Lions Watch: Team of the Week
December 24, 2012
Wasps' Billy Vunipola crashes into Sale's Rob Miller and into our Team of the Week © Getty Images
The Aviva Premiership and RaboDirect PRo12 returned this week as countdown to the eagerly-awaited British & Irish Lions tour to Australia continued.
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. Mike Brown (Harlequins)
The Harlequins fullback was in sensational form in the wet at Franklin's Gardens, fielding every high ball and counter-attacking with verve and intelligence.
14. Niall Morris (Leicester)
The Irish winger's burgeoning reputation took another boost with two well-taken tries for Leicester Tigers against London Irish.
13.Manu Tuilagi (Leicester)
With all the winter rain about, it was hardly a great weekend for outside centres. But Tuilagi was in good form again for the Tigers and his mere presence created opportunities for others, namely Morris.
12. Tom Cassons (Harlequins)
The 22-year-old was selected ahead of Jordan Turner-Hall for Harlequins and repaid Conor O'Shea with a superb display for the table-toppers, especially in defence.
11. Andrew Trimble (Ulster)
The Ireland winger was on the scoresheet once again for Ulster and his domestic form could put him in line for a central role for Ireland in the Six Nations.
10. Charlie Hodgson (Saracens)
All the talk is about whether Jonny Wilkinson can force his way into the Lions squad, but on current form Hodgson is only player up there with Ireland's Jonny Sexton.
9. Richard Wigglesworth (Saracens)
A second appearance in a row in the Team of the Week for the Sarries scrum-half who scored a try and revelled in the tactical and technical challenge of a wet day in Bath.
1. Tom Court (Ulster)
The Ireland international was the cornerstone to Ulster's impressive scrummaging power as they returned to winning ways against Leinster.
2. Rory Best (Ulster)
Ulster's setpiece was bang on against Leinster with Best enjoying another impressive performance. Currently in pole position to go as Lions No.1 hooker.
3. Matt Stevens (Saracens)
Against his former club, Stevens put in a forceful performance on the tight-head and was notable in the loose as the Sarries pack outmuscled their opponents.
4. George Robson (Harlequins)
Against physical and technically proficient opponents, Robson controlled the lineout for Harlequins and was a force to be reckoned with around the park.
5. Steve Borthwick (Saracens)
The ex-England captain led Sarries to a convincing win over his former side Bath at The Rec, masterminding their destruction of the Bath lineout while safeguarding theirs.
6. Robbie Diack (Ulster)
The Irish flanker drew fulsome praise from coach Mark Anscombe as Ulster's pack dominated Leinster in Belfast.
7. Aaron Shingler (Scarlets)
The Wales international shone for the Scarlets on his return from injury with his energy and workrate ensured he eclipsed his national skipper Sam Warburton.
8. Billy Vunipola (Wasps)
Nick Easter maintained his terrific form for Harlequins but Vunipola had a barnstorming game for Wasps. If England have consigned Easter to the past, Vunipola may well be part of their future.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
They came to Murrayfield looking to put down a marker, but Scotland were sent home with their tails between their legs, writes Tristan Barclay
The controversial tackling technique will be in full swing in Dublin on Sunday, writes Conor O'Shea, and could be a decisive factor for Ireland
"This team deserves to be recognised as the greatest of all time." Huw Richards looks at Gareth Edwards' final match for Wales