European Team of the Week
With league leaders being affected in all three of the Continent's top divisions last weekend, the latest installment of European rugby didn't fail to disappoint.
The Rugby Championship may have been the main headline of recent days in rugby, but that doesn't mean the quality of Europe's giants has suffered in the least.
With France's Top 14 dominating in the backs thanks to some clutch performances, see where the Pro 12 and Aviva Premiership factor into the European Team of the Week.
Loosehead Prop: Alex Corbisiero, Northampton Saints
Up against a stern test at Leicester, Alex Corbisiero was one of the leading figures in Northampton’s hard-fought 19-19 draw against the reigning Premiership champions.
Crashing over for the Saints’ only try just after halftime, the England loosehead gave a good account of himself despite the strength of his scrum competition, standing up well to Dan Cole.
Hooker: Tom Youngs, Leicester Tigers
Another key front-row clash in Leicester’s matchup against the Saints was Tom Youngs meeting Dylan Hartley for the first time this season.
Youngs was dynamic as ever and just about edged his competition for England’s No. 2 jersey, throwing pristinely at the lineout and getting about the park well in defence.
Tighthead Prop: Declan Fitzpatrick, Ulster
Ulster managed to grab a much-needed 18-12 victory at the Liberty Stadium thanks largely to the graft of their pack in what was a turgid encounter in South Wales.
With no tries scored, Declan Fitzpatrick was as involved as any other forward in ensuring the opposition didn’t gain an advantage and was impressive at the scrum.
Lock: Dean Mumm, Exeter Chiefs
Leading from the front as ever, Dean Mumm put in another captain’s performance against Gloucester to hand the Cherry and Whites their second home defeat in three outings at Kingsholm.
As well as grabbing his third try of the campaign, Mumm was a force for the visitors from the first whistle to the last.
It’s probably due to the lock’s stamina that he’s yet to score in the first half of a match this term, instead seeming to outlast his opponents.
Lock: Tim Swinson, Glasgow Warriors
Last weekend saw Tim Swinson capitalise on some good form from earlier in the campaign by grabbing his first try of the season thanks to some admirable perseverance in the loose and a keen willingness to carry the ball.
As well as crossing the whitewash from short range, the Glasgow Warriors forward was a very reliable outlet for his side around the fringes, constantly on the lookout for the next pickup.
Blindside Flanker: Blair Cowan, London Irish
With a display to be proud of, London Irish’s 18-13 victory over Harlequins was in no small part down to the crucial individual performances of certain Exiles, among which Blair Cowan is king.
Though he played openside against Quins, Cowan’s rugged outing was made all the more glamorous by his high carry count and a try in the 59th minute that set apart the two teams in the end.
Openside Flanker: Alex Tulou, Montpellier
Although he didn’t start against Oyannax, Alex Tulou was a force to be reckoned with when he was introduced for Montpellier and showed exactly why Fabien Galthie’s side will be challenging to Top 14 honours this term.
The back-row utility maintained the maul expertly and twice stripped the ball before offloading to his outside assets, creating a couple of tries in the process.
No. 8: Sisaro datu Koyamaibole, Brive
The battering ram of Brive had a characteristically physical performance against Castres, going over from short range to help the hosts into a welcomed lead against Top 14’s reigning champions.
If that wasn’t enough, Sisa Koyamaibole consistently rampaged from the back of the scrum and maul, setting up another score thanks to some dominant carrying.
Scrum-Half: James Hart, Grenoble
Although it was Valentin Courrent who kicked the final points in Grenoble’s surprise win at Racing Metro, James Hart was the one pulling all the strings for the underdog victors.
The nippy No. 9 pounced on a Jacques Cronje mishap to race home for the visitors’ only try, but he was also a force of his own from the tee, kicking his own conversion and three penalties, the fine margins needed for a 22-20 away win.
Fly-Half: Matt Giteau, Toulon
Contributing his customary standard of excellent playmaking, Matt Giteau set Toulon apart from Clermont to create another all-Top 14 half-back pairing in the Team of the Week.
The Australian came in well for Jonny Wilkinson at fly-half, kicking six of an attempted seven penalties as well as adding the finishing touches to Maxime Mermoz’s try.
That being said, Giteau also brought a touch of flair to the position, adding a real attacking impetus when needed, although he did scare the home fans with perhaps too much flair on occasion.
Wing: Alex Cuthbert, Cardiff Blues
Touching down for two well-deserved tries against Edinburgh, Alex Cuthbert was back to his attacking best at Cardiff Arms Park this past weekend.
The British and Irish Lion benefited from some great team play but was very assured in his own game, doing well to add the brace for his side in a 29-12 win.
Inside Centre: Chris Bell, London Wasps
Coming into the No. 12 spot to accommodate team selection, Chris Bell’s two-try contribution against Saracens wasn’t enough to prevent the home side from triumphing at Allianz Park.
That being said, the Wasps centre stood out in an attacking respect for the visitors and tied matters up well defensively for the most part.
Outside Centre: Thomas Combezou, Montpellier
Grabbing two of Montpellier’s six tries against Oyannax, Thomas Combezou was in prolific form against the Top 14 side that can do it all at home, but just can’t replicate the same form in unfamiliar territory.
A very physical outing from the Frenchman was perhaps helped by the referee slightly as he was arguably held before scrambling over for his first score, but a highly impressive display, regardless.
Wing: Yoann Huget, Toulouse
Yoann Huget showed all the finishing touches that Toulouse could ever want or need from one of their wingers, sealing for a massive hat-trick against Stade Francais.
Quite simply, the speedster was everywhere for the hosts over the weekend, coming into the line when needed but also knowing exactly when his presence was required more outside in what was a perfect performance in terms of positioning.
Aside from his offensive heroics, Huget also restrained the visitors well and was a huge help in defence.
Fullback: Leigh Halfpenny, Cardiff Blues
Kicking no less than 19 points in the win over Edinburgh, Leigh Halfpenny kept matters ticking over well against the Scottish visitors last weekend.
Reliable from the tee as ever, the Lions hero also injected his touch of speed into some attacks, with the rest of the back line seeing the benefits.