RUCK’s Team of the Week: Ashley-Cooper, Retallick, Cipriani
Six of the starting XV made up of All Blacks and Wallabies after the pair reached the RWC final
Despite being on the losing side, Springbok Tendai Mtawarira is in our front row
Sale’s Dan Cipriani is our number 10 after fantastic showing against Worcester on Friday
Toulon scrum-half Jonathan Pélissié is selected following 17-point haul against Oyonnax
Christian Day and Kieran Brookes are in our pack after Northampton thrashed Newcastle on Saturday
Exeter’s Jack Nowell fills one our wing positions after scoring brace against London Irish
Saracen’s back-row George Kruis partners Brodie Retallick in the second row after making 18 tackles against Gloucester on friday night
Connacht’s centre Bundee Aki makes the team ahead of Toulon’s Mathieu Bastareaud after imposing performance against Ospreys
With only two Rugby World Cup games being played this weekend, we have more players than ever from the AVIVA Premiership, Guinness Pro12 and Top 14 making their way into RUCK’s team of the week.
But who were your stand-out performers? After much debate here is our final selection – do you agree? Comment below.
Fullback- BEN SMITH (New Zealand)
Smith was a beacon of excellence for the All Blacks as they edged to victory against the Springboks. The fullback’s marshalling of the backfield combined with his ability under the high ball throughout was top class.
Other contenders: Ben Foden (Northampton), Gaetan Germain (Brive)
Wing- ADAM ASHLEY-COOPER (Australia)
In a gritty and determined performance by the Wallabies, Ashley-Cooper added a crucial touch of flair as he scored a fine hat-trick to help Australia into the final. The 31-year-old has scored all of his four World Cup tries in the knockout stages and appears to be peaking just at the right time.
Other contenders: Ashton Hewitt (Newport Gwent Dragons) Gary Ringrose (Leinster)
Centre- BUNDEE AKI (Connacht)
The outside centre is widely known for his competence in attack, but Aki also brought along a show of his less-lauded but equally impressive defensive skills by forcing two knock-ons in Connacht’s surprise away win over Ospreys on Saturday.
Other contenders: Mathieu Bastareaud (Toulon)
Centre- Matt Giteau (Australia)
When Australia had to dig deep, Giteau gave his all. The veteran centre is in the twilight of his career at 33 but still has all the skills to perform on the world stage. His array of talents were on show at their best in their semi-final triumph, perhaps best represented by his winger bagging a hat-trick.
Other contenders: Ma’a Nonu (New Zealand), Luther Burrell (Northampton)
Wing- JACK NOWELL (Exeter Chiefs)
The 22-year-old academy product strengthened his claims for an international recall, finishing the win over London Irish with two exceptional individual tries. The winger was full of hard work in the first half and cut loose in the second, blowing the game open with his double to seal a dominant bonus-point win for his side. We’ve switched him from right to left wing so we could accommodate him in the starting XV.
Other contenders: DTH van der Merwe (Scarlets)
Fly-half- DANNY CIPRIANI (Sale Sharks)
Much-maligned in week one, the 14-cap England man had a starring role in stirring win for Sale against Worcester on Friday night. Though his spot kicking was off colour, he dictated overall play throughout and had a hand in all the Sharks did well, finishing an impressive night’s work with a try and three goals.
Other contenders: Jimmy Gopperth (Wasps), Dan Carter (New Zealand), Bernard Foley (Australia)
Scrum-half- JONATHAN PELISSIE (Toulon)
The 27-year-old was in fine form this weekend, pulling all the strings and finishing with a fine 17-point haul as Toulon demolished hapless Oyonnax 61-3 at the Felix Mayol Stadium. The win, Reds’ third of the season, prove to be telling as they moved into the top six, while Oyo slipped into the relegation zone.
Prop- TENDAI MTAWARIRA (South Africa)
Despite, in the end, losing to New Zealand, this was still a big performance from The Beast. He was a rock in defence with his hard tackling and consistently dominated at scrum time, which looked his side’s best hope throughout the contest.
Hooker- STEPHEN MOORE (Australia)
The Wallabies skipper had one of his finest games in the gold shirt this weekend as Australia confirmed their place in the Rugby World Cup final. His coolness at the lineout and tremendous leadership qualities have been key to the Aussies revival this year and he put both those qualities on display this weekend with a complete performance. The hooker was somewhat the unacknowledged star of the win.
Other contenders: Dylan Hartley (Northampton)
Prop- KIERAN BROOKES (Northampton Saints)
A special day for the prop, who was facing his former club for the first time, and he built on a solid showing at Worcester with another one this weekend. As Saints thrashed Newcastle 42-16, Brookes was at the centre of a clinical performance, putting in place the scaffolding for a demolition of his former employers.
Lock- GEORGE KRUIS (Saracens)
The back-row got through an enormous workload with 18 tackles to prevent the attacking Gloucester backs from having any time or space to create anything. He was useful at the scrum and competed ferociously at the breakdown throughout the contest. He was easily the standout performer.
Lock- BRODIE RETALLICK (New Zealand)
Saturday was not a day for the startling stuff from the All Blacks and they could rely on their man mountain lock to hammer away with the ball. The All Blacks will need him at his very best again next weekend in the RWC final.
Other contenders: George Fabio Biagi (Zebre)
Flanker- CHRISTIAN DAY (Northampton Saints)
The lock was almost a hat-trick hero as he came agonisingly close to a third try, having earlier registered two from a pair of big forward drives. As Northampton destroyed Newcastle in the pack, Day executed his afternoon to near perfection.
Other contenders: Jack Clifford (Harlequins)
Flanker- DON ARMAND (Exeter Chiefs)
In a weekend of stellar performances in the back row, Armand showed up well as Exeter were impressive 38-11 winners over London Irish. The 27-year-old Zimbabwe-born forward superbly supported a break to run in a first-half try before setting up another to lay the platform for Nowell’s starring role.
Other contenders: Richie McCaw (New Zealand)
Number 8- KIERAN READ (New Zealand)
In a cast iron performance from the All Blacks, Read tackled superbly throughout as he helped his side to preserve their line, with all of South Africa’s points coming from the boot. The 83-cap man was everywhere, dousing attacking fires whenever he could. A true unsung hero on Saturday.