Now that the dust has settled following the second round of the June internationals and the Top 14 semi-finals, we select the players that stood out over the weekend.
A resilient and clinical defensive effort from England secured them a first-ever series win over the Wallabies in Australia while a come-from-behind victory for the Springboks set up a third Test decider against Ireland.
Overall, it’s been another amazing weekend of international rugby – but who were the stand-out performers? After much debate here is our final selection – do you agree? Comment below.
Fullback: LEIGH HALFPENNY (Toulon)
The Welsh superstar made his return this weekend, nailing a conversion and five penalties during a 27-18 defeat of Montpellier in Rennes to book a final against Dan Carter’s Racing 92.
Wing: LIAM WILLIAMS (Wales)
Shunted to the right-wing from full-back following George North’s injury but continued his rich vein of form during a bruising duel with Waisake Naholo to get a deserved try in the second half.
Centre: JONATHAN DAVIES (Wales)
Little for Wales to cheer about after another brave effort went up in smoke, but that phenomenal hand-off from Davies en route for his try will live long in the memory. Good assist as well before half-time. Credit to Georgia’s David Kacharava for his try-scoring double in the win over Tonga.
Centre: OWEN FARRELL (England)
Stamped himself on the game with his near-flawless kicking to set up an England victory. He only had one chance to run the ball but scored the only try of the second half to seal the win and steered the team around the field. His golden boot makes him a valuable asset to the Eddie Jones-led side.
Wing: MANUEL MONTERO (Argentina)
Fly-half: NICOLAS SANCHEZ (Argentina)
Scrum-half: GREIG LAIDLAW (Scotland)
Captain Greig Laidlaw kicked four penalties and added two conversions for Scotland as they punctured Japanese hopes of World Cup payback by beating the Brave Blossoms 26-13 with relative ease Saturday in the first of two tests in the Far East.
Prop: MAKO VUNIPOLA (England)
The England big men toiled away under pressure close to their line and Vunipola stood tall with another 17 tackles. The entire England front row was dominant again. mpossible to see Joe Marler reclaiming his loosehead spot after another titanic display by the hefty Saracen.
Hooker: DYLAN HARTLEY (England)
The England skipper went toe to toe with Stephen Moore and has cemented his place as the team’s leader. Made 17 tackles in a gut-busting performance for a big man and will return to England with a slice of history as the team’s captain.
Prop: TADHG FURLONG (Ireland)
Biggest test of his still-fledgling career — ‘The Beast’ in Ellis Park is one of the toughest debuts possible; never flinched though, and offered plenty around the field too. A highly auspicious first start for the 23-year-old Irish prop.
Lock: MARO ITOJE (England)
Super Maro continued his impressive international arrival and further stamped himself as a future England leader. He didn’t back down in taking on his more experienced Wallabies rivals and backs up his talk with superb play. One to watch in the years to come and already a Test star. English rugby’s greatest find since Martin Johnson.
Lock: PIETER-STEPH DU TOIT (South Africa)
Superlatives abounded on Saturday as the Springboks came from being down 3-19 against Ireland at half-time in Johannesburg to win 32-26. An everpresent at the heart of this stunning display was second-rower Pieter-Steph du Toit with him driving the Boks forward and scoring a crucial second half try.
Flanker: CHRIS ROBSHAW (England)
A second successive outstanding display by the former captain showed all his dogged resilience and character. He continued his path to redemption with a man of the match performance and has silenced any critics willing to take a crack.
Flanker: JAMES HASKELL (England)
A defining series for a player whose progress under Eddie Jones has been extraordinary. This will be remembered as his series even if he misses the last Test through injury. He ran himself almost to a standstill, making 21 tackles and muscling up to show that he’s well and truly worthy of international duties.
Number 8: KIERAN READ (New Zealand)
Two weeks in a row one of the best players on the park. Superb offload off the back of the scrum set up Waisake Naholo’s try. Prominent with ball in hand and on defence. Generally led from the front. The All Blacks may have found another great captain.