Lions Watch: Six Nations battle intensifies
February 11, 2013
Wales' Leigh Halfpenny delivered a man of the match performance in France © PA Photos
The countdown to the eagerly-awaited British & Irish Lions tour to Australia continued with a brutal and sometimes thrilling round of Six Nations action at the weekend.
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. Stuart Hogg (Scotland)
A bolter from the blue, the Scotland fullback is racing into Lions contention on the back of two terrific performances, which have included two tries - so far.
14. Leigh Halfpenny (Wales)
Such is the competition at fullback at present, Halfpenny is shunted on the wing here but that is no slight on what was a nerveless kicking display and wonderful all-round effort in the cauldron of the Stade De France.
13. Brad Barritt (England)
The England centre put in a huge defensive effort against Ireland - just like normal then - as he helped subdue the wonderful Brian O'Driscoll.
12. Matt Scott (Scotland)
A tough call on the back of impressive display from Jamie Roberts, but Scott edges it with a massive defensive effort for Scotland - making 14 tackles against the Italians - and some nice touches in attack, capping it off with his first try for his country.
11. George North (Wales)
North has suffered as much as any during Wales' recent poor run. And like the Welsh he was still struggling to find his timing and direction in attack for much of Saturday's clash but he dogged it out and ultimately proved his class with a superb finish for a game-breaking try.
10. Owen Farrell (England)
Farrell kicked four of his six attempts at goal off a muddy surface at the Aviva Stadium and was a calm, steady and highly capable influence throughout for England. It was only a pity Jonathan Sexton withdrew injured prematurely so the anticipated match-up failed to spark.
9. Greig Laidlaw (Scotland)
The Scotland scrum-half delivered a faultless kicking display - landing four conversions and two penalties from six kicks at goal - and took on much of the play-making duties as he claimed the man-of-the-match award against Italy. Ben Youngs also had a magnificent game in Dublin.
Chris Robshaw was key for England again © PA Photos
1. Ryan Grant (Scotland)
The 27-year-old is fast becoming a genuine Lions contender and he drew specific praise from Scott Johnson after overcoming an early injury to guts it out against the Italian front-row.
2. Rory Best (Ireland)
While opposite number Tom Youngs struggled in the rain in Ireland, Best was a key element of the Irish lineout which largely eclipsed their rivals' set-piece. He was a physical presence throughout and his industry carried him to all corners.
3. Euan Murray (Scotland)
The Scotland tight-head was at the heart of a massive effort from the Scottish scrum, which held their own against a renowned Italian front-row, and he still had the energy to top the tackle stats alongside captain Kelly Brown.
4. Andrew Coombes (Wales)
On only his second appearance for Wales, Coombes made 13 tackles and came up with three turnovers during a tireless effort against the French.
5. Richie Gray (Scotland)
The Scotland lock had another good game for Scotland as he shone in defence and was another potent lineout option. England's Geoff Parling also deserves a mention after a crucial steal at the death in Ireland and 10 tackles in that game.
6. Rob Harley (Scotland)
On his first start for his country the 22-year-old was superb. He matched his back-row colleagues for work-rate, made a decisive turnover on Sergio Parisse metres from the Scottish line and emerged as a great 6ft 6in option in the line-out.
7. Chris Robshaw (England)
The England captain was named Man of the Match in Ireland after a lung-bursting performance that included 14 tackles and typified England's gutsy display in the rain in Dublin.
8. Ryan Jones (Wales)
A massive effort from the flanker as he returned to the Welsh team as skipper in place of the injured Sam Warburton. Jones made some big hits and played a crucial role in leading Wales to their first win at the Stade de France since 2005.
© 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