Rugby’s Autumn internationals kicked off with the Wallabies walloping an underwhelming Wales, Argentina dousing the Japanese flames, and Ireland slaughtering a certain well-known team of giants. So who made our team of the week?
15. Israel Folau (Australia)
An excellent round for fullbacks. Israel Folau got engaged with a New Zealand netballer recently and also seems to have got engaged with rugby again. Dangerous every time he touched the ball, he noses out brave Rob Kearney who added an abrasive edge against the All Blacks.
14. Dane Haylett-Petty (Australia)
Another tightly contested spot but Haylett-Petty has really found his feet in the latter part of the season and is now putting himself in positions where he can use his express pace with clear horizons. He keeps out Matias Moroni of Argentina who scored a brace of tries against Japan.
13. Tevita Kuridrani (Australia)
Kuridrani disappeared from the Wallaby squad in the Rugby Championship after a disappointing Super Rugby season and the emergence of Samu Kerevi. He appeared back to the blockbusting centre of old against Wales, scoring a try and making four clean breaks, but he will face sterner tests ahead. He keeps out Matias Orlando who made 112 running metres against Japan.
12. Robbie Henshaw (Ireland)
Henshaw scored Ireland’s final try against the All Blacks which snuffed out their comeback. He was an aggressive, in-your-face presence all game and for this reason he edges out the excellent Reece Hodge, who proved he is more than an extra-terrestrial punter and place kicker, striking up an incisive combination with Israel Folau.
11. Santiago Cordero (Argentina)
The Argentine firefly zipped in for two tries against Japan and his consistent involvement means he claims left wing ahead of Simon Zebo, who made some spectacular but infrequent plays against the All Blacks.
10. Bernard Foley (Australia)
Probably the hardest position to decide on, and it is not often that a player who scores 29 points would miss out on any team of the week selection, but despite Nicolas Sanchez’s exemplary display against Japan, Bernard Foley’s influence in controlling the game against Wales was greater. Johnny Sexton also gave a high class display against the All Blacks.
9. Conor Murray (Ireland)
The running threat Murray posed led to a scintillating solo try, and also meant that the All Blacks’ rush defense hung back waiting for the Munster man’s next move. It was a key part of the Irish win and Murray claims his spot easily ahead of the Pumas’ Martin Landajo, who set alight the Argentinian backline.
8. Facundo Isa (Argentina)
I can hear the roars of “Where is Heaslip?!” but a cold statistical analysis will give you the answer. 123 metres ran, 13 carries, three clean breaks – Wales will feel the pain next week. ‘Isa’ is a legend in the making.
7. Jordi Murphy/ Josh Van Der Flier (Ireland)
The Irish pack and especially the back three harried the All Blacks into mistakes and we’ve decided to award the flanker position to unlucky Murphy who played an excellent 25 minutes before being injured and his replacement Josh Van Flier who made an incredible 13 tackles in the rest of the game. Next car off the rank out of the teams was Michael Hooper for Australia, who seems to be rediscovering his running game.
6. CJ Stander (Ireland)
CJ Stander stood out against the All Blacks, finishing top tackler and also winning two crucial turnovers. Outstanding. He finished a few furlongs ahead of the next best blindside flanker, the All Blacks’ Liam Squire who provided some strong go-forward power against the wave of green.
5. Adam Coleman (Australia)
Another Wallaby who has come good late in the season. Coleman has a bit of Aussie mongrel about him, and also an eye for opportunity. Fourteen carries and fourteen tackles means that he doesn’t shirk hard work either. He keeps out Devin Toner of Ireland, who was disruptive presence in the lineout, stopping a lot of All Black set piece momentum.
4. Kyosuke Kajikawa (Japan)
Kaji-who? You might ask. Well, Kajikawa made his debut against the Pumas last weekend and made 13 tackles and caught six line outs. What did you do on your Saturday? Donnacha Ryan also impressed with an athletic performance for the Irish.
3. Tadhg Furlong (Ireland)
Used the choke tackle brilliantly to stop an ominous All Black rolling maul, and exemplified the Irish spirit at Soldier Field – aggressive but smart and strategic. Salope Kepu was mobile and powerful in the scrums against Wales.
2. Stephen Moore (Australia)
Moore had his finest game of the season against Wales, scoring a try, making 11 tackles and winning two turnovers. Rory Best also played to a standstill for Ireland, while Dane Coles (All Blacks) and Agustin Creevy (Argentina) had some typically classy moments.
1. Jack McGrath (Ireland)
Strong tackling and work at the breakdown. The Pumas’ Lucas Noguera Paz was also industrious, completing ten tackles and even managing an offload.
Nation count: Ireland 6; Australia 6; Argentina 2; Japan 1; Wales 0; New Zealand 0.