with Ollie Chessum. The Leicester Tigers star proved his worth at Welford Road, with Borthwick more than aware of his talents. He has begun to flourish on the international stage, and started a nice partnership with Maro Itoje.
At just 22-years-old Chessum is on the dawn of an exciting international career, and is ticking all the boxes for his early days in the England squad. Entrusted with responsibility under Borthwick, Chessum will continue to grow wise beyond his years. Another superb showing in the Six Nations, Chessum is a player on the rise.
6. Lewis Ludlam
Another strong shift from England’s flanker sees Ludlam make RUCK’s Team of the Week for the 2023 Six Nations. England’s match against Wales was far from pretty, yards were given few and far between, with both sides struggling to make attacking break throughs. Willis was responsible for this on England’s end, as the Northampton Saints man made 15 tackles, and outshone the rest of the back-rowers.
100% tackle success presents how Ludlam imposed himself against Wales, making dominant hits throughout the fixture. An important turnover also halted Wales in a dangerous position, with Ludlam coming up with the plaudits, for another solid performance. All eyes have recently been on Jack Willis, as the Toulouse man has made a welcomed England return, yet Ludlam has begun to turn the critics attention to the blindside of the England scrum.
7. Charles Ollivon
The only starting French back-rower who played the full 80 minutes of the match, Ollivon’s compatriots Jelonch and Alldritt both left after shorter than expected stints. Jelonch’s HIA and subsequent leg injury withdrew him, and Alldritt was forced off as the forwards re-shuffled after Mohamed Haouas’ red card. After two relatively quiet matches so far in the Six Nations so far, Ollivon was a defensive workhorse for France, making an impressive 17 tackles overall.
Despite starting on the openside, Ollivon had to endure stints on the blind, after Haouas’ dismissal saw the scrum drop to seven versus seven. Ollivon only missed one tackle all game, demonstrating his efficiency and reliability in the back row.
8. Alex Dombrandt
The Harlequins back-rower was coming under spells of criticism after the early rounds of the Guinness Six Nations, with Duhan van der Merwe’s fend providing a re-occurring nightmare for Dombrandt. However, the number eight looked far more confident in Cardiff, and silenced the doubters with a strong shift against Wales.
The 25-year-old showed his subtly despite his size, providing a neat pass for Anthony Watson’s try. Dombrandt also imposed his physical presence, with a strong work rate against the veteran Welsh forwards, and a crucial turnover just before the break.
Borthwick’s early back-row has been a jostling revolving door, with Ben Earl and Sam Simmonds dropped, Tom Curry injured, and then his brother Ben Curry released and called-back just hours apart. However, Dombrandt has managed to stamp his studs in the ground, and solidify his spot in the eight jersey.