Six Nations Team of the Week - Round One

Six Nations Team of the Week - Round One
The Six Nations returned just over three months after the conclusion of the 2020 edition of the tournament.
 
 
 
The opening round saw France pick up from where they left off last year to smash Italy 10-50 in their own back yard. Saturday was the day for away wins and Scotland first at Twickenham as Gregor Townsend's men stunned England 6-11 to claim the Calcutta Cup.
 
 
The round's action completed in Cardiff on Sunday with Peter O'Mahony's red card proving pivotal as Wales held out for a 21-16 over Andy Farrell's Ireland.
 
 
 
Following an entertaining weekend of action, here is our team of the week. 
 
 
 
 

1. Wyn Jones - Wales

Man of the match against Ireland, Wyn Jones was able to keep Andrew Porter at bay while matching his strong scrummaging performance with an equally strong effort on defence and attack. His performance sees him edge Cyril Baille in our team of the week with stiff competition from Ellis Genge and Rory Sutherland for a place in the side. 


 
 
2. George Turner - Scotland 
 
 
 
Concerns over the hooker depth following injuries to Stuart McInally and Fraser Brown were quickly easied on Saturday with George Turner producing a stellar performance in his first Six Nations start. The 28-year-old was accurate in his set pieces, strong on defence and made some nice carries on attack. Jamie George had an uncharacteristic game in the opposing jersey while Luke Cowan-Dickie impressed off the bench. Julian Marchand continued added the game in Italy to his growing collection of fine outings in the France jersey.
 
 
 
3. Tomas Francis - Wales
 
 
Francis joins his fellow front-rower in the squad after a standout performance, particularly on defence. Francis with 19 tackles against Ireland while hold his own in the scrum as well. 
 
 
Tadgh Furlong shone on his return to test rugby with a few trademark carries while Mahomed Haouas had an excellent 52 minutes for France against Italy.
 
 
 
 
4. Tadgh Beirne - Ireland
 
 
Despite falling to Wales, it was hard to not include Tadgh Beirne in our team of the week. There was stiff competition all over the opening weekend of the competition with Jonny Gray putting in a standout performance at the home of English rugby. Gray was effective and efficient on defence making all of his 12 attempted tackles despite Scotland dominating possession. He also carried well and put a tremendous amount of pressure on England's lineout. Bernard Le Roux was just as effective for France driving ball carriers backwards and posting a high tackle count as well. 
 
 
However, Beirne's all-round performance gets him the nod. With James Ryan leaving the pitch with a head knock, Ireland were without one of their go-to ball carriers and Beirne stepped in to fill the void without it impacting the other aspects of his game. 
 
He still managed to force a few turnovers, score a try and make 9 tackles. 
 
 
 
5. Alun Wyn Jones - Wales
 
 

The most capped player of all time hadn't played a minute of rugby since Wales' Autumn Nations Cup victory over Italy in December but that didn't stop the 35-year-old from producing a strong performance. While the Welsh lineout wasn't operating perfectly, Jones made the second most tackles during the clash in Cardiff. He made 25 missing just one with Justin Tipuric finishing on 29. 

 
Another second-rower who threw his body around on defence, Paul Willemse finished the game in Rome as the joint top tackler with 16 despite playing 22 minutes less than his fellow lock Bernard Le Roux, who also notched up 16 tackles. Willemse was another top second rower from the weekend's action.
 
 
 
6. Josh Navidi - Wales
 
 
The unfortunate injury to Dan Lydiate on his return to test rugby provided Navidi with an opportunity to impress and the 30-year-old did not disappoint. Navidi made 20 tackles against Ireland, won a turnover and produced a fantastic try assist for George North.
 
 
Not too many blindside flankers enjoyed the opening weekend as much as Navidi but Dylan Cretin certainly came close with a try against Italy. Cretin was strong with ball in hand too and an excellent option in the lineout. 
 
 
 
 
 
7. Hamish Watson - Scotland 
 
 
Often mentioned in the conversion as a potential British and Irish Lion, Hamish Watson produced a performance worthy of a red jersey on Saturday. Sprinting around the pitch like a man on a mission, Watson was involved in just about everything Scotland did right at Twickenham. He made a number of thumping hits, won a turnover, stole a lineout, made 11 tackles without missing and beat four defenders on his way to 23 running metres. 
 
 
 
In the other blue #7 jersey this weekend, France captain Charles Ollivon continued his fine run of form with Les Bleus as he racked up a handy tackle count and carried with real vigour. Featuring against Watson, Tom Curry maintained his high standard of performance as he was one of the standouts for an England side that was somewhat outplayed by their Scottish counterparts. 
 
 
Finally, Justin Tipuric made a mammoth 29 tackles against Ireland in a titanic performance that included a turnover and 14 running metres.
 
 
 
 
 
8. CJ Stander - Ireland
 
 
 
One of Ireland's best in defeat. Stander was once again one of Ireland's go to ball carriers and he did not disappoint making 48 running metres from his 17 runs at the defence.
 
