Sunday 21 January 2018

Independent.ie Six Nations Team of the Week

Declan Whooley

Declan Whooley

Five Irishmen, three Englishmen, a solitary French player and two each from Italy, Scotland and Wales make our Six Nations Team of the Week.

15. Stuart Hogg

Leigh Halfpenny was the closest contender but Hogg gets the nod for his scintillating try. The Scot showed a clean set of heels to run 123 metres and beat five defenders to light up Murrayfield in another classy display, one missed tackle aside.

14. Tommy Bowe

Not a stand-out weekend for wingers, but similar to the Autumn Series, Bowe showed that he is one of the best defensive wingers in the game. Had little ball on the front foot but won a couple of crucial restarts and was part of the strong defensive effort in the second half to fend off  a French comeback.

13. Jonathan Joseph

The real man-of-the-moment in the Six Nations. Has been a real spark in the English backline and all eyes will be on the young centre in Dublin when he faces the biggest test in his Six Nations career. Will be interesting to see if he spends as much time on the wing as he did against the Italians.

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Jonathan Joseph (2ndL) of England celebrates scoring his second try with team mates Billy Twelvetrees, Luther Burrell and Anthony Watson of England during the RBS Six Nations match between England and Italy at Twickenham Stadium. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)

12. Luca Morisi

The Italian has been shifted to inside centre, but had to be accommodated after an eye-catching performance for the Azzurri during their heavy defeat to England. He finished the game with two tries, two clean line-breaks, six defenders beaten and one turnover created.

It looks like it could be another difficult campaign for Jacques Brunel but Morisi has shown that he will be a threat even if he gets his hands on enough ball.

11. Liam Williams

Stepped in admirably for George North and was unlucky to have a try ruled out by the TMO. Made the crucial break for Rhys Webb's try and always looks dangerous out wide.

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Wales's wing Liam Williams (L) sends the ball forward

10. Jonathan Sexton

The display of the tournament? The Racing Metro player has not played for 12 weeks and again shipped heavy knocks courtesy of Matthieu Bastareaud, but it did not prevent him turning in an outstanding display of game management of composure.

Will be disappointed that one try-scoring opportunity went awry when Jared Payne failed to take a pass with Simon Zebo and Rob Kearney waiting out wide, but further evidence that the Irish number 10 is the best in the world in his position.

9. Ben Youngs

Conor Murray and Ben Youngs will go head-to-head in the Aviva Stadium next time out and the winner of this duel is likely to go a long way to deciding the outcome of the match. Very little to choose between the pair, but Youngs just about shades it. Tap-and-go try just rewards for all-round display.

1. Jack McGrath

Until the introduction of Uini Antonio ten minutes into the second half was having things his own way. Two turnovers were of huge significance in such a hard fought encounter.

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Jack McGrath during squad training. Carton House, Maynooth, Co. Kildare

2. Ross Ford

Rory Best's yellow card ruled him out on a weekend where there were few standout performers in the number two jersey. The Scottish hooker gets the nod over Dylan Hartley.

3. Uini Antonio

Jack McGrath ruled the roost until the 24 stone Antonio quietened his involvement, and also that of replacement Cian Healy. A scrum machine and one wonders why he didn't start. Honourable mention to England's Dan Cole.

4. Alun Wyn Jones

The colossus second row was a leader within the Welsh pack that had to front up after the opening day defeat to England. Was second on list of tackles for Warren Gatland's side who had to dig deep to eke out the win in Murrayfield.

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Alun Wyn Jones is brought down by Finn Russell of Scotland during the RBS Six Nations match at Murrayfield

5. Paul O'Connell

A very tight call between the Irish second-row pairing. Toner was the main lineout option and was a tackling machine, but O'Connell didn't shirk his defensive responsibilities (14 tackles) and was everywhere. A captain's performance in a gritty win.

6. Peter O'Mahony

Dan Lydiate was impressive in Murrayfield, but the Munster captain served up another top class performance at number six. One steal in the second half was a big shift in French momentum. The Cork man's level of performance rarely dips.

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Peter O'Mahony will be a crucial figure for Ireland against France

7. Chris Robshaw

The England captain has his critics, but few can fault his wholehearted displays from number seven. Sean O'Brien and co will be a further test of his mettle, but doing all that is asked of him thus far.

O'Brien's first game for Ireland in 15 months will stand to him ahead of the clash with England and the battle of the number 7s will be fascinating.

8. Sergio Parisse

The Italian captain came up against Billy Vunipola who despite being fortunate enough to score a dubious try, was a rampaging presence in Twickenham. The Italian captain however continues to lead from the front Again he was on the score sheet, but refused to throw the towel in as he and his colleagues suffered yet another loss.

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