Four Irish players included in Six Nations Team of the Week
The third round of the Six Nations saw England’s Grand Slam hopes go up in smoke, Ireland take a huge step towards the title and France record a much needed win.
A gripping 25-13 win over England on Saturday saw Scotland lift the Calcutta Cup for the first time in a decade but more importantly kept them alive in this year's tournament.
But Ireland remain the team to beat: Joe Schmidt’s men dismissed Wales 37-27 in Dublin on Saturday for their third straight win in this year's NatWest 6 Nations.
Elsewhere, France secured their first victory of the campaign, beating Italy 34-17 in Marseille.
Here is the Team of the Week after the third round of Six Nations matches:
15. Stuart Hogg (Scotland)
Always a threat when he gets the ball in hand and England allowed him the space that he needed to pin his ears. Combined well with Maitland and Tommy Seymour, and Scotland seemed to learn from not overusing him at first receiver and leave him out in space where he can have a much bigger impact. Also took on a responsibility with kicking, even if he did miss a long penalty effort from halfway.
14. Keith Earls (Ireland)
Mr Reliable for Ireland is quickly becoming Mr Highlight Ree. Earls has always been known as a workhorse player but he has added something new to his game this Six Nations that has enabled him to have a devastating impact on games. Two defence-busting runs down the right flank both led to points for the Irish.
13. Huw Jones (Scotland)
Russell may have got the man of the match award but it was Jones who not so much as floored England as knocked them out cold. His early try stunned the reigning champions and brought Murrayfield to life, and his second was a brilliant finish that showed off his power and pace that also had an echo of Brian O’Driscoll’s 2001 Lions score about it. Simply an outstanding player and a delight to watch.
12. Peter Horne (Scotland)
A commanding display in giving Russell and outlet if the pressure came on, and he also showed off his ability to kick when pinning England back with delicate chips in behind. His passing was reliable throughout the Calcutta Cup clash, and despite Owen Farrell scoring all of England’s 13 points, it was Horne who won the battle of the 12s.
11. Jacob Stockdale (Ireland)
Eight tries in seven Tests is not a bad start to any international career, and the Ulster wing is showing no signs of letting up his wonderful rate of scoring after bagging two more tries against Wales.
10. Finn Russell (Scotland)
Wrote a remarkable story of redemption at Murrayfield as he silenced his critics to mastermind Scotland’s historic victory over England. Put the chip through for Jones’ first try, played an inch-perfect pass to Jones that triggered the whole move for Sean Maitland’s score – as well as throwing the flat ball to the Saracens wing – and jinked past the would-be tacklers before unleashing Jones for the third try. A brilliant showing.
9. Gareth Davies (Wales)
Another player who starred in defeat. The Scarlets scrum-half showed there is life after Rhys Webb as he smartly collected a loose pass, drifted laterally before cutting a smart line to run straight through the Irish defence and score his side’s first try. A real attacking livewire that can’t be left alone for a minute.
1. Cian Healy (Ireland)
The powerhouse loosehead has regained his place in the Irish front-row and went about doing as much damage on the Welsh defence as possible. His scrummaging stood up well against the equally-strong Samson Lee, but it was his work with the ball – including his try – that really stood out.
2. Stuart McInally (Scotland)
Made an incisive run through the English defence that helped set up Sean Maitland’s try, and reliable at the lineout in all bar one of his throws. A good performance that helped give Scotland the base for their famous victory.
3. Simon Berghan (Scotland)
Another brilliant display from the tighthead who is really coming on as an international Test player. His scrum battle with Mako Vunipola was an intriguing one to watch with neither giving away an inch, and he secured one important turnover in the second half to stem an English attack.
4. James Ryan (Ireland)
The Leinster lock returns to The Independent’s team of the weekend after missing the second round with injury, and he really is proving himself to be quite the young player at this level. A great showing across the park, particularly with his ball carrying, and he is also a very handy option in the lineout.
5. Jonny Gray (Scotland)
Bounced back well from an early missed tackle on Nathan Hughes, and led the Scottish defensive effort as he got through a ridiculous amount of work, particularly in the second half.
6. Sebastian Negri (Italy)
A standout performance in defeat should be heralded as the Treviso back-row caught the eye with three defence-splitting runs against France. Italy may fear the end of Sergio Parisse’s international career, but in Negri they have a similar figure that can lift his teammates by his own performance. Extremely harsh on Scotland captain John Barclay for his defensive work rate and breakdown prowess, but Negri just couldn’t be left out.
7. Hamish Watson (Scotland)
Rampant at the breakdown as he led the Scottish turnovers, securing two penalties from English ball and proving a thorn in the side of Eddie Jones throughout Saturday afternoon. Quickly emerging as one of the breakdown masters in European rugby.
8. Ryan Wilson (Scotland)
Not as prominent as his back-row colleagues but he contributed enormously by often being the main support runner that helped Scotland maintain possession. Just shaded the battle with Nathan Hughes as the England No 8 was at fault for Huw Jones’ second try, and holds off a good showing from Ireland’s CJ Stander.