 
 
He came up with a lineout steal as well, contested the breakdown and made all of his attempted tackles. He also floored his opposite number Taulupe Faletau. 
 
 
In second place, France's Gregory Alldritt showed little to no side effects from his keyhole surgery has he romped through a strong 58-minute cameo for France.
 
 
 
 
 
9. Antoine Dupont - France
 
While Ali Price was excellent for Scotland against England, there could really only be one man for the #9 jersey in our team of the week. Yes, Antoine Dupont is back at it again. The Player of the Tournament in 2020 picked up from where he left off and produced another astonishing performance to smash Italy. His four try assists equalled the record in a Six Nations match, held my Freddie Michalak, while he scored one himself for good measure. A 60-minute cameo earned him the man of the match award but what an hour it was. 
 
 
 
 
 
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10. Finn Russell - Scotland 
 
Back in the saddle for the Six Nations, having missed most of the 2020 tournament, Finn Russell was back playing some of his best rugby in a Scottish jersey. He and Stuart Hogg pinned England on the back foot with a nice mix of attacking and pressure-relieving kicks. While he was shown a yellow card for a silly trip on Ben Youngs, overall the playmaker was pivotal to the win at Twickenham. 
 
Paolo Garbisi showed signs that he would not succumb to second season blues with a fine display of kicking and possession-based rugby, albeit in vain. While Mathieu Jalibert was close to making the side after he combined nicely with Antoine Dupont to butcher the Italian defence. 
 
 
 
 
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11. Duhan van der Merwe - Scotland 
 
 
The powerful Scottish flyer takes the #11 jersey after a strong showing and a crucial try in Scotland's first win over England at Twickenham in a Six Nations match.
 
 
While van der Merwe didn't see too much ball at Twickenham, he made the most of every opportunity he did get and was a menace for the English defence. 
 
 
He steamrolled his way over the line and was solid in all facets of the game. He did enough to beat the likes of James Lowe, Gabin Villiere and Louis Rees-Zammit to a spot in the side.
 
 
 
 
12. Robbie Henshaw - Ireland
 
 
A close call between Henshaw and Cameron Redpath but the Irishman gets the slightest edge over the test debutant. The Irish centre was one of the driving forces that kept Andy Farrell's men in the game setting up a nice try for Beirne with an excellent step. His carries regularly got Ireland on the front foot while defended well too.
 
 
Cameron Redpath followed in his father's footsteps in representing Scotland as he made his test debut at Twickenham against the team he almost turned out for. The youngster will have some story to tell his grandchildren one day as he produced performance beyond his experience. 
 
 

He had a great first touch in test rugby as he beat his man on the outside and get the offload away to spark a counter. While he also made some excellent reads on defence, especially against his former England u20s midfield partner Ollie Lawerence, who he outplayed on the day. His sharp running lines lead to over 30 running metres while he mixed his carries and passes well throughout the game. 

 
 
Gael Fickou was quietly solid for France while there must be a special mention for Fickou's opposite number in Rome with Juan Ignacio Brex enjoying a fine debut despite his side's thumping at the hands of Les Bleus. 
 
 
 
 
13. Arthur Vincent - France 
 
 
Arthur Vincent's performance against Italy few somewhat under the radar with the former u20s captain putting an excellent defensive shift in to deny Italy any real threatening opportunities. He was just as effective on attack as he supported the attack well and was rewarded with a try. 15 tackles at a 94% success rate is nothing to short of excellent for an outside centre while he also racked up 69 running metres and beat five defenders from his six carries. 
 
 
 
Vincent played well enough to edge George North for a place in the side with the veteran Welsh back producing an excellent performance in the win over Ireland playing a part in both tries to see his side to victory.
 
 
 
 
 
14. Teddy Thomas - France 
 
A few lapses on defence aside, Teddy Thomas was brilliant against Italy in the opening game of the tournament. Each touch of the ball got you out of your seat and with good reason as he glided across the pitch in Rome. He finished the game with two late tries having set one up himself for Antoine Dupont and was simply a joy to watch. 
 
Sean Maitland is incredibly unlucky to miss out on a place in the side. Maitland's performance was more of a tutorial of how to do the basics right rather than the box office thriller of Teddy Thomas. But that does not make his contribution to Scotland's win any less important. Safe under the high ball, solid on defence and a few nice runs earns him a well-deserved mention, at least, in our team of the opening round. 
 
 
 
 
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15.  Stuart Hogg - Scotland 
 
 
An excellent outing at Twickenham from Stuart Hogg helped Scotland to their first win over England at HQ in the Six Nations history. Hogg was key to the win with his superb kicking display and lethal counter-attacking paving the way for the Scots. He also led his side well and was comfortable in all facets of the game. He did enough to earn the man of the match award and beat out the brilliant Brice Dulin, Leigh Halfpenny and Hugo Keenan to a place in the side. 
 
 
 
 
 
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