Now that the dust has settled after Week 4 of the 2016 Autumn internationals, RUCK selects the players that stood out over the past weekend’s fixtures.
Fullback: Stuart Hogg (Scotland)
Absolutely outstanding, set up Scotland’s first try with a fine kick and then scored a brilliant solo try and finished off a scintillating team one.
Honourable mentions: Rob Kearney (Ireland)
Wing: Jonny May (England)
The Gloucester speedster made an immediate impact on his return, proposing a footrace with his marker whenever he got the chance. But he was just as valuable in defence, with one superb covering tackle preventing a certain try. A constant disruptive presence – in a good way – he capped an excellent 80 minutes with another Twickenham try.
Honourable mentions: Sean Maitland (Scotland), Dane Haylett-Petty (Australia)
Centre: Jonathan Joseph (England)
As soon as Elliot Daly departed, Joseph’s role changed. And he was quick to make the hard yards to snuff out danger. Barely got a chance to show what he could do going forward, although he did provide the pass for May’s score but – after the number of vital interventions he made during Argentinian attacks – that didn’t really matter.
Honourable mentions: Mark Bennett (Scotland), Tevita Kuridrani (Australia)
Centre: Garry Ringrose (Ireland)
Maturing into a seasoned international centre at a rapid pace, the centre scored his first test try after salvaging a poor pass to gather the ball behind him and twist through the wallaby defence to dot down. Was a menacing presence for the visiting defence every time he got on the ball.
Honourable mentions: Owen Farrell (England)
Wing: Stephen Shennan (Romania)
The New Zealand-born winger scored a brace as Romania romped to a 36-10 win against Uruguay in their last test of 2016. The win, which follows back-to-back victory’s against the USA and Canada, was made possible by the Timișoara Saracens speedsters two neat first half finishes.
Honourable mentions: Keith Earls (Ireland)
Fly-half: Beauden Barrett (New Zealand)
World Rugby’s player of the year finished an outstanding 2016 with another top-quality performance. His finely judged kick set up Dagg’s try, and his brilliant intercept early in the second half was a game-changer. A class act for so much of this year and great to see him conclude in style.
Honourable mentions: Dan Biggar (Wales), Paddy Jackson (Ireland)
Scrum-half: Sonatane Takulua (Tonga)
Takulua slotted an 81st-minute penalty to clinch a dramatic 19-17 win for Tonga over Italy in Padova on Saturday. The scrum-half was his side’s hero as he finished with a 14-point haul, thanks to four penalties and a conversion.
Honourable mentions: Greig Laidlaw (Scotland), Conor Murray (Ireland)
Prop: Gethin Jenkins (Wales)
The Eternal Warrior. Achieved two turnovers, the first so good it was worth the admission money on its own to see it. At 36 he has no right to be doing what he does.
Honourable mentions: Jack McGrath (Ireland), Mako Vunipola (England)
Hooker: Rory Best (Ireland)
Captain fantastic himself. Led by example and made a crucial tackle when Australia broke late in the first half. Emerges from the giant shadow cast by previous captain Paul O’Connell by leading his team to wins over South Africa, Australia and New Zealand in the space of 6 months.
Honourable mentions: Agustin Creevy (Argentina)
Prop: Tadgh Furlong (Ireland)
Another impressive display from the rampaging tight-head. Upended recklessly by Dean Mumm at a ruck but kept his composure and carried on as he had begun. Pivotal cog in a successful green scrum.
Honourable mentions: Zander Fagerson (Scotland)
Lock: Richie Gray (Scotland)
As impressive as ever, punching holes in the Georgian defence and defending well. He and his brother, Jonny, will both be in contention for Lions selection in 2017.
Lock: George Kruis (England)
Workmanlike, effective, solid in the line-out. All that, combined with a number of bruising tackles early in the game, made for a decent afternoon’s work for the lock forward.
Honourable mentions: Devin Toner (Ireland)
Flanker: Chris Robshaw (England)
The flanker’s energy was relentless as he chased down possession in tandem with his back-row colleagues. Must have covered more grass than anyone else at Twickenham and very much deserved his man-of-the-match award.
Honourable mentions: CJ Stander (Ireland)
Flanker: Josh van der Flier (Ireland)
At times it felt like there were two of him on the field. Kept pace with two seasoned operators in Hooper and Pocock and gives Schmidt a proper headache when trying to pick a back-row in the future.
Honourable mentions: Tom Wood (England), Hamish Watson (Scotland), Michael Hooper (Australia)
Number 8: Justin Tipuric (Wales)
Now we are talking quality. Played the house down for much of the game, charging down kicks, finger-tip passing, tackling, ripping possession off attackers. Try crowned an excellent personal display.