Lions Watch: Team of the Week
September 10, 2012
Could Bath's Kyle Eastmond dance his way onto a Lions tour next summer? © Getty Images
With the Aviva Premiership, RaboDirect PRO12 and Top 14 campaigns all underway, 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. Lions coach Warren Gatland has revealed that he is prepared to cast the selection net beyond international rugby so expect competition to be fierce.
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 Quins fullback delivered an eye-catching display in his side's Aviva Premiership mauling of London Welsh. Solid under the high ball and full of confidence and running with ball in hand, he looks destined for another strong season.
14. Kyle Eastmond (Bath)
The former England rugby league international may have taken his time to find his feet at The Rec but had no trouble dancing through the Wasps defence on his way to an outstanding try. That kind of game-breaking form could see him become the latest dual code international in the coming months and beyond that - who knows?
13. Manu Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers)
Tigers boss Richard Cockerill thinks Tuilagi will become the best outside centre in the world within the next 12 months with a two-try showing - the first arguably an early contender for try of the season - against Worcester at Welford Road the latest reminder of what a special talent he already is.
12. Matt Banahan (Bath)
The strong-running centre created the initial opening and then finished off Bath's opening try against Wasps at The Rec. But the former England international ended the game in a knee brace having limped off in the closing stages.
11. Chris Ashton (Saracens)
Those who thought Ashton may have had a little trouble settling in at Sarries following his high-profile switch from Northampton need not worry with the England international winger bagging his third try of the season in just his second outing for his new club.
10. Freddie Burns (Gloucester)
The Cherry and Whites' playmaker kicked 25 points and created the try which swung the match against London Irish. Currently in the England Saxons ranks, he faces some stiff competition if he is to step up to the Test side but he's going the right way about it.
9. Karl Dickson (Harlequins)
Handed the chance to impress in the Quins' No.9 shirt with Danny Care relegated to the bench, Dickson grabbed the opportunity with both hands by pulling the strings in his side's dominant win against London Welsh - in front of England coach Stuart Lancaster.
1. Tom Court (Ulster)
The Ireland international loose-head made a significant impact off the bench as Ulster over-hauled Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium. With a little help from Kiwi John Afoa they soon had their rivals going in reverse.
2. Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints)
The Saints skipper produced a Man of the Match performance and made it two tries in as many games as his side maintained their unbeaten start to the season. He may have had his differences with Gatland in the past but he could benefit from the 'clean slate' promised by the Lions boss.
3. Aaron Jarvis (Ospreys)
Ospreys' tight-head Adam Jones is thought by many to be a banker for next summer's Lions tour as long as he regains his fitness but it is his team-mate Jarvis who has been a stand out performer for the Welsh region in their opening PRO12 clashes.
4. Graham Kitchener (Leicester Tigers)
A Leicester whirlwind hit Worcester early on in their Premiership clash on Saturday with second row Kitchener playing his part with some lung-busting running. On his first start of the season, he was not lacking endurance either with the England Saxons international popping up for a crucial try in the closing stages.
5. George Robson (Harlequins)
Quins may have battered London Welsh into submission in their Premiership clash but it was lock Robson who set the tone with a try after just three minutes with his impressive industry also rewarded with another try. England's mid-week skipper on their recent tour to South Africa - could he be in line for higher honours?
6. Stephen Ferris (Ulster)
Ireland's international contingent are set to feature more prominently here as they get back in the saddle with their respective provinces with flanker Ferris leading the way. He appeared off the bench in Ulster's narrow victory over Ospreys, helping to turn the tide with some thunderous tackles.
7. Chris Robshaw (Harlequins)
The Quins captain has a lot to live up to following an outstanding 2011-12 season and has set about it the right way with his tireless work-rate a key factor in his side's Premiership victory over London Welsh. Already mentioned as a potential Lions captain, expect him to feature here often if he keeps this up.
8. Ben Morgan (Gloucester)
The England international opened his try-scoring account for the Cherry and Whites with his side's opening score in their victory over London Irish. It was a superb individual effort combining pace and strength but his influence stretched beyond that as Gloucester ended a run of seven straight Premiership defeats.
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