Sunday 25 March 2018

Five Scots and an Italian centre make it into our Six Nations Team of the Week

Tom Rooney

Another Six Nations weekend has passed without any huge surprises, but our team of round three does contain some previously unlikely inclusions.

15. Stuart Hogg

The Scottish full-back gets the nod again following another bravura display in Rome. Hogg is credited with assists for both John Barclay and Tommy Seymour’s tries. For Barclay, he offloaded beautifully from the deck and Seymour was the recipient of a sumptuous pass. A class act.

14. George North

Another Welsh win, another George North try. The huge wing struck five minutes after the break to extend what had been just a three point lead over the French. A relatively quiet display but the Northampton man was clinical when it mattered most.

13. Robbie Henshaw

In the absence of Jared Payne, the Athlone native finally donned the famous number 13 jersey and was not found wanting. Made a fantastic break at the end of the first half and, in the second, took a lovely line off Johnny Sexton, only to lose control of the ball at the vital moment.

That will grate, but he’ll be pleased with completing eight of nine attempted tackles.

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Robbie Henshaw stretches for the try-line as he’s put into touch by England’s Jack Nowell. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

12. Gonzalo Garcia

It’s near unheard of that any Italy back would find himself on such a short list, but Garcia deserves his spot in midfield. If only for the reverse bucket pass in the lead up to Leonardo Ghiraldini’s try.

11. Jack Nowell

The England wing busted a gut to haul down Henshaw in his aforementioned tilt for the corner. Had Ireland scored then, the complexion of the contest may have differed vastly. The Exeter Chief also made 54m from seven carries.

Jack Nowell of England is tackled by Conor Murray. Photo: Getty

10. Johnny Sexton

Regardless of the hits he takes or  the consensus view of Ireland’s attack, when on form, Sexton is the finest out half in this hemisphere. The Leinster playmaker showed grit, guile and composure in equal measure but, again, he failed to play the full 80.

9. Craig Laidlaw

The speed with which the Scottish captain delivers his passes has been questioned at the times, but he was imperious from the tee in Rome as his side finally banked a Championship victory. Laidlaw kicked 21 of Scotland’s 36 points with a return of 8/9 from the placed ball.

1. Alasdair Dickinson

Laidlaw was able to keep the Scottish scores coming regularly because his pack dominated the Azzurri at scrum time. Dickinson was instrumental there, while his 12 tackles were nothing to sneeze at. 

2. Dylan Hartley

Three games in and Hartley is yet to revert to type in an act of recklessness. The more we hear from Eddie Jones, the more apparent it becomes why he made a man with Hartley's disciplinary record captain. Still, the Northampton export is a quality hooker, and England lost just one of their seven line outs.

England head coach Eddie Jones and Dylan Hartley celebrate at the end of the match

3. Mike Ross

Outside of Sexton, there is a very credible argument to be made that no player matters more to Ireland than the Leinster tight head. The Irish scrum was immeasurably better for his presence in Twickenham and the Corkonian put in a decent shift around the park.

England's Mako Vunipola (centre) is tackled by Ireland's CJ Stander (left) and Mike Ross during the 2016 RBS Six Nations match at Twickenham Stadium

4. Maro Itoje

While Ireland’s tyros have been lavished with praise over the last 48 hours, it’s easy to forget that Itoje was making his first start in the Test arena. The Saracens forward has been referred to as the ‘Chosen One’ and he certainly looks a serious operator in the making. The 21-year-old made 16 tackles, seven carries and poached an Irish line out.

5. Richie Gray

Like all good locks, Gray was all over the Roman turf, fighting tooth and nail in the trenches.

6. John Barclay

Barclay’s try gave Scotland an ample start against Italy and he proved a mobile and willing carrier before being called ashore.

7. Josh van der Flier

Perhaps this selection has a slightly patriotic hue, but the debutant open side distinguished himself in a manner that belied his years. He wasn’t perfect, some tackles were missed and penalties conceded. But, in a game where Ireland’s pack was largely beaten up, he stood up and was counted. Unlucky not get a debut try and chipped in with 15 tackles.

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Irieland's Josh van der Flier avoids the attentions of England's Mike Brown. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

8. Billy Vunipola

Like Stuart Hogg, the England number eight had no legitimate competition for his spot this week. If any one player personified the physical disparity between England and Ireland, it was Vunipola. He steamrolled Irish defenders as though they were shoddily planted trees. 

England's Billy Vunipola of England in action. Photo: Reuters

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