The weekend’s Autumn internationals mixed cliffhangers in Dublin, Edinburgh and Paris with a touch of controversy in Twickenham. So which individual players stood up to the pressure and excelled to make our Team of the Week?
15 Stuart Hogg (Scotland)
In a strong weekend for fullbacks, noone got close to Hogg. From his first run to his heartbreaking last he exemplified the Scottish ambition and intent. Game leading 131 metres run, 16 carries, 2 clean breaks and five defenders beaten. Deserved to score in the final minute but was thwarted by the #10 in our team. Back of the Week and Player of the Week.
14 Jonny May (England)
The slippery Leicester Tiger scored one try and set up another against the Wallabies at Twickenham. Teddy Thomas and Courtnall Skosan also showed out for France and South Africa respectively in Paris.
13 Huw Jones (Scotland)
The maturity of the young centre’s play makes it hard to believe he’s only amassed 10 caps so far. Added his 6th international try in a career in which his play has already reached world class levels.
12 Sonny Bill Williams (New Zealand)
SBW’s moment of madness in Paris, which earned him a yellow card and cost his side a penalty try, overshadowed his improving general play. This upward trend in form gathered steam in Edinburgh where he set up two second-half All Black tries with a brilliant grubber and offload.
11 Nemani Nadolo (Fiji)
The giant Fijian palms off Rieko Ioane and Elliot Daly to squeeze into the left wing shirt after a typical mix of brutal power and subtle finesse against Ireland.
10 Beauden Barrett (New Zealand)
Scot Finn Russell and Ireland’s Joey Carbery impressed, but Beauden Barrett make the huge plays when it mattered to secure victory for his side, scoring a scintillating try and then using his electric pace to run down a tryline bound Stuart Hogg and deny Scotland a chance at making history.
9 Rhys Webb (Wales)
Not a stellar week for halfbacks but the pick if the bunch of the little men was Welsh firebrand Webb who managed to ignite Wales just enough to overcome a dour Georgian side.
8 Laurent Picamoles (France)
Picamoles was uncharacteristically ineffective against the All Blacks a week earlier, but the bruising no.8 was back in full cry against the Springboks with 16 carries, 94 metres run and an incredible 25 tackles. Our Forward of the Week.
7 Siyamthanda Kolisi (South Africa)
The Western Stormer has become an integral part of the Springbok forward pack and he has continued his impressive Rugby Championship form. Must be considered one of the best at his craft in the venerated 7 jersey.
6 Vaea Fifita (New Zealand)
Fifita has made literal and figurative giant strides in his career this season. Instructed to get more involved in the tight stuff by Steve Hansen, the Wellington Hurricane has responded and in the match against Scotland he showed the right mix of gritty grunt work and his natural exuberant running.
5 Leone Nakarawa (Fiji)
Seventeen tackles, one lineout steal, a few of his trademark offloads and the world class Nakarawa was an easy selection after the Dublin game.
4 Joe Launchbury (England)
19 mighty tackles and incredible stamina sees this underrated player soar above other contenders to grab the #4 shirt.
3 Salope Kepu (Australia)
On a frustrating afternoon for the Wallabies, Kepu gave the side strength in the scrums and mobility around the field.
2 Codie Taylor (New Zealand)
The deputy hooker might soon be challenging the incumbent (Dane Coles) if Codie Taylor’s 2017 form is any indication. Showed pace to score a try, made 57 running metres and was tidy in his lineout throwing. Managed to keep rampaging Springbok Malcolm Marx on the bench after another strong showing against France.
1 Kane Hames (New Zealand)
Was given a hard time by the New Zealand media but after shaking off some rust, Hames has been the late season revelation for the All Blacks. His destructive scrummaging power was perfectly exemplified when he returned from the bench to front a seven man All Black scrum in a precarious position 5 metres from their line, and won a crucial penalty after folding his opposite in two.
New Zealand 5; Scotland 2; England 2; Fiji 2; Wales 1; France 1; Australia 1; South Africa 1.