Autumn internationals team of the weekend: Three Irishmen make the XV
International fixtures were staged across the northern hemisphere on Saturday, from Chicago to Cardiff. Here is our selection of the players that stood out.
15. Jordan Larmour
Joe Schmidt will have much of his dream Rugby World Cup final 23 in mind. Larmour had not started a senior international until this weekend, but he might just have hurtled the pecking order now. The 21 year-old’s stunning footwork and electric acceleration brought him a hat-trick against Italy at Soldier Field. He beat 12 would-be tacklers in the process.
14. George North
North’s renaissance this season has been heart-warming and he brought his fine form for Ospreys into the Doddie Weir Cup tie against Scotland. Searching for carries in midfield, he brushed off Huw Jones and Alex Dunbar on the way to the line. Both S’bu Nkosi and Jack Nowell impressed at Twickenham.
13. Jonathan Davies
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Henry Slade showed touches of class against South Africa and benefitted from the heft of Ben Te’o alongside him. Another of Wales’ big-name backs wins out, though. His surging run off the shoulder of Gareth Anscombe brought Davies a first Test try since February 2017.
12. Ngani Laumape
Te’o and South Africa’s Damian De Allende played out a fascinating duel. The Springbok’s athletic carrying threatened England throughout, but Te’o’s tackling and distribution caught the eye too. Laumape terrorised Japan. He scored three tries – one following up his own grubber – and laid on another for Dane Coles with a floated pass.
11. George Bridge
Bridge’s cameo in Toyko was exceptional. The prolific Crusader seemed on a mission to nudge Steve Hansen and will have succeeded, combining offloading with manic kick-chases and a customary try. Jonny May and Aphiwe Dyantyi had their moments, as did Jacob Stockdale, who beat six Italy defenders.
10. Owen Farrell
Richie Mo’unga underlined his class again and Anscombe looked tidy for Wales. Farrell and Handre Pollard will have plenty more tussles before their careers are done, and the Englishman prevailed from this one. Just. Besides crucial kicking from the tee, there was neat playmaking and a turnover strip on Lood de Jager – one of six tackles that he made after the 77th minute.
9. Brad Weber
New Zealand Maori
Weber must be one of the best one-cap internationals in the world. He guided New Zealand Maori towards an explosive 59-22 victory over the USA with slick service and sniping runs. Although Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi is currently in the All Blacks’ squad, Weber should be New Zealand’s third scrum-half. Ben Youngs enjoyed his strongest England game for a while and Gareth Davies was typically lively for Wales.
1. Ben Moon
Eddie Jones’ 40-minute man makes it on the back of a vital showing from the bench. He shored up England’s set-piece struggles opposite South Africa tighthead Frans Malherbe, burrowed into breakdowns and smashed Duane Vermeulen in one monstrous tackle.
2. Ken Owens
Scotland will be glad that they do not have any more visits to the Principality Stadium this year, and Owens set the tone for another Cardiff defeat by winning a breakdown penalty. Wales’ hooker ended up with 13 tackles, fed a well-oiled lineout operation and punched holes with ball in hand.
3. Andrew Porter
Kyle Sinckler can be satisfied with his display, especially in the loose, while Frans Malherbe troubled England’s set piece. The powerful Porter, still just 22 yet already an imposing deputy for Tadhg Furlong, is a breakdown rock capable of testing most looseheads in the scrum.
4. Tadhg Beirne
Eben Etzebeth was badly missed by South Africa following his injury early in the second period. Maro Itoje grew into a manic match after returning from the sin bin. New Zealand’s Jackson Hemopo man-handled Japan at times. Beirne takes another team of the week berth, though. He scored twice and shrugged off five Italy tacklers on his maiden Test start. Now, can he and James Ryan gel as a lock partnership?
5. Pieter-Steph du Toit
Alun Wyn Jones and George Kruis came close here, but Du Toit added another terrific game to his 2018 portfolio. He nabbed a lineout, dented England’s gain-line defence constantly with a series of midfield charges and made 13 tackles.
6. Michael Leitch
It is going to be a lot of fun to watch Leitch and his Japan team at Twickenham, because they will not die wondering. The hosts scored five tries against a second-string New Zealand. Leitch is the talisman of their fast-paced style. The 30 year-old made 40 metres with ball in hand, beating six defenders and offloading twice. Somehow, he made time to top the game’s tackle tally too, making 12 without missing one. Dan Lydiate defended phenomenally.
7. Justin Tipuric
Tom Curry started well for England before succumbing due to injury. Rhys Ruddock carried tirelessly in Chicago, as did Hamish Watson – a superb player – for Scotland. Tipuric benefitted from work-horses Lydiate and Ross Moriarty alongside him in the Wales back row and contributed in every aspect.
8. Mark Wilson
Warren Whiteley’s tip-on pass to S’bu Nkosi fashioned South Africa’s try. Wilson brought graft and guile to England’s back row, snaffling one of just four jackal turnovers in the game, chopping Springbok runners and carrying 11 times.