Ireland are in pole position to claim their first Six Nations championship since 2015 after securing a bonus-point victory over Wales while England came out of Murrayfield with nothing to show after Scotland secured their first Calcutta Cup victory in a decade.
England’s quest for a three-in-row Six Nations championship could be over by the next round if they fail to beat France in Paris and if Ireland get a win over Scotland in Dublin.
After a dramatic weekend of action, we have picked out Six Nations team of the weekend.
15. Hugo Bonneval (France)
Hugo Bonneval was a very good attacking outlet for France in their victory over Italy in Marseilles. His second-half try was crucial to his side finally getting some breathing room over a stubborn Italian outfit. He showed some great link-up play with Remy Grosso in the build-up to that try too.
14. Keith Earls (Ireland)
Is this the third week in a row that Earls has made our team of the weekend? As ever, the Munster flyer put in another accomplished performance on the right wing which included a scintillating break and offload to Conor Murray. Fantastic in the air, as ever, his performance had a big bearing on the game.
13. Huw Jones (Scotland)
This one was really difficult as Huw Jones, Chris Farrell and Mathieu Basteraud all put in immense performances at the outside centre channel for their respective sides. However, we must give it to Jones who scored two tries against England in what was a mammoth occasion.
Four clean line-breaks, including latching on to that wonderful Finn Russell pass were the highlights in an immense display in Edinburgh.
12. Bundee Aki (Ireland)
This was another tough one with Tommaso Castello putting in a great defensive shift for Italy but we are giving it to Aki who looks at home at international level since making his debut in November.
The Connacht man showed great footwork and strength to power over from close-range in what was a very important try for Ireland as it secured the lead for Joe Schmidt’s side going into the halftime break, a lead they never relinquished.
11. Remy Grosso (France)
If there is one player the Italians won’t want to see anytime soon then it’s Remy Grosso, the rampaging Clermont winger destroyed the Italian defence on numerous occasions with 105 metres made from just 11 carries.
He linked up sublimely with Bonneval for that crucial try in the second half too.
10. Finn Russell (Scotland)
We’re big fans of Finn Russell here in Pundit Arena HQ and the 25-year-old put in an incredible performance which saw his side win their first Calcutta Cup in 10 years. He was instrumental in Scotland’s three tries and the pass he laid on for Huw Jones in the build-up to Sean Maitland’s first-half score will go down as one of the greatest in this year’s championship.
9. Maxime Machenaud (France)
Maxime Machenaud is crucial to this French team in terms of his ability from the tee. The scrum-half kicked half of his side’s 37 points and his performance kept France out of reach as Jacques Brunel secured his first win of this year’s Six Nations.
1. Cian Healy (Ireland)
The Leinster loosehead looks like he is back to his best which is a huge testament to the 30-year-old’s character and determination. He has gone ahead of Jack McGrath in the pecking order at provincial and international level which is no mean feat. Healy contributed to a solid scrum platform for his side while he was excellent in the loose which yielded a much-needed second-half try for his side.
2. Stuart McInally (Scotland)
One of his best displays in a Scotland jersey, Stuart McInally put in a dogged defensive effort with 10 tackles while he was assured in the setpiece at both scrum and lineout time.
3. Andrew Porter (Ireland)
The fears Ireland would be significantly weakened due to Tadhg Furlong’s hamstring injury were unfounded as Andrew Porter put in a really solid 67-minute performance. He got the better of the tricky operator that is Rob Evans at scrum time while he was a solid outlet in the carry, too.
4. James Ryan (Ireland)
Looks at home at this level and young man’s career trajectory shows no bounds. Was excellent from an attacking perspective, racking up 11 carries and he provides a much-needed alternative for Ireland to get front-foot ball.
5. Jonny Gray (Scotland)
Led an amazing Scottish defensive effort with a whopping 24 tackles. There are few who can match his work-rate in defence and his performance spearheaded a rearguard action which kept England to just one try.
6. John Barclay (Scotland)
The Scotland captain led by example as he produced a dominating physical display which the English back-row forwards had no answer to. His work at the breakdown relieved pressure time and time again which prevented England from developing any significant number of phases throughout the game.
7. Dan Leavy (Ireland)
The depth at openside for Ireland is a huge strength. With Sean O’Brien and Josh van der Flier ruled out through injury, Ireland still has someone of Dan Leavy’s quality to call upon. The Leinster forward was excellent at the breakdown on Saturday and as Alun Wyn Jones found out, there is no shifting him once he latches onto the ball on the deck.
8. CJ Stander (Ireland)
CJ Stander has the unenviable task of being Ireland’s main outlet for providing much-needed front foot ball. The Munsterman often had some devastating Welsh line speed to contend with but time and time again, the 27-year-old took the ball into contact to get Ireland’s attacking plays underway. Topped the carrying charts with 21 to his name.