November Internationals: Team of the Weekend

November Internationals: Team of the Weekend
  1. Mako Vunipola - England

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The loosehead performed brilliantly around the park for his English side despite not having the best day at the office regarding the scrum. He worked tirelessly at the breakdown until his substitution in the 68th minute. He made an astounding 20 tackles during his time on the field and carried 11 times, beating 3 defenders. As always, his handling was as good as most backs and he was awarded the MOTM award for his efforts. It’s easy to see why he was a starting Lion during the summer.

  1. Stuart McInally – Scotland

A MOTM performance from the hooker today as his Scottish side extended their winning streak at Murrayfield to 5 games with a 44-38 victory over Samoa. The Edinburgh man showed a keen eye for the try-line as he went over twice at very important times in the game. He went over just before the HT break after an effective maul from 5m out. He added a 2nd 5 minutes into the 2nd period, again off of a rolling maul. It proved to be crucial as there was less than a score between the sides at the death.

  1. Tadhg Furlong – Ireland

Another fantastic performance from the tighthead at the scrum as he moved the “Beast” Mtwararira around like a rag doll. That set the platform from which Ireland could play their expansive game. Ireland really benefit from having such a mobile prop on the field. Though he didn’t carry as often as he usually does today, he put in a massive defensive effort. He made 11 tackles, missing none. An impressive stat for a tighthead prop.

  1. Courtney Lawes – England

The second-row's performance may have gone under the radar for some but not for us at UR. Though he was positioned at lock, he acted as an extra back rower, making a whopping 24 tackles in defence and only missing one. He turned over the ball for his side on one occasion, functioned excellently at lineout time and carried 11 times to make 14m for the home side. What a contribution from the Saints man.

 

  1. Alun Wyn-Jones – Wales

Wales lost to the Wallabies for the 13th time in succession today, despite their captain’s best efforts to break that abysmal record. It has been amazing to watch the lock’s development as a player over the years, as he has adapted his game as rugby has evolved. He has always been a player that is at every breakdown, that carries hard in tight as well as being an adept lineout operator. Today it was his ball handling in particular that impressed the crowd. He performed a number of fantastic offloads to keep the ball alive and shipped the ball on quickly many times to get Wales over the gainline. He also chipped in with 14 tackles and 2 turnovers in defence to show that he’s not afraid to mix it up with the big boys if required.

  1. Piula Fa’asalele – Samoa

It would be a shame to not pay homage to a magnificent Samoan performance by not putting at least one of their players in the team of the week. It would also be incredibly difficult to not notice the fantastic work that the Samoan pack did at Murrayfield today. Fa’asalele was at the heart of that, as he led from the front with 8 tackles and 8 carries for a gain of 25m and one five-pointer from a pick and go.

 

  1. Sam Underhill – England

Eddie Jones knows exactly what he’s going to get from the openside and he will be extremely happy with that. The Bath dynamo made an astounding 21 tackles, many of which were dominant hits which drove the Pumas backwards and allowed his side opportunities to turnover possession. He doesn’t offer much in attack but with the other big ball carriers in the English pack, he doesn’t need to.

  1. Nathan Hughes – England

The number 8 scored his first try for England today and smiled from ear to ear as he did so. After some disappointing performances in the white jersey last season, it looks like the gargantuan Wasps back-rower is back in fine form and enjoying his rugby. He made up for Underhill’s lack of ball carrying ability with his, as he made 79m, 1 clean break and beat 2 defenders from his 15 carries. He also managed to get 2 turnovers for his side in defence as well as making 9 tackles. He also answered questions over his fitness for international rugby by playing 70 out of the full 80 minutes.

  1. Antoine Dupont – France

France have found another gem to add to their embarrassment of riches at halfback. The scrum-half was absolutely unbelievable today. He made the All Blacks’ defence look extremely frail at times as he made scintillating breaks from snipes around the rucks. He racked up 90m and beat 7 defenders with his 3 clean breaks. He was talismanic and really rallied the French team in the 2nd half to mount their attempted comeback. The 20-year-old will be in the French squad for many years to come if he continues developing as he is at the moment.

  1. Jonathan Sexton – Ireland

The Irish out-half again showed why he is considered one of the best in the world against South Africa today. His knowledge of the game is plain to see for all in view as he consistently makes the correct decision on when to kick and when to pass. He put the weak Springbok back three under pressure with high balls throughout the game and we saw the Sexton wraparound put their defence to the test on a couple of occasions. In an inexperienced backline they definitely benefitted from having the maestro in the driving seat today. 83% kick success from the tee isn’t half bad either.

  1. Jacob Stockdale – Ireland

It was extremely hard to pick between the young debutante and the Welsh Steff Evans today but the closing moments of the Irish game sealed it for the Ulsterman. He didn’t look at all out of place in the Irish backline and continually turned up trumps in the game as he made the correct decision and performed his role perfectly. He put in a couple of expert tackles in defence as he read the South African offence perfectly. He made a massive 83m in attack and broke the defensive line 3 times, beating 4 defenders. He deservedly went over for a try in the final minutes as he finished off a movement that was started by a break from himself in his own half.

  1. Sonny Bill-Williams – New Zealand

Unfortunately for the kiwi his performance today may be remembered for the wrong reason as he was sent to the sin bin for the brain fart of deliberately playing the ball dead and giving away a penalty try. However, that was a flash in the pan in an otherwise unblemished performance from the world cup winner. He was outstanding in the first half as New Zealand racked up an insurmountable lead. His offloading game caused Les Bleus all sorts of problems as he sucked in defenders and freed up space for his back 3 out wide. He made a couple of clean breaks, made all of his tackles and set up Ryan Crotty’s try with an intelligent grubber kick this evening. What a pity that for a lapse in concentration he was sent to the naughty chair.

  1. Jonathan Davies – Wales

Another Welshman that can’t be faulted for his performance today was the Player of the Lions Series, Davies. He lifted his side immediately with a fantastic clean break into the Australian 22 which led to a penalty which Halfpenny converted. He continued to cause the Aussie defence problems throughout the game and formed a formidable partnership with Owen Williams in the centre which may be seen again in the coming months. Though he only managed to make one more clean break the Aussies could not prevent him from getting over the gainline every time and making a huge 66m for his side. His vision was incredible once again as he set up a try for Hallam Amos with a deft grubber kick.

  1. Andrew Conway – Ireland

Equally as impressive as his back-three partner Stockdale, Conway caused the Springboks real problems with his immense pace. His kick chase was magnificent for such a small man as he worked in tandem with Murray and Sexton to put the South African’s under pressure. It paid off when Murray’s perfect box kick bounced into his hands and he raced away to score the in the corner for the first try of the game. He made 102m in attack, beating 2 defenders and giving the killer pass for Stockdale’s try at the death. He also chipped in with 2 turnovers to give his side a hand in defence. The Munster man could be a starter in Joe Schmidt’s XV for some time to come if he can keep playing like this.

  1. Kurtley Beale – Australia

Deputised at fullback in the absence of Israel Folau and fitted seamlessly into his former position. His kicking game and sweeping got the Wallabies out of trouble many times in the first half, keeping them in the game when Wales were dominating. His rugby nous is incredible and he seems to never be under pressure when on the field. The highlight of the day was when he tackled and stole the ball from Steff Evans in one movement before running the length of the pitch to score.

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