Heineken Cup - Team of the Round
January 22, 2012
Simon Zebo scored three tries for Munster against Northampton © Getty Images
The final round of Heineken Cup Pool action did not want for drama, but which players stood out enough to earn a place in our Team of the Round?
15. Rob Kearney (Leinster)
The former British & Irish Lions fullback is approaching his best form and scored one of the tries of the tournament against Montpellier. A great line from deep, a dab on the gas and a great fend to finish under the posts.
14. Sitiveni Sivivatu (Clermont Auvergne)
The big All Black was initially slow to settle in France, but now he's producing the sort of fireworks that made him one of the world's most dangerous wingers. Outstanding workrate.
13. Keith Earls (Munster)
Timing is everything. With the Six Nations around the corner and Brian O'Driscoll still injured, Earls threw his hat in the ring as a possible replacement with a top-drawer display in Munster's rout of Northampton.
12. Wesley Fofana (Clermont Auvergne)
The coming man of French rugby, Fofana looked so dangerous on the few occasions that Clermont gave him some space. Proved that under pressure his quick feet and incisive bran do not desert him.
11. Simon Zebo (Munster)
The Ireland Under-20 winger was in irrepressible form against Northampton. His three tries demonstrated his pace and finishing instincts, and they were all scored with a smile. A star is born perhaps?
10. Niall O'Connor (Connacht)
There's benefit to be had in knowing your surroundings. Faced with a Galway gale and stinging rain, O'Connor kept his nerve to land the three penalties that gave Connacht a maiden Heineken Cup win and scalp - Harlequins - that a few other sides have failed to take this season.
9. Morgan Parra (Clermont Auvergne)
It was a classic one on one battle between the scrum-halves in this one, with Parra coming out on top against the impressive Ruan Pienaar. Hustled and harried his pack, kicked well from hand and the tee. Classy stuff.
1. Lionel Faure (Clermont Auvergne)
The former France international ran out of steam early in the second-half, but his early showing was fairly special. Alongside his strong set-piece work was a stunning tap-tackle to fell Ulster wing Craig Gilroy - an intervention that may well have saved the result.
2. Ti'i Paulo (Clermont Auvergne) If Faure saved the result, Paulo secured it. The former Crusaders hooker was a ball of energy after coming on in the second-half and he made the perfect impact off the bench, peeling away from a ruck to catch Ulster out with a vital try.
3. Brian Mujati (Northampton Saints)
Scant consolation perhaps, but Mujati's dominance at the scrum was the sole high point for the Saints. Two penalty tries tells only part of the story though, but failings elsewhere cannot take away from his mastery of the set-piece.
4. Mike McCarthy (Connacht)
The Connacht pack was imperious against 'Quins and while John Muldoon is unlucky to miss out on selection after a storming performance at blindside, McCarthy underlined his international credentials with an assured display.
5. Paul O'Connell (Munster)
The big man is back. He has been growing in stature week on week and was quite outstanding around the field in Milton Keynes. One of the great leaders around at the moment.
6. Aaron Shingler (Scarlets)
The Welsh region booked a place in the Amlin Challenge Cup quarters thanks to Shingler's intervention - a spectacular 90 metre interception that saw the blindside outsprint Scotland wing Max Evans.
7. Gerhard Vosloo (Clermont Auvergne)
A small reshuffle here, as Vosloo deserved a spot in the side. A constanst threat at the breakdown, where his timing was spot on throughout, he kept Clermont in there against an Ulster back-row that has swamped many other sides.
8. James Coughlan (Munster)
When his side needed some space after a battering at the scrum, Coughlan obliged. He was part of a Munster back-row that took Northampton apart, and he ran himself into the ground. Also played a strong supporting role as Munster tormented the Saints at the restart.
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