RUCK’s Team of the Week: Canna, Foden, Hartley, Stander
The 2016 Six Nations started with a bang this weekend with England and France getting off to winning starts while Ireland and Wales could not be separated in Dublin on Sunday. There was also a full round of Aviva Premiership fixtures and one Guinness Pro 12 clash for us to cast our eyes over.
But who were the stand-out performers? After much debate here is our final selection – do you agree? Comment below.
Fullback: BEN FODEN (Northampton)
Foden showed Eddie Jones what he is missing as he scored a last-gasp try to lead Northampton to a 27-23 victory at The Stoop and inflict a first home defeat on Harlequins this season. The fullback has been playing pretty well all season so if anyone deserved to grab the headlines it was him.
Wing: HUGO BONNEVAL (France)
Centre: CIARAN HEARN (London Irish)
Hearn’s spectacular solo try helped London Irish secure a crucial 20-13 win against fellow strugglers Worcester to lift the Exiles of the bottom of the Aviva Premiership. The centre gave Irish the lead with a quarter-hour played with a magnificent try, a chip-and-chase over the heads of two defenders, to go in behind and score. He then went on to be menacing for the rest of the game.
Centre: JAMIE ROBERTS (Wales)
Wing: VIRIMI VAKATAWA (France)
Coach Guy Noves made a winning start as Sevens stalwart Vakatawa, who had not played 15-man rugby in more than two years, scored the opening try as Les Bleus edged past Italy. The winger at times struggled defensively but showed his skill and finishing instincts to score a superb score before he also made the decisive break for Bonneval’s crucial late try.
Fly-half: CARLO CANNA (Italy)
Canna grew into his fly-half role for the Azzurri throughout their clash in Paris. The 23-year-old already has seven caps to his name after a surprise call-up to last year’s World Cup effort, but Saturday afternoon was his first in the Six Nations for the Zebre man and the number 10 celebrated it with a well-deserved try. His kicking also looked decent.
Scrum-half: CONOR MURRAY (Ireland)
The scrum-half scored the opening try and was at his best for most of the game. His size and power make him particularly dangerous at the breakdown and his dummy that led to his score was simply superb. The playmaker has become a vital part of the Ireland team.
Prop: JACK MCGRATH (Ireland)
In the loose the prop was outstanding, making 16 tackles and 11 carries. The 26-year-old is really now starting to shine at Test level.
Hooker: DYLAN HARTLEY (England)
The new England captain did the hooker part of his role extremely well as England edged to a 15-9 win against Scotland at Murrayfield. Thanks to Hartley the line-out was very assured while as skipper he set a level of commitment that his fellow players responded too at the breakdown and open play.
Prop: VADIM COBILAS (Sale Sharks)
Lock: GEORGE KRUIS (England)
The second-row showed up well in the line-out and carried himself well with the ball in hand. His robust defence combined with his early try also made him an obvious choice for our selection this week.
Lock: CHRISTIAN DAY (Northampton)
Flanker: CJ STANDER (Ireland)
Sean O’Brien who? The back-rower has given Schmidt somewhat of a selection headache after producing a performance of this quality. South African-born Stander made 23 carries and 11 tackles as he made a real impact on his international debut.
Flanker: SEAN REIDY (Ulster)
Number 8: BILLY VUNIPOLA (England)
A sensation shift from the Sarries number 8. He regularly made the hard yards for England with his ball carrying, which played a significant role in Kruis opening try. He set the benchmark for how he needs to perform every time he pulls on the white jersey.