Ireland and Wales dominate Independent.ie Six Nations Team of the Weekend
Ireland maintained their push for a Grand Slam, Wales kept dreams of a championship alive while Italy got the better of Scotland in the Wooden Spoon decider. Here is our team of the weekend.
15. Leigh Halfpenny (Wales)
Rob Kearney and Luke McLean were worthy contenders, but the Welsh victory in Paris was built on excellent defence and accuracy in front of the posts and no-one typified that more than the Lions star.
14. George North (Wales)
Back into the team after his head injury against England and one surging run highlighted the power and pace of the man earning his 50th international Test cap at just 22 years of age. Vital to Warren Gatland's game plan.
13. Mark Bennett (Scotland)
Jonathan Davies, Jared Payne and Luca Morisi were solid if not spectacular, but the Scottish centre tentatively gets the nod in what was another disappointing result at Murrayfield. Scored his first international try and was one of the few bright spots for Vern Cotter.
12. Robbie Henshaw (Ireland)
Great athletic ability to score his first try for Ireland to cap off a man-of-the-match performance. Defensive masterclass throughout the gripping encounter. Currently Ireland's leading tackler (45) and carrier (33) and has beaten more defenders (11) than any other player in green.
11. Simon Zebo (Ireland)
The Munster utility player revealed last week that Ireland's kick-chase game is "exciting" for the players when they are so proficient at it, so needless to say Zebo thoroughly enjoyed his afternoon's work. Superb defensively and aerially to finally end any doubts over this aspect of his game.
10. Jonathan Sexton (Ireland)
Another stellar performance from the out-half, including a few crushing tackles in the first half in particular as George Ford will testify to. Huge turnover early on set the tone and the Racing Metro man was clearly pumped for the game.
9. Conor Murray (Ireland)
Ireland kicked a considerable amount of ball and no-one did it better than Murray. The master of the box-kick, he set the tempo and like his colleagues, put in a huge defensive shift. Clearly outshone opposite number Ben Youngs.
1. Eddy Ben Arous (France)
Wales may have got the upper hand in the scrum, but the 24-year-old prop was excellent in the loose. One early turnover and a colossal defensive effort, even if the Racing Metro star met his match at set-piece with Samson Lee.
2. Rory Best (Ireland)
The Ulster hooker was simply everywhere. Losing his scrum cap and having his jersey ripped couldn't prevent a real tour-de-force performance and the lineout was a solid platform. Easily his best performance of the championship.
3. Samson Lee (Wales)
Taking over from Adam Jones meant the young prop was always going to come in for deep scrutiny, but has done everything that has been asked of him and more. Locked down the scrum against a powerful French unit and will be relishing the prospect of pitting his wits against Jack McGrath or Cian Healy next time out.
4. Devin Toner (Ireland)
Ireland's number one lineout option. One steal in the first half, when England opted to kick to the corner rather than take the three points on offer to potentially draw the sides level at 6-6 was a big moment in the contest.
Despite having Paul O'Connell for company, has not been outshone by the legendary figure.
5. Alun Wyn Jones (Wales)
Very good against Scotland, even better in Paris. Will face Lions colleague Paul O'Connell again in Cardiff and the lineout battle will make for fascinating viewing.
6. Francesco Minto (Italy)
Peter O'Mahony and Dan Lydiate were vital cogs in their respective side's victories, while Thierry Dusatoir was one of the few French players who should escape head coach Philippe Saint-Andre's stinging criticism, but the Italian flanker was excellent in attack – a couple of line breaks – and also in defence where he led the way with the choke tackle.
7. Tommy O'Donnell (Ireland)
Sam Warbuton played a captain's role for Wales, but O'Donnell slotted seamlessly into the shoes of Sean O'Brien after he left the field after just 24 minutes.
The Munster man doesn't carry with quite the same verve as the Tullow Tank – who does? – but his work at the breakdown and excellent body positioning meant that from a defensive point of view Ireland were no weaker because of O'Brien's absence.
8. Sergio Parisse (Italy)
He doesn't pick up many wins at international level, but few are more deserving than at least one day in the sun this campaign. Really came to the fore as the visitors pushed for victory at Murrayfield.