Lions Watch: Team of the Week
January 14, 2013
Owen Farrell put in an impressive performance for Saracens © Getty Images
The countdown to the eagerly-awaited British & Irish Lions tour to Australia intensified at the weekend with the latest action from the Heineken Cup.
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. 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 (Cardiff Blues)
Cardiff were hammered by Toulon but Halfpenny was their shining light. He looks certain to be a Lion next summer and his brace of tries against the Top 14 giants will have done his claims no harm.
14. Eli Walker (Ospreys)
One of the rising stars of Welsh rugby, Walker lit up the Liberty Stadium during the Ospreys' draw with Leicester Tigers. A member of the Wales U20 side that claimed 3rd place at last year's Junior World Championship, he may be drafted into the senior squad this week.
13. Darren Cave (Ulster)
Cave pushed his international claims with a superb try against Glasgow at Ravenhill. The Ireland No.13 shirt may belong to a certain Brian O'Driscoll but Cave's showing will have done his Six Nations chances no harm.
12. Brad Barritt (Saracens)
Much of what Barritt does happens without fanfare but he is one of the most effective tacklers and defensively secure players in Europe. The England international played a key role in Saracens' impressive comeback against Racing Metro.
11. Luke Fitzgerald (Leinster)
In Fitzgerald's first Heineken Cup match since last season, the Lion showed no ill-effects from his serious injury. He grabbed one of Leinster's five tries against the Scarlets and was a constant threat with ball in hand. Tom Varndell deserves a mention for his hat-trick in the Amlin Challenge Cup for Wasps against Mogliano.
10. Owen Farrell (Saracens)
Farrell's 32 points against Metro was a large part of the reason why Sarries secured one of the best results this season. He kicked 11 from 11 and put in a huge performance.
9. Conor Murray (Munster)
In difficult conditions at Murrayfield, Ireland international Murray did his best to propel an off-colour Munster past Edinburgh and he was rewarded for his efforts with a second half try.
1. Tom Court (Ulster)
It looks to be a straight shootout between Court and Leinster's Cian Healy for the Ireland No.1 jersey and it is the same here. Both were superb over the weekend but Court just gets the nod after his showing against Glasgow.
Northampton's Courtney Lawes was huge against Castres © PA Photos
2. Sean Cronin (Leinster)
Cronin produced a busy display at the RDS that showcased his often-surprising pace and his impressive work-rate that included a gutsy nine tackles - just enough to edge out Leicester's Tom Youngs in our line-up.
3. Matt Stevens (Saracens)
Although he is retired from international duty, he is one of the in-form tight-heads on the European scene. He had the better of the Metro pack and never took a step backwards.
4. Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints)
Joe Launchbury appears to be the first choice No.4 for England now but Lawes made all the right noises against Castres on Friday evening. It was a performance packed with physicality and he made some impressive yards.
5. Alistair Kellock (Glasgow Warriors)
Glasgow came off second best against Ulster, but Kellock did not. He will play a key role in Scotland's Six Nations campaign and is an outside bet for a Lions spot.
6. Kelly Brown (Saracens)
One of the first names on the team sheet for Saracens and Scotland, Brown was huge against Racing Metro. He looks more assured at blindside than he does at No.8 and is in great form.
7. Justin Tipuric (Ospreys)
The Ospreys' openside shrugged of a recent shoulder injury to take a starring role in his side's Heineken Cup clash with Leicester. Imagine what he could do when fully fit?
8. Johnnie Beattie (Montpellier)
Beattie deservedly won the Man of the Match award against Sale on Friday evening and marked the occasion with a try.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
With the deadline for World Cup ticket applications now over, Tom May outlines his hopes, gripes and wishes for next year's global gathering
Floundering Leicester, exquisite Exeter and two old England players tearing up trees - it's the Monday Maul
The latest Week in Pictures takes in the Rugby Championship and all the domestic action from the northern hemisphere
Chris Robshaw talks to Tom Hamilton about mental and physical preparation and coping with pressure ahead of the World Cup