Lions Watch: Team of the Week
November 12, 2012
Scotland's Tim Visser pushed his tour claims with two tries against the All Blacks in front of Lions boss Warren Gatland © Getty Images
With the start of the autumn internationals, the countdown to the eagerly-awaited British & Irish Lions tour to Australia is well and truly on.
As we all tick off the days until the team depart Down Under, ESPNscrum will cast an eye across the action and pinpoint those players eligible for the elite tourists who are pushing their selection claims with strong performances. Lions coach Warren Gatland has revealed that he is prepared to cast the selection net beyond international rugby so expect competition to be fierce.
There is a lot of rugby to be played until the squad board the plane for Hong Kong and plenty of time for hopes to rise and fall with many international stars yet to return to the domestic fray but the excitement is already building.
15. Alex Goode (England)
Goode repaid Stuart Lancaster's faith with a Man of the Match display against Fiji, having a hand in most of England's best moments. His skills and vision added a new dimension to England's attacking game he now looks a genuine contenders in a hugely competitive position.
14. Charlie Sharples (England)
A host of England players were guilty of butchering try-scoring chances against Fiji, but not Sharples. With his two tries he showed the ruthless finishing Lancaster is demanding and will could retain his place despite Chris Ashton's return from suspension ahead of the game against Australia.
13. Simon Zebo (Ireland)
The Munster winger, who can operate all around the backline, was deployed at fullback for Ireland - a position which gave him more space to show his pace and elusive running. The conditions and opposition meant chances were limited but there was no doubt Zebo was Ireland's most menacing runner and warrants a place in our selection.
12. Manu Tuilagi (England)
Two more tries for the barnstorming Leicester centre, taking his international total to seven in 14 Tests. He finished with great power and pace but still has much to work on having been one of those guilty for failing to make the most of some clear openings.
11. Tim Visser (Scotland)
Two tries for the flying Scotsman against the world champions is no mean feat. To be fair they were quite straightforward finishes - but only if you have the pace of Visser. Greater scrutiny of his all-round game will be required before he can usurp the likes of George North, Chris Ashton and Tommy Bowe.
10. Jonathan Sexton (Ireland)
The fly-half is becoming an ever more influential and authoritative figure in the Ireland team. His kicking at goal in the first half was impressive and he is surely the front-runner for the No.10 shirt at this early stage.
9. Eoin Reddan (Ireland)
Conor Murray has his supporters and his strengths, especially against physical back-rows such as South Africa, but Reddan injected a pace to Ireland's play when he came on as a substitute which will leave Declan Kidney with a dilemma.
1. Ryan Grant (Scotland)
It wasn't an easy afternoon for Scotland with the All Blacks in town but, after a few shaky moments in the first half, their scrum held up pretty well in the face of New Zealand's power. Grant played his part and made a decent impression around the park with ball in hand.
2. Tom Youngs (England)
The Leicester hooker responded to the pressure of his debut and doubts about his throwing with an assured display at the setpiece and telling contribution in the loose. Far sterner tests to come but a fine first showing.
3. Dan Cole (England)
The lasting image of Cole's display against Fiji will no doubt be of the tight-head prop charging into the only Fijian defender left in a particular corner south west London and blowing a huge overlap. But that would be unfair. He pulled off a couple of adeptly executed turnovers and was the cornerstone of a scrum that frequently had Fiji on their knees.
4. Donnacha Ryan (Ireland)
Ryan took over as Ireland's primary source of ball at the lineout. He performed his duties well against South Africa and will surely keep the likes of Donncha O'Callaghan on the sidelines for the forseeable future.
5. Mike McCarthy (Ireland)
McCarthy made an immediate impact on only his fifth international appearance and played a prominent role as Ireland took the game to the Springboks in the opening 40 minutes. He was his side's top tackler from second row and ensured the absences of Paul O'Connell was not felt too acutely.
6. Tom Johnson (England)
It was another strong performance in an England shirt for the Exeter flanker. He carried for 36 metres and also grabbed his first international try in a robust display, which should be enough to keep Tom his positional rivals at bay for now.
7. Chris Robshaw (England)
Remarkable work-rate from the England captain who made a few marauding runs as well as topping England's tackling chart with 15 hits on the Fijians. Throw in some sweet offloads and forceful leadership and it was another strong display for the flanker.
8. Kelly Brown (Scotland)
It was not a great weekend for the main No.8 contenders with Toby Faletau in the Welsh pack that was outmuscled by Argentina, Jamie Heaslip holding his hands up for a crucial mistake during Ireland's defeat and Thomas Waldrom failing to convince against Fiji. But on his 50th appearance and as captain Brown did enough to earn the spot with three turnovers and faultless industry.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Proposals to remove promotion and relegation from the Aviva Premiership would be for the good of the game overall, argues John Taylor
Ireland have the world sitting up and taking notice - and rugby's structure in Europe will aid their Rugby World Cup bid, writes John Mitchell
Where does Italy's win over Scotland rank among their successes in the Six Nations? Scrum Sevens investigates
The tone was set early on in Dublin as a more clinical Ireland made England pay. All is not lost, however, argues Phil Vickery