The Six Nations returned with a bang! Wales and France got things underway on Friday evening with Wales continuing their impressive run of victories that extended to 10 games. The win also saw Wales notch up their 50th win over France and their seventh in their last eight meetings. Wales were down 16-0 at half time before France made numerous errors that handed George North a brace and secured a 19-24 win for the visitors.
The action continued on Saturday when Scotland claimed an impressive 33-20 win over Italy go top of the Six Nations table. Scotland looked in control from the start of the game and went into the break 12-3 ahead. Scotland scored three tries after the break to lead 33-3 before they rang the changes and Itlay hit back scoring three tries in the final 10 minutes when Scotland were down a man.
England ended Ireland's 12 game winning streak at Aviva Stadium on Saturday defeating the reigning Six Nations' champions 20-32. Henry Slade scored a second-half brace as ruthless England handed Ireland their first home defeat for over two years.
Here is our Team of the Week:
1. Mako Vunipola - England
Far and away the best loosehead prop from this weekend's action. The likes of Cian Healy, Jefferson Poirot and Allan Dell all had strong games but were all beaten to the side by an outstanding performance by the England loosehead.
He was named man of the match in England's immensely physical and bruising encounter against Ireland and racked up a mammoth 27 tackles! He was also busy on attack making 11 carries and hardly took a step backwards in the scrum.
Vunipola led the charge from the England pack with Joe Schmidt conceding that his side was "physically bettered."
2. Jamie George - England
Another tackling machine from the English front row. George weighed in with 18 tackles, missing his first tackle for England since the second test in South Africa last year. George had a hiccup or two with his lineout throws but his performance still sees him claim a place in the side with Ken Owens and Stuart McInallly his closest competitors.
3. Tomas Francis - Wales
A close call with Kyle Sinckler just losing out to the Welsh tighthead prop. Both players got around the park in their respective games but Francis' gets the nod after a strong showing against a massive French pack. Francis dealt with an astute scrummager in Jefferson Poirot and threw his weight around in the rucks. Special mention to France youngster Demba Bamba who was fantastic off the bench for the losing the side in what was his Six Nations debut.
4. Maro Itoje - England
England's second row really stepped up against Ireland. Courtney Lawes was superb off the bench while Itoje and Kruis set the perfect platform to attack from. Itoje played a big part in England's defence in the first half and was lucky not to go to the win for a hit on Keith Earls but was excellent throughout the game before he hobbled off with an injury. France's Felix Lambey also had a strong display off the bench despite his side's inability to hang onto a 16 point lead while Ben Toolis was everywhere for Scotland. Finally David Sisi was impressive on his test debut for his adopted country.
5. Grant Gilchrist - Scotland
Filling the void that Jonny Gray leaves in the Scotland starting line up is no easy task but Grant Gilchrist excelled albeit against Italy. His tackling tally of 17 against Italy was only bettered by Sebastian Negri while he also hit double digits with his carries. He was aggressive in all facets of the game and was a strong contender for the match of the match award.
Ireland's James Ryan had his usual strong game in his side's defeat to England while Alun-Wyn Jones maintained his high standards against France.
6. Josh Navidi - Wales
Numerous strong contenders for blindside flank this weekend. Sebastien Negri was nothing short of outstanding for Italy, Mark Wilson was busy against Ireland, Peter O'Mahony battled hard in defeat but in the end they all lose out on a place in the team to Wales' Josh Navidi.
The Welshman was a menace at the breakdown claiming two clean turnovers and crucial pilfers. He brilliantly ripped the ball off a French attacker and weighed in with a hefty total of 17 tackles.
7. Josh van der Flier - Ireland
As mentioned before Joe Shmidt said that his side was 'physically bullied' against England but Josh van der Flier was the exception. The 25-year-old flanker got stuck into the English pack and was extremely strong defensively.
He was aggressive at the breakdown and his efforts in defeat sees him edge Tom Curry and Justin Tipuric to a place in the side. Curry was excellent for England with the only blemish on his game being his early yellow card for his tackle on Keith Earls.
8. Louis Picamoles - France
The most hotly contested position this weekend with just about every no.8 having a strong game for their side this weekend. CJ Stander was a bully at the breakdown and put in a huge shift making 18 tackles and 10 tackles before fracturing his cheekbone and going off in the 64th minute. Ross Moriarty topped the tackle count on Friday evening with 20 tackles and 8 carries while Sergio Parisse was excellent in his record-breaking game against Scotland. Billy Vunipola was also destructive against Ireland but in the end Picamoles gets the nod.
