RUCK’s Team of the Week: Piutau, Farrell, Clifford
Four Wasps players are in our starting XV after they thrashed Leinster
Saracens duo Maro Itoje and Owen Farrell make the team following their standout performances as the reigning Premiership champions overcame Toulouse
Saints Alex Waller, London Irish’s Gerard Ellis and Cardiff Blues Gareth Jenkins make up an imposing front row
Quins Jack Clifford is joined by Edinburgh’s Cornell Du Preez and Dragons Ollie Griffiths in the back-row
Leicester Tigers Niki Goneva and Matt Smith are also in after they comfortably defeated Stade Francais on Friday night
CA Brive’s powerful Fijian winger Malakai Radikedike takes the final spot after bulldozing his side to victory against Newcastle Falcons
Fullback: CHARLES PIUTAU (Wasps)
The historical performance yesterday from Wasps was nothing short of phenomenal, but it was their fullback whose incredible individual skill particularly glowed. The All Black capped his fine display with a deserved try a minute from time.
Wing: MALAKAI RADIKEDIKE (CA Brive)
The Fijian powerhouse bagged the crucial five-pointer as CA Brive edged to a narrow victory against Newcastle Falcons in their Challenge Cup opener on Friday night. He consistently looked dangerous but was starved of the ball for long periods of the game. Had he seen more ball, the score could well have been a blowout.
Centre: ELLIOT DALY (Wasps)
Stalwart Daly put in another outstanding display for Wasps this weekend, kicking one remarkable penalty from the touchline in windy conditions. Although his kicking was not as impeccable as usual, his overall play in both attack and defence earns him a spot in our starting XV.
Centre: MATT SMITH (Leicester Tigers)
Rejuvenated Smith scored his first try of the season at a crucial moment right on half-time to give Tigers the lead for the first time in the game. The utility back has been a key player for Leicester down the years and this was just one of many strong displays he has had for the men in green throughout his career.
Wing: NIKI GONEVA (Leicester Tigers)
In an energetic team display, Goneva was everywhere for the Tigers as they overcame Stade Francais. The winger controlled the hosts’ back line, toiling all night, clearing up some dangerous kicks and finishing his night with 15 carries to his name. His try just before half time, plus a silky assist for Matt Smith six minutes later, also proved crucial in the end.
Fly-half: OWEN FARRELL (Saracens)
The England man successfully transferred his domestic form onto the European stage, guiding his side around the pitch to help Sarries down French big guns Toulouse with a masterful performance, finishing an impressive hour’s work with 17 points after being withdrawn for a well-earned rest for the final 20 minutes.
Scrum-half: JOE SIMPSON (Wasps)
Simpson set up Christian Wade’s try during the first half of Wasps’ memorable win with an excellent box-kick before racing over for his first try of the season ten minutes after the break. The scrum-half was the architect of Wasps’ excellent counter-attacking rugby.
Prop: ALEX WALLER (Northampton)
The 25-year-old prop has been a rare chink of light in a disappointing campaign for Northampton so far and continued his burgeoning form of late with a dominant performance at Franklin’s Gardens against Scarlets, producing a turnover which almost led to a try alongside a crucial five-pointer of his own.
Hooker: GERARD ELLIS (London Irish)
London Irish racked up their biggest win of the season so far this weekend in a 48-10 demolition of French side Agen, and Ellis was at the heart of a stunning performance, playing big minutes and getting over for two first-half tries which helped lay the platform for an impressive opening-round Challenge Cup win for the Exiles.
Prop: GETHIN JENKINS (Cardiff Blues)
Blues were in excellent form on Saturday, picking up a ruthless 50-9 win against Italian minnows Calvisano away from home. The 34-year-old, despite his advancing years, remains at the top of his game and proved his worth once again this weekend, capping off a steely individual performance with a rare try.
Lock: JOE LAUNCHBURY (Wasps)
The England lock said the win against Leinster was his favourite so far in a Wasps shirt and we could see why. Launchbury’s unrelenting defence and ability to get over the gainline were just two key parts of what was another awesome performance from the ever-improving 24-year-old.
Lock: MARO ITOJE (Saracens)
Dubbed by many as a future England star, Itoje is already putting that potential to good use with a number of eye-catching performances so far this season and his display against Toulouse at the weekend being equally impressive. At the age of 21, Itoje has already captained Saracens in the Premiership this season as well as the England U20s. A star of the future.
Flanker: JACK CLIFFORD (Harlequins)
Combining well with veteran Nick Easter, Clifford is one of England’s fastest-rising talents having already flirted with Stuart Lancaster’s senior set up in the run-up to the Rugby World Cup. Tipped for the top, the exceptional showing from the 22-year-old against Montpellier sees him take another massive step up the rugby ladder to the top.
Flanker: OLLIE GRIFFITHS (NG Dragons)
Griffiths put in an inspiring performance for the Dragons against Sale Sharks. The 20-year-old made four carries and nine tackles as well as making 34 metres while contributing to the scoreboard with a try. Despite his young age, he demonstrated why he is one of the most talked about youngsters in the rugby world right now.
Number 8: CORNELL DU PREEZ (Edinburgh)
The South African-born number 8 put in a man of the match display for Edinburgh as they got their Challenge Cup campaign off to the perfect start, winning 28-10 at home to Grenoble. The 24-year-old, part of arguably one of the best, 8, 9, 10 combinations in the Challenge Cup this year, once again proved his star quality with two tries to help put Grenoble to the sword. A first senior cap for the Springboks could well be on its way very soon.