Lions Watch: Team of the Week
December 3, 2012
England's Owen Farrell leads the celebrations following a try for his side against New Zealand at Twickenham © PA Photos
With autumn internationals reaching a dramatic climax this weekend, 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.
England produced a final flourish against New Zealand to put some gloss on an otherwise disappointing autumn for the Home Nations but luckily there is still 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.
15. Leigh Halfpenny (Wales)
The Wales fullback has given absolutely everything this autumn and Saturday was no different. Fearless, cool under pressure and hugely effective throughout. Sad to see him exit the stage on a stretcher.
14. Alex Cuthbert (Wales)
Despite Wales' travails this autumn, Cuthbert has always looked a threat on the right wing and against Australia he was Wales' biggest hope of a breakthrough, making 86 metres with ball in hand. Unlucky to be denied a try by a great cover tackle from Berrick Barnes.
13. Manu Tuilagi (England)
Despite all the frustrations with his passing and decision making, Tuilagi retains the power and exuberance to smash through defences like few others in the northern hemisphere. Great offload for Barritt's try along with his well taken interception score.
12. Brad Barritt (England)
Jamie Roberts put in a huge effort in the Wales midfield but Barritt finally reversed the steady flow of criticism directed at him with a great display for England. His try, which he created with a great break inside Conrad Smith, was the key moment at Twickenham.
11. Chris Ashton (England)
The Northampton winger finally broke his try scoring drought although the signs looked ominous early on when he failed to collect Alex Goode's pass with the line begging and just an All Black or so to beat.
10. Owen Farrell (England)
The Saracens fly-half was under huge pressure going into the game and responded magnificently by overshadowing the greatest fly-half on the planet with 17 points in a defiant display. His first-half kicking accuracy from the tee laid the foundations for England.
9. Ben Youngs (England)
His box kicking early on was slightly off the mark but from then on he was sharp and a constant threat that kept the New Zealand back-row interested.
1. Alex Corbisiero (England)
In the last two matches Corbisiero has overwhelmingly answered any questions about who's Enlgand's No.1 No.1. Once again he was at the heart of England's impressive scrummaging effort.
2. Tom Youngs (England)
The development of Tom Youngs, along with Joe Launchbury, will be one of the biggest plusses for Stuart Lancaster this autumn. In the heat of battle his lineout throwing did not buckle and was a force with ball in hand to boot.
3. Dan Cole (England)
Cole is surely now the leading contender for the Lions tight-head role. Along with Youngs and Corbisiero, he dominated the accomplished All Blacks front row. Great work at the breakdown as well.
4. Joe Launchbury (England)
Another huge performance from the Wasps lock, full of energy and bite. He once again justified his promotion to the starting XV as he led England's tackling charts with 14 hits in the game.
5. Geoff Parling (England)
The Leicester Tigers lock led England's lineout with six clean takes and intelligent use of his other options to ensure a seamless setpiece for the home side. Surprisingly effective around the pitch despite his lack of bulk.
6. Tom Wood (England)
Wood was rightly named Man of the Match against the All Blacks after a terrific performance from blindside flanker. The Northampton man was everywhere and gave scrum-half Aaron Smith a torrid afternoon.
7. Sam Warburton (Wales)
After jousting impressively with Richie McCaw last week, Warburton got stuck into the breakdown battle with David Pocock and was not found wanting. His influence grew through the game.
8. Chris Robshaw (England)
A shunt to the back of the scrum for Robshaw to accommodate Warburton but deserving of his place none the less. Bounce back from the blame of the last two weeks to lead a massive forwards effort from England.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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