15. Leigh Halfpenny
The diminutive Welsh fullback now looks a certainty to start for the Lions in Australia. Was assured in his kicking from the placed ball, erring only once while faced with some tough positions and distances. No problems under the high ball and an attacking danger for his side.
14. Sean Maitland
The Kiwi was not given too many attacking duties but was part of a winning Scottish team that made 144 tackles. Dominated Keith Earls in aerial duels and forced a crucial penalty when he pounced on the Munster winger and forced him into not releasing. Wales’ Alex Cuthbert was good going forward but suspect in defence.
Sean Maitland and Dave Denton celebrate. (©INPHO/Dan Sheridan)
13. Manu Tuilagi
The big man was bloodied and battered by the end of his team’s home win over France. Showed his eye for a scoring opportunity when he pounced on a ball kicked loose from a French ruck. Plucked the ball from his ankles before racing around and clear of Vincent Clerc for a crucial try.
12. Wesley Fofana
Shifted back into the inside centre role that he favours and showed why he is such a threat in midfield. Late in the first half he took the ball and pace and went on a 50-metre sprint that left two Englishmen and Chris Ashton [twice] for dead before diving over. A danger with ball in hand all day.
11. Mike Brown
The Harlequins man is settling into his role on the left wing well and is crucial to England’s Grand Slam cause. Fielded a couple of high balls, shut down the lethal finisher Vincent Clerc and linked up well with Owen Farrell and Tuilagi in attack. Earls was good going forward for Ireland but defence and awareness of supporting teammates were both lacking.
10. Dan Biggar
Finally starting to adapt to his non-place-kicking role as Welsh outhalf. Biggar benefited from quick ball and a dominant pack but used the time and space to pin the Italians back and send bombs skyward for Halfpenny, Cuthbert and George North to chase. Was keen in the tackle throughout.
9. Mike Phillips
For the second week running, Phillips has demonstrated that he is the form scrum-half in Test match rugby, north of the hemisphere at least. Revelled in the abrasive action at scrum and breakdown, never shirked the physical Italian pressure and delivered speedy ball for his outhalf and backline. Ben Youngs had a good hour for England before he was replaced.
1. Joe Marler
Marler has been the bedrock of the English scrum for the past nine months and it is amazing to think that he only made his Test debut last June. He had a slight upper-hand over Nicolas Mas in the scrum and showed up in broken play for vital yard gains and tackles. Wales’ Gethin Jenkins was not far behind.
2. Richie Hibbard
Found his lineout jumpers, Evans and Coombs, with ease and showed up as a dangerous, extra loose forward as Wales fronted up against Italy. His solidity and steady throws have coincided with two Welsh wins in a row. Ross Ford outshone Rory Best [the current Lions front-runner] at Murrayfield.
3. Geoff Cross
The Scottish prop joins an ever-lengthening list of players to get the ‘I rumbled Tom Court’ t-shirt. Cross was excellent in winning vital scrum penalties to relieve Irish pressure at Murrayfield. Dave Kilcoyne came on to stem the tide but did not fare much better. Made nine tackles too on a triumphant day.
4. Joe Launchbury
England’s leading tackler as the home side rallied well to beat France. The lock made 15 tackles and just missed one while he left well in the lineout. His partnership with Geoff Parling has been a superb boon to coach Stuart Lancaster.
5. Jim Hamilton
The official stats say Hamilton made just one metre from his carrying attempts but the lock was a defensive colossus and was crucial in his side’s unlikely win. A menace to Rory Best on the Irish lineout, he stole one and disrupted two more as well as securing six darts from Ross Ford. Made five tackles and was excellent at slowing Ireland at the breakdown.
6. Rob Harley
If you are an Irish supporter you will have cursed the flanker on at least five occasions with play that verged on the illegal. Grappled while offside, placed hands in Irish rucks and tackled an airborne Peter O’Mahony. All that adds up to, if you are a Scottish rugby fan, was a briliantly disruptive day at the office. Nine tackles and two lineout steals.
7. Chris Robshaw
Immense. The England captain was named as his team’s man of the match for the second game running and was one of the main reason’s his team beat a courageous France. 16 ball carries, nine tackles, four lineout claims and one turnover are the bare statistics. His heart, drive and commitment inspired those around him. Closest Irish player to TOTW was Ireland’s openside Sean O’Brien.
Louis Piccamoles: His best efforts went unrewarded. (©INPHO/James Crombie)
8. Louis Piccamoles
One of the weekend’s best performers, Piccamoles did not deserve to be on the losing side. The Toulouse forward made 81 metres off 17 carries and beat four English defenders on his various forays upfield. His energy and grit helped France get into a winning position before Philippe Saint-André and Manu Tuilagi combined to fashion a third consecutive 6 Nations loss.
*What do you think? Any players worthy of their spot?