Six Nations Team of the Week - Round 4
England and Ireland dominate the best XV from Round 4 after impressive victories over the weekend turned the race for the Championship into a two-horse race.
Ireland, inspired by the departing Brian O'Driscoll, ran in seven tries to bolster their points difference and virtually out their Six Nations faith in their own hands with a 46-7 win over Italy.
Scotland somehow managed to throw away a one-point lead with 10 minutes to go against an French side that put in a woeful performance.
England and Wales served up the game of the weekend in Twickenham yesterday with English power overcoming Welsh brawn in a 29-18 victory.
Courtney Lawes was hands-down the player of the weekend.
Some tough calls were made, but here is the team of the week:
15. Leigh Halfpenny (Wales)
The best place-kicker in world rugby did not put a foot wrong from the tee and was his side's best performer in open play. The only reason the scoreline was so close. Rob Kearney and Mike Brown also had brilliant displays.
14. Andrew Trimble (Ireland)
Subject of some selection speculation but performed well, taking his try with aplomb. Debatable whether best choice, but likely to remain in possession for Paris.
13. Brian O'Driscoll (Ireland)
Did he rise to occasion or did occasion rise to him? Handsome contribution in attack with sublime creation of three tries. Superb all-round performance. The man.
12. Luther Burrell (England)
A great restart take underlined his commitment and physical presence and showed great positioning and timing of his run to score his third try of an impressive debut championship. I know he played at 13 but both he and BOD deserved inclusion.
11. Jonny May (England)
Was once again England's most elusive runner and his pace caused Wales problems when he found space to attack. England need to bring him into the game more often.
10. Jonathan Sexton (Ireland)
Bounced back from Twickenham to boss proceedings throughout. In command at all times, two excellent tries and showed no ill effects of his thumb injury. Kicking was not quite as flawless as Owen Farrell's but he has to make the team.
9. Danny Care (England)
Was at the heart of England's attempt to play the game at a tempo and his quick-thinking exploited sloppy defending to score his try and out-kicking his opposite number.
8. Jamie Heaslip (Ireland)
Back-row emphasis would have shifted with Parisse's absence. Achieved more gain line than in Twickenham and contribution to go-forward ball a key element. Most under-rated player in the northern hemisphere.
7. Chris Henry (Ireland)
Unglamorous but effective. Carried out the basics well; ever-present at breakdown, and crucial contributor to the game played at Schmidt's tempo. Just shades Chris Robshaw.
6. Tom Wood (England)
Once again was happy to roll up his sleeves and do most of the unseen and unsung work, both in the line-out and breakdown. A relentless work-rate
5. Devin Toner (Ireland)
Far and away his best performance in a green shirt. The giant lock looks like a man transformed in this year's Six Nations campaign. Offered himself as a ball-carrier all day in a tireless display.
4. Courtney Lawes (England)
Managed to operate like an outside centre, with a stunning back of the hand offload that almost resulted in a second try for Burrell, yet once again was a menacing presence at the coalface, landing some shuddering tackles. Superb.
3. David Wilson (England)
His storming break into the Welsh 22 and back of the hand offload to Robshaw in the opening minutes was one of the champagne moments of the game. A sweat-soaked shift.
2. Rory Best (Ireland)
Not a vintage display from the Ulster man. Not as dynamic at the breakdown as he has been in the past and a few throws went astray. Gets in because most of his rivals had stinkers, Dylan Hartley in particular.
1. Cian Healy (Ireland)
His physicality has grown in relevance in Sean O'Brien's absence and was excellent again yesterday. Dominance at scrum is now normal service and a great asset. Joe Marler unlucky to miss out.