Team of the Week - Aviva Premiership
March 7, 2011
Manu Tuilagi enhanced his reputation once again with another dynamic display for Leicester © Getty Images
Exeter Chiefs 30 - 9 Northampton Saints Leeds Carnegie 27 - 19 London Irish London Wasps 33 - 26 Sale Sharks Leicester Tigers 14 - 15 Saracens Gloucester Rugby 34 - 22 Bath Rugby Newcastle Falcons 33 - 18 Harlequins
Schalk Brits Daniel Browne Paul Doran Jones Hendre Fourie Alex Goode Tom Hayes Ernst Joubert Nemani Nadolo Nasiganiyavi Sireli Naqelevuki Matt Stevens Haydn Thomas Manusamoa Tuilagi Tom Voyce Dave Walder Thomas Waldrom
With the Six Nations on hold this weekend, the focus shifted back to the Aviva Premiership - and it did not disappoint with chasers Saracens and Gloucester gaining ground on leaders Leicester. But who were the big players on an important weekend?
15. Alex Goode (Saracens)
The young Sarries fullback may have been bulldozed into the turf for Manu Tuilagi's try, but he was a calming presence at the back and delivered a nerveless display in front of the posts with five penalties from five.
14. Nemani Nadolo (Exeter Chiefs)
The Fijian giant - all 6ft 4in and 21st of him - made his first Premiership start for the Chiefs against the Saints and certainly made an impression. He may still be finding his sizeable feet but his impressive injection of pace and well-timed leap to claim a kick ahead put team-mate Sireli Naqelevuki away for a try and signalled him as one to watch.
13. Manu Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers)
The England Saxons centre ended on the losing side at Welford Road, but his thunderous Jonah Lomu-esque try was worthy of admission alone. Few players can call on the power to bounce Ernst Joubert and then the pace to outstrip the cover.
12. Sireli Naqelevuki (Exeter Chiefs)
The pre-match chat surrounded Nadolo, but it was his fellow Fijian who had the bigger impact in Exeter's second half demolition of Northampton. He scored a vital try after the break and constantly broke the gainline.
11. Tom Voyce (Gloucester)
The winger's resurgence continues at some pace. He scored twice against his former side Bath in the West Country derby, taking both tries with clinical finishing, and constantly found space on the left wing opposite England hopeful Matt Banahan.
10. Dave Walder (London Wasps)
Walder's boot enabled Wasps to boost their play-off hopes and avoid their eighth defeat in their last nine matches. The fly-half kicked 23 of their points landing six penalties, a conversion and a dropped goal.
9. Haydn Thomas (Exeter Chiefs)
The Exeter scrum-half reaped the rewards of a resurgent forward effort in the second half at Sandy Park as he sparked Exeter's revival with some quick darts around the fringes and a great box-kick that led to Naqelevuki's try.
1. Matt Stevens (Saracens)
The former Bath prop made a big impact after replacing Rhys Gill at half-time. His approach may not always have been entirely legal, dropping his hand to the ground, but he stayed on the right side of the referee and set a solid platform.
2. Schalk Brits (Saracens)
The South African hooker returned to the Saracens starting line-up and was as industrious as ever in the loose whilst racking up tackle after tackle in addition to his sterling work at the set-piece.
3. Paul Doran-Jones (Gloucester)
The England hopeful was the cornerstone of a dominant Gloucester pack, enhancing his reputation at scrum-time, and even outpaced Bath hooker Peter Dixon to score a try in the corner.
4. Tom Hayes (Exeter Chiefs)
The Exeter captain played a massive role in stabilising his pack's shaky start in the set-piece at Sandy Park with a strong performance in the lineout and even popped up in the corner to grab one of Exeter's tries.
5. Daniel Browne (Leeds Carnegie)
The Leeds second row, switched to the No.5 jersey for the sake of our line-up, was at the heart of his side's battling display against London Irish that injected life into their bid for survival. He grabbed a crucial try and stole at least two Irish lineouts in an eye-catching performance.
6. Thomas Waldrom (Leicester Tigers)
Given the quality of the Tigers No.8's display against Saracens, a reshuffle of the back-row was in order. As ever he was the Tigers' primary attacking weapon, habitually smashing the gainline and always ready to release the offload.
7. Hendre Fourie (Leeds)
Tough competition in the back-row with Exeter's Tom Johnson and Gloucester's Andy Hazell putting in fine performances, but the Leeds flanker takes the shirt after a magnificent effort to help Leeds to a vital win against London Irish.
8. Ernst Joubert (Saracens)
In an engaging scrap between two physical packs, the South African No.8 stood out as an imperious presence throughout. He stole lineout ball, made turnovers and gained the most metres by any Sarries player.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
ESPN looks at the forthcoming season of the Guinness PRO12 and assesses how each of the 12 teams will do
"Like the Treaty of Versailles, despite all the promises, the new Participation Agreement is certainly not the final solution." John Taylor writes
"We know where we are going and we know where we want to get but how long that will take is anybody's guess." David Humphreys on his plans for Gloucester
Jim Mallinder and Justin Burnell were sat on the same top table, but in different circumstances. Tom Hamilton reports on the Aviva Premiership season launch