The Frenchman continued his impressive try-scoring run with a try against Wales and was all over the pitch for 70 minutes. He finished off a superb attacking move for the first try of the 2019 Six Nations and was superb in all facets of the game.
He made all of his attempted tackles, was strong at the breakdown and had a great conversion rate with his carries making 48 running metres from his 13 carries.
9. Tomos Williams - Wales
Starting in his first appearance in the Six Nations is no easy task but the Welsh halfback made it look that way. His kicks were pinpoint as too was passing. He ignited the Welsh attack and capped off his debut with a try. Greig Laidlaw was superb for Scotland and his leadership and control was missed when he left the field while Ben Youngs is extremely unlucky not to make the side after a strong performance against Ireland.
10. Finn Russell - Scotland
Russell brought his outstanding form for Racing 92 into the opening game of the Six Nations as he guided his side to victory over Italy. His perfectly weighted kick in the first half put Blair Kinghorn in for the first of his three tries before his link-up play led to the winger's second try of the game from the scrum. He put in another perfectly weighted kick in for Stuart Hogg's try and showed off his wide range of skills with some great passes and clearance kicks throughout the game.
Owen Farrell came closest to taking the jersey off of the Scotsman with his performance against Ireland. The England captain completed a stellar skip pass in the opening minutes of the game to get Jonny May over the try line and was consistently brilliant for the remainder of the game with the only blemish being a kick out on the full.
11. Blair Kinghorn - Scotland
Kinghorn became the first Scottish player to score a hattrick since Italy was included in the Five Nations. The winger was in superb finishing form against Italy as he ran onto Finn Russell's cross-kick to score in the first half. He later went over in the corner from a scrum before completing his hattrick in the second half.
The speedster beat 6 defenders made 89 running metres and was sharp on defence. England's Jack Nowell also had a strong game while Josh Adams impressed for Wales.
12. Manu Tuilagi - England
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Tuilagi announced his return to the England starting line up with a blockbuster display against Ireland. He was brutual with his ball carries, tackles and clean outs while still providing some clean service to Henry Slade on his outside.
His first carry that led to Jonny May's opening try of the game typified his performance while he also made a huge hit on James Ryan just after the break. His performance should see him retain his starting role against France.
Elsewhere, Sam Johnson impressed on his starting test debut while Romain Ntamack was solid on his debut.
13. Henry Slade - England
Slade joins his centre partner in our team of the week after he grabbed a brace against Ireland. He was influential in defence while England were down a man in the opening stages of the game and continued in that fashion until the final whistle.
His work rate on attack and defence rewarded with a try in each department. He run great support lines throughout the game with Jonny May's chip over the top handing him his first try while his second came late in the match when he picked off a Jonathan Sexton pass to score.
14. George North - Wales
A match-winning performance from George North sees him claim the #14 jersey with Jonny May hot on his heels for the jersey. North pounced on a Yoann Huget error to score his first try before he picked off a poor skip pass from Sebastien Vahaamhina to score the match winner.
North did benefit from France's errors but his work rate put him in the right place at the right time to punish those errors. Jonny May was excellent all facets of the game for England while Tommy Seymour also put in a fine shift for Scotland.
15. Stuart Hogg - Scotland
0️⃣1️⃣ Try Assist— Ultimate Rugby (@ultimaterugby) February 2, 2019
0️⃣4️⃣ Defenders Beaten
0️⃣4️⃣ Clean Breaks
1️⃣3️⃣1️⃣ Metres Gained
🏴 Have a day, Stuart Hogg! pic.twitter.com/63iMl2ED94
An outstanding performance from the Scottish fullback sees him claim the final place in our Team of the Week with Wales' Liam Williams the closest competitor.
Hogg was lethal on attack racking up a round high of 126 running metres beating 4 defenders and topped that off with a try and an assist.
He could have had a second in the second half when carved through the Italian defence before the try was ruled out for obstruction.
🎥 Hogg thought he had scored a blinder before the try was dissallowedhttps://t.co/GtGi035Z41— Ultimate Rugby (@ultimaterugby) February 3, 2019
Liam Williams was superb against France and also had a try ruled out in the clash when he failed to dot the ball down in the first half after a great Welsh attack. Williams was safe in the air with the French kickers really putting the Welshman under pressure.