Team of the Week: Scotland dominate after Six Nations opening round

We pick the standout players from the weekend’s Six Nations opening round, as Scotland dominate alongside French, Welsh and Irish representation…

15. Stuart Hogg (Scotland)

Scotland skipper Hogg led by example in their historic Twickenham victory, beating eight defenders in attack, and was more threatening on his own than the entire England side.

The full-back made 88 metres with ball in hand – no one on the pitch made more – 13 carries and two clean breaks in a marvellous display.

14. Teddy Thomas (France)

France registered a half century of points in a crushing victory away to Italy on Saturday, with wing Thomas running riot in Rome.

On the face of it, statistics of two tackles and five carries is not much, but it is what Thomas did when he had the ball that was first rate: 65 metres in attack, seven defenders beaten, two clean breaks, two try assists and two tries.

If rumours of his Racing 92 departure prove to be true, then most clubs in Europe would take on Thomas, such are his attacking qualities in the form of supreme pace and wonderful stepping ability.

13. Robbie Henshaw (Ireland)

We have had to shift Henshaw out on to get him in the side, but the Ireland centre is full value after a magnificent display against Wales in Cardiff.

With Ireland down to 14 men from the 14th minute onwards, Henshaw and co put in a huge effort to dictate large swathes of play, and come the end, will have been disappointed to fall to a defeat despite the numerical deficit.

Henshaw made 19 carries in the Test – bettered only by team-mate Tadhg Beirne – six tackles, one clean break, beat four defenders and created Beirne’s try after a charging run and offload. Ireland missed him badly in his time off for a HIA.

12. Cameron Redpath (Scotland)

Making his Six Nations debut at Twickenham, Scotland’s Redpath belied his international inexperience with a performance of measure and real quality.

The 21-year-old – who almost became an England player in 2018 after earning a call-up, before withdrawing through injury – showed Eddie Jones what he missed out on as the centre was a consistent danger with ball in hand, making 31 metres, a clean break and beating two defenders.

He also earned a turnover and contributed five tackles in a classy and hugely promising display.

11. Duhan van der Merwe (Scotland)

Another man making his Six Nations debut on Saturday (albeit not his Test debut which came in the autumn), wing Van der Merwe was superb against England.

The South Africa-born back made seven carries for 23 metres, beat some five defenders and scored Scotland’s crucial try as he showed great power, strength and hunger to batter his way to the line.

Van der Merwe was a consistent threat, possessing speed and power in abundance. He might very well be a British and Irish Lion before long.

10. Finn Russell (Scotland)

The hardest position to select this week was perhaps 10, as there was no truly brilliant performers.

Even Russell, who showed some lovely touches vs England, was not at his best, but his guile, quality and experience was critical to getting Scotland over the line.

The playmaker made seven carries for 25 metres, beat three defenders, added five tackles and displayed numerous moments of his trademark inventiveness.

9. Antoine Dupont (France)

If out-half was tricky, scrum-half selection was simple. Dupont is playing at a level unmatched currently.

The half-back scored a try and made three more as France destroyed the Azzurri – kicking through for Gael Fickou’s try, offloading brilliantly for Arthur Vincent’s and passing on for one of Thomas’ efforts.

Dupont also made eight carries, 74 metres – no one made more in France colours – and beat two defenders in victory.

1. Wyn Jones (Wales)

It’s not often a loosehead prop is awarded the man of the match in Test rugby, but Wales’ Jones received the official award after victory against Ireland on Sunday.

Congratulations to the #GuinnessSixNations Player of the Match – @wynjones2 🙏 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿#WALvIRE pic.twitter.com/SvjrESeOzr

Jones made eight tackles, 12 carries, one turnover and beat a defender in a display of massive work-rate.

2. George Turner (Scotland)

Scotland visited Twickenham on Saturday with hookers Stuart McInally and Fraser Brown both out injured, meaning Turner was in for his first Six Nations appearance, let alone start.

The dynamic hooker was fantastic at the home of English rugby, as he finished 100 per cent at the lineout, landing all 15 of his throws, while also making nine carries, a clean break and four tackles.

He played until he could not play anymore as he limped off after 67 minutes of huge output, and also formed part of a front row which won two free kicks and two penalties at the scrum.

3. Tomas Francis (Wales)

Francis was in the spotlight from early on in Wales vs Ireland, as it was an illegal clear-out on him from Peter O’Mahony which saw the Ireland flanker red carded in the 14th minute.

The tighthead prop would go on to make a huge 19 tackles in a 66-minute display, while also locking out the Welsh scrum for the full 80.

4. Tadhg Beirne (Ireland)

Perhaps the best performer of the entire weekend ended on a losing side, as Ireland second row Beirne put in an outstanding performance at the Principality Stadium.

The Munster forward made a huge 21 carries – no one on the park made more – while also making 10 tackles, earning two turnovers, claiming four lineouts, beating a defender, making one clean break and scoring a smartly taken try.

In short, Beirne made more carries and tackles than any other Irishman, while he was also phenomenally the top breakdown arrival on both sides of the ball. With Ireland down a man, Beirne played like two or three. An exceptional display.

5. Jonny Gray (Scotland)

Up against his Exeter Chiefs partner Jonny Hill and serial winner Maro Itoje, Scotland’s Gray bettered them across the park and at the set-piece.

The lock made 16 carries – the most of any player at Twickenham – 12 tackles, one turnover, five lineout takes, a further lineout steal and also beat a defender in attack.

6. Justin Tipuric (Wales)

There is perhaps no more important player to Welsh rugby at the moment than flanker Tipuric.

For all Wales’ poor performances and results under Wayne Pivac, Tipuric has shone as a beacon of consistency and talent, and without him on Sunday, Wales would likely have lost even to 14 men.

The back-row made an incredible 29 tackles – five more than the next most, and one of which came three minutes into dead time at the end of the game to stop Garry Ringrose running in for a try – seven carries, one turnover and three lineout takes, while also proving a constant disruption to Irish throws.

7. Hamish Watson (Scotland)

At openside this week, Scotland’s Watson had to get in for a superb display in victory over England at Twickenham.

The all-action flanker made 11 tackles and 12 carries in the victory, as well as beating four defenders when in possession, and ending the game with a vital turnover.

8. Matt Fagerson (Scotland)

Our eighth Scot in the team this week takes the No 8 shirt, as 22-year-old Fagerson laid down a marker on the international scene.

In his first ever Six Nations start, Fagerson was a bully with ball in hand, repeatedly making ground and exhibiting his tremendous power as he battled through and past England players.

The No 8 made 16 carries at Twickenham – no one made more – made 30 metres with ball in hand, claimed a lineout steal and beat two defenders.

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