England pair Jamie George and Jack Willis make the cut and there’s room for Damian Penaud’s brilliance for France despite losing Dublin epic… but how many Ireland players make CHRIS FOY’S Six Nations team of the week?
- Ireland outlined their No 1 credentials in beating France in a Six Nations classic
- Likes of Hugo Keenan and James Ryan complete array of Ireland names in team
- England get their first win on the board with victory over Italy at Twickenham
There is a strong Irish flavour to this line-up and that’s a fair reflection of their brilliance in ending France’s long winning run, in a classic encounter in Dublin.
Frankly, several Ireland players not included in my composite team from the second round can consider themselves unlucky, especially back-row pair Peter O’Mahony and Josh van der Flier, the reigning world Player of the Year.
Andy Farrell’s side provided compelling proof that they deserve to be No 1 in the global rankings – and that their status is not unsettling them; far from it.
Hugo Keenan has been consistently superb at full-back and was a shoo-in again, as he was after the opening weekend. He showed his confidence in the way he surged through a gap to score after the pass by Finlay Bealham which opened up a formidable French defence.
Another of the six-strong Leinster contingent to make the cut is Garry Ringrose, who again showed his combative nature in defence and blasted past tired tacklers to score the hosts’ decisive try at the Aviva Stadium.
Finlay Bealham (L) makes the side after his pass which aided Hugo Keenan in breaking through the formidable France defence
Keenan was a shoo-in to make the side after a second consecutive mesmerising performance
Out wide, James Lowe has to be included if it is accepted that the officials were right to award a try after his flying finish in the left corner. They ruled that he had scored legitimately, so the Kiwi recruit deserves his place, just ahead of the rampaging Duhan van der Merwe.
Up front, Irishmen form a core of this pack – including both of Farrell’s starting props. Andrew Porter has excelled since making the difficult switch across to the loosehead side and he also touched down in the victory over the champions.
As for Bealham, the best possible tribute is to note that Ireland haven’t had cause to lament the loss of their mighty Lions tighthead, Tadhg Furlong.
James Ryan (C) endured a lull after an explosive start to his career but is getting back to his best
James Ryan in the second row is on a similar career trajectory to Ringrose as someone who stormed to prominence as a rookie, endured a lull and is now reaching a new personal peak. His performance on Saturday was thunderous and influential, at the heart of the Ireland pack.
Thibaud Flament played well for France, as did Ollie Chessum again for England and Federico Ruzza for Italy, but Richie Gray’s continued resurgence in the Scotland side means he is a worthy partner for Ryan.
In the back row, Caelan Doris is in the same bracket as compatriot Keenan – a certainty to make the top XV for the second week in a row. He had already been magnificent when he delivered his show-stopper assist for Ringrose’s try. What a player.
Damian Penaud makes the side despite being on the losing side of a classic encounter
Antoine Dupont is another to have made the side for a second consecutive week – despite France’s defeat
While France were ambushed in the Irish capital, they contributed to a grand occasion, especially Clermont Auvergne wing Damian Penaud, who was dangerous whenever he received the ball and scored a breath-taking long-range try after seizing Anthony Jelonch’s glorious off-load.
Visiting captain Antoine Dupont also lived up to his sky-high billing as a global superstar with another compelling display, mostly in attack but also in producing a strong, try-saving tackle.
If it hadn’t been for the brilliance of Ireland, the Scots would have dominated this side, on the back of their record rout of Wales. Finn Russell had to be chosen, on the strength of his second-half master-class at Murrayfield.
His laid-back artistry is a wonder to behold when he is in that sort of mood and the back-hand off-load for Kyle Steyn’s first try was a trademark act of audacity.
Until the match at Twickenham on Sunday, Sione Tuipulotu was pencilled-in at inside centre again, but Ollie Lawrence wrested that spot away from him with his Man of the Match display of midfield blasting for England.
Richie Gray’s strong performance for Scotland against Wales makes him a worthy lock partner of Ryan
Jack Willis is one of three England players to be named in the side – with Steve Borthwick recording his first victory in the post
Jamie George was another member of the Red Rose line-up who forced his way in – just ahead of France’s Julien Marchand – on account of the deadly English lineout operation.
In the back row, where competition is always so fierce, Jack Willis was the obvious choice at openside on account of his remarkable comeback for England, which yielded 20 tackles, a turnover and a try.
For this fantasy selection, Doris is deployed at blindside, in order to accommodate Matt Fagerson, Scotland’s No 8 who has been a defensive titan in the opening two rounds.
Six Nations Team of the Week: Hugo Keenan (Ire); Damian Penaud (Fra), Garry Ringrose (Ire), Ollie Lawrence (Eng), James Lowe (Ire); Finn Russell (Sco), Antoine Dupont (Fra); Andrew Porter (Ire), Jamie George (Eng), Finlay Bealham (Ire); Richie Gray (Sco), James Ryan (Ire); Caelan Doris (Ire), Matt Fagerson (Sco), Jack Willis (Eng).
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