This year’s Six Nations is not disappointing. Six matches down and not a minute has been wasted. All-absorbing battles up front, flashes of brilliance from the flying French and a Finn Russell led Scotland, as well as red card drama, has made it an attention-grabbing competition not to be missed.
Unfortunately from an Irish perspective, Sunday saw Andy Farrell’s side fall to a second defeat at home against France. Decimated by injuries and suspensions, Ireland put up a good fight but two inventive tries from the visitors helped them to a deserved victory. Antoine Dupont, Gael Fickou and Gregory Aldritt were among those to light it up for Fabien Gathie’s side and they all feature in this week’s Sporting Limerick team of the round.
01) RORY SUTHERLAND (SCOTLAND)
Scotland put in another big performance this week after beating England brilliantly in round one. At loosehead was 26 year-old Rory Sutherland who scrummaged strongly in a 70 minute display that also saw him make ten carries and complete five tackles.
02) GEORGE TURNER (SCOTLAND)
The man in the red scrumcap had another ferocious game this week. An excellent lineout thrower and a menace at the breakdown, Turner has really caught the eye in this year’s tournament. With ten tackles and six carries on top of his inspired work at the ruck and set-piece, he deserves a place in the team of the week.
03) KYLE SINCKLER (ENGLAND)
Sinckler won man of the match in England’s trouncing of Italy on Saturday where he made 12 carries that included one clean break. The 27 year-old Bristol Bear is as dynamic a tighthead as you will find and will be hoping to make the Lions squad this Summer.
04) JOHNNY GRAY (SCOTLAND)
A mighty display once again from Jonny Gray this week as Scotland came ever so close to making it two from two. The Exeter Chiefs second row is a true engine for his country and made an outstanding 36 metres from 10 carries against Wales. Needless to say, he didn’t miss any tackles either, completing 9/9. Monstrous.
05) IAIN HENDERSON (IRELAND)
Henderson captained his country for the very first time and certainly filled the leadership chasm vacated by Peter O’Mahony and James Ryan in the forward pack. Ireland’s lineout operated perfectly with the Ulster man at the heart of it, collectively securing 9/9 and stealing three of France’s throws. 2 turnovers, 10 tackles, 7 passes and 5 carries were also all in a day’s work for the 28 year-old.
06) RHYS RUDDOCK (IRELAND)
It wasn’t a fantastic weekend for the blindside flankers as Ruddock, Wainwright, Lawes and Jelonch all operated at a pretty similar solid but unspectacular level. For a man who yesterday made his first Six Nations start 11 years on from his Ireland debut however, Rhys Ruddock will certainly be pleased with his day’s work against the French. The experienced Leinster flanker brings a brutish industry to every breakdown and inspired a particularly physical first half performance from Ireland.
07) HAMISH WATSON (SCOTLAND)
Justin Tipuric had an excellent all-action performance for Wales, but up until Zander Fagerson’s red card this was a game that Scotland dominated and Hamish Watson was at the core of it. The 29 year-old won two important turnovers, made 18 tackles and secured fast ball for Scotland’s talented backline throughout with viscous clear-outs.
08) GREGORY ALLDRITT (FRANCE)
23 year-old La Rochelle number eight Alldritt had a spectacular Valentine’s Day performance against Ireland, making 69 metres. 14 carries, 12 tackles, 6 passes, 5 defenders beaten, 2 passes and a turnover – you just don’t get a more well-rounded display than that. In line to be considered player of the tournament with this kind of form.
09) ANTOINE DUPONT (FRANCE)
The Dupont show was in full swing again this week. Though the magnificent French number nine wasn’t afforded as much space as he was against Italy, the Toulouse magician’s bag of tricks were still on show against Ireland to add flavour and tempo to the French attack. Scotland’s Ali Price was also impressive this week but Dupont’s 2 clean breaks for 48 metres, 2 offloads and match-clinching turnover puts him on another level. Crème de la crème.
10) FINN RUSSELL (SCOTLAND)
Another exhilarating player, Russell always brings energy and invention to Scotland’s play. With 34 passes, 11 kicks from hand, 5 defenders beaten 2 offloads and an assist, this was the Racing 92 ten at this best. Unlike against England, he was 100% from the tee too and could well have secured a second win had his gorgeous last minute offload out of the tackle been caught.
11) ANTHONY WATSON (ENGLAND)
When your winger is making 138 metres and scoring two tries you know it’s probably been a one sided affair. England made light work of Italy on Saturday and the athleticism of winger Watson was the shining light in the performance. The 2017 Lion made three clean breaks and beat 6 defenders on his way to carving Italy apart and handing England a bonus-point victory.
12) GAEL FICKOU (FRANCE)
26 year-old Fickou is instrumental to France’s style of play and though it may have gone under the radar, had another accomplished game against Ireland. The Toulouse centre has become a true leader in Shaun Edward’s defensive system and on top of his ten tackles, won two turnovers. Fickou didn’t miss a tackle all afternoon and showed his better known attacking qualities by assisting a try during his 80 minute outing.
13) HENRY SLADE (ENGLAND)
Most outside centres performed at a decent level this weekend but Slade’s dynamic game against Italy caught the eye. Famed for his intelligent kicking and sweet passing, Slade made his biggest impact when taking on defenders with ball in hand at Twickenham. The Exeter Chiefs centre made two clean breaks gaining over 60 metres for his team in an accomplished performance.
14) LOUIS REES-ZAMMIT (WALES)
Possibly the player of the week. The 20 year-old Gloucester winger has taken the competition by storm and a place in the Lion’s looks more likely with every passing game. A brilliant kicking performance, two tries and an assist for Rees-Zammit almost single-handedly dragged Wales past a determined Scotland on Saturday evening. Seeing a young player with this kind of talent is a special thing.
15) STUART HOGG (SCOTLAND)
The brilliance of Brice Dulin against Ireland is hard to overlook but Scotsman Hogg is playing the best rugby of his career. Now 28, the Exeter fullback is combining his lethal running game with kicking and catching displays unmatched by any fullback in the world. 2 tries, 113 metres gained and 6 defenders beaten on top of territorial dominance from the boot throughout – utterly majestic.