Lions Watch: Team of the Week
November 26, 2012
Jonathan Sexton scored two tries for Ireland against the Pumas © PA Photos
With the autumn internationals building to a dramatic climax, 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.
The Home Nations were some way from their best this past weekend 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. Alex Goode (England)
The Saracens fullback was one of those to offers further evidence that England are on the right track - even if the results are not going their way at the moment. Looked largely assured at the back and lively when afforded the opportunity to attack the Boks.
14. Tommy Bowe (Ireland)
Bowe was one of the primary beneficiaries of a much improved Irish performance as he touched down twice for Ireland, both times collecting chip kicks. But also made a great try-saving tackle and showed his all-round quality.
13. Jonathan Davies (Wales)
The Wales centre made one memorable break that led to a sweeping counter attack on his return from injury. He has the crucial ability of a No.13 to make the right decisions at the right time. Also solid in defence.
12. Gordon D'Arcy (Ireland)
Scott Williams made an impressive cameo off the bench for Wales but D'Arcy continued his impressive form in the Irish midfeld, where he proved a key cog in the green machine.
11. Craig Gilroy (Ireland)
Much was expected from the Ulster winger on his full debut and how he delivered. He scored a terrific try and was a threat throughout with his pace, quick feet and awareness of space, which resulted in a remarkable ten defenders beaten.
10. Jonathan Sexton (Ireland)
The Ireland fly-half scored 19 points against the Pumas and played a central role in igniting the Irish backline. He appears to have few contenders for the Lions No.10 jersey at present.
9. Conor Murray (Ireland)
It was a frustrating afternoon for fellow Lions contenders Ben Youngs, Danny Care and Mike Phillips, but Murray revelled behind a pack march forward in Dublin.
1. Alex Corbisiero (England)
Corbisiero was thrown back into the starting line-up and produced a destructive performance against the giant Springbok scrum, especially in the first half.
2. Richardt Strauss (Ireland)
The South-African born Leinster hooker scored his first try for Ireland in his second international appearance. Also linked well in the setpiece.
3. Dan Cole (England)
Along with Corbisiero and Tom Youngs in the England front row, Cole helped shunt a strong South Africa pack backwards at Twickenham.
4. Donnacha Ryan (Ireland)
The Ireland lock was a towering presence during the victory over Argentina. He was Ireland's primary source in the line-out and matched that with a huge effort in defence and at the breakdown.
5. Joe Launchbury (England)
The young Wasps lock justified his place in the starting XV with a committed and convincing display in the engine room against the physicality and ferocity of a big South African pack.
6. Tom Wood (England)
Wood was drafted back into the England starting line-up to add muscle and competitiveness at the breakdown and he largely delivered in those areas. Ended the match as England's top tackler.
7. Sam Warburton (Wales)
The Wales captain returned to the starting line-up for a mouth-watering clash with Richie McCaw and he impressed against the world's best despite his team being outclassed by the All Blacks.
8. Toby Faletau (Wales)
The Wales No.8 had his best performance of this autumn against the world champions, working tirelessly in defence and at the breakdown and making some in roads (80 metres with ball in hand) into the All Blacks' defence.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
"Some people have it from day one and Brian did." We talk to the two players who made their Ireland debuts alongside Brian O'Driscoll back in June 1999
Despite having lost all four of their 2014 Six Nations games, the future of Italian rugby is bright with the team showing a new youthful core, argues Enrico Borra
"The loudest cheer at a rugby game, away from social media gimmicks, pumping music and pyrotechnics will always be for a try." Tom Hamilton on the Twickenham atmosphere
"The only thing that will stop this England team from becoming a great team is themselves. They need to ask themselves 'what can we be?'" The Phil Vickery column