Lions Watch: Team of the Week
September 3, 2012
Fleet-footed Wasps winger Christian Wade lit up Twickenham with a two-try display against Quins on Saturday © PA Photos
With the start of the Aviva Premiership and RaboDirect PRO12 campaigns, 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 - including the Top 14 battle - and pinpoint those players eligible for the elite tourists who are pushing their selection claims with strong performances.
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. Mike Brown (Harlequins)
The Harlequins fullback scored a second-half brace to secure a thrilling victory over Wasps at Twickenham, coming to their aid as he did so many times last season as they wrapped up a maiden Premiership title.
14. Christian Wade (Wasps)
The flying Wasps winger made a mark on the London Double Header with two superb tries against Harlequins, the second of which conjured memories of the great Jason Robinson's try for the Lions against Australia in 2001. Pushed all the way by a in-form Sarries signing Chris Ashton.
13. Brad Barritt (Saracens)
The England international drops in at outside centre for the purposes of this selection after a typical busy display punctuated with a try as his side swept aside London Irish.
12. Scott Williams (Scarlets)
It will take a big effort for the Scarlets centre to displace Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies in the Wales midfield, but he hit the ground running with a try in his region's opening-day hammering of Leinster.
11. Tim Visser (Edinburgh)
Edinburgh came out on the wrong end of the result against Munster at Murrayfield, but their newly-minted Scotland wing kicked-off his season in fine style with a hat-trick of tries.
10. Nicky Robinson (Wasps)
Nick Evans stole the limelight at Twickenham with his second-half heroics, but it was Robinson who lit the touchpaper in the first, with his strong passing game and awareness allowing Wasps to put Wade and Tom Varndell into space out wide.
9. Lee Dickson (Northampton)
The Saints and England scrum-half played a key role in his side's Premiership victory over Gloucester with his quick-thinking and slick hands playing a part in two crucial scores.
1. Tim Payne (Wasps)
The veteran loose-head got in on the scoring act as Wasps rediscovered some form against Quins at Twickenham - could the 33-year-old force his way into the international mix?
2. Dylan Hartley (Northampton)
As far as the Lions go, hooker is one position that is wide open. Hartley made a good start to the season with a try against Gloucester and will hope to prove that he's in the right form and frame of mind to tour come June.
3. Dan Cole (Leicester)
Rock-solid at the set-piece and a devil at the breakdown, Cole was in fine form against London Welsh in the Tigers' opener. Showed his new, rounded game.
4. Joe Launchbury (Wasps)
Just 21, Launchbury should be in with a shout of England selection sooner rather than later. Able to play in the second and back-rows, he was superb in an all-action opening against Harlequins.
5. Geoff Parling (Leicester)
Dominant at the lineout against London Welsh. A real technician in that department and carried very well, taking his try in good style. Has arrived at club level, now to nail down that England spot for good.
6. Aaron Shingler (Scarlets)
Shingler only has two Wales caps to his name but a blistering start to the season in Scarlets colours could soon see that change.
7. Steffon Armitage (Toulon)
Armitage may not be on England's radar at the moment, but he continues to shine in the Top 14 in France where his efforts have helped propel Toulon to the top of the league - most recently with a try in their win against Mont de Marsan at the weekend.
8. Thomas Waldrom (Leicester)
England's Kiwi-born No.8 bagged a brace against Premiership newcomers London Welsh and displayed the kind of dynamic ball-carrying that made his name.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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
Tom Hamilton reports back from the launch of the Guinness PRO12 where there is a renewed sense of optimism with all of the off-field changes to the league
So much for the great Australian revival, writes Greg Growden. It now has the potential of going off the rails after the capitulation at Eden Park
The latest Week in Pictures takes in photographs from the Rugby Championship, the Top 14 and the southern hemisphere domestic scene