International Team of the Week

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistNovember 11, 2013

International Team of the Week

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    Scott Heavey/Getty Images

    The November international platform was opened up massively this week when the rest of the world's elite took to their respective European stages to begin their autumn campaigns.

    With the IRB's top 10 ranked sides all in action, the level of talent on show was as high as ever, with some particularly close encounters emerging from Cardiff, Paris and London.

    However, the blockbuster billing was by no means limited to those meetings and there were a raft of superstar performances on show in Europe's numerous other hotspots, too.

    With that in mind, read on for a rundown of this weekend's finest in the International Team of the Week.

Front Five

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    Loosehead Prop: Jack McGrath, Ireland

    The Leinster man couldn't have hoped for a better debut as Jack McGrath pitched in with 12 tackles against Samoa, the highest of any prop in action this weekend.

    Logovi'i Mulipola had to go off early in the first half, so it was James Johnston against whom McGrath was scrumming for the most part, holding his own with relative ease.


    Hooker: Bismarck du Plessis, South Africa

    The Springboks pack worked like a finely-tuned machine this week and it was often Bismarck du Plessis who could be found at the back of mauls and lineout moves.

    The South African eventually got his reward when he drove over the whitewash in the first half but was a general force to be reckoned with when ball was in hand, carrying for 20 metres and also assisting Jean de Villiers' try. 


    Tighthead Prop: Nicolas Mas, France

    France's outing against New Zealand didn't produce many individual victories for the Parisian hosts, but Nicolas Mas was one of those who held his own against the reigning World Cup champions, doing well at the set piece against a tough Tony Woodcock threat. 


    Lock: Joe Launchbury, England

    Touching down for his first international try, it was Joe Launchbury who got England up and running against their Argentinian opponents.

    The London Wasp was also a defensive force for the Twickenham hosts as he put in a magnificent 12 tackles, playing the entire 80 minutes. 


    Lock: Tim Swinson, Scotland

    Although it was Scotland's backs who stole the show against Japan, Tim Swinson pitched in with a man of the match-worthy showing this weekend.

    His 12 tackles and very physical edge against the Japan forwards laid the foundation for the Scots being able to claim a 42-7 victory over their Asian opponents.

Back Row

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    Blindside Flanker: Chris Robshaw, England

    There were some blinding flanker performances this weekend, but Chris Robshaw gets the nod for the No. 6 jersey after putting in no less than 20 tackles against the Argentine threat.

    Special mentions go to Peter O'Mahony, Richie McCaw and Rob Simmons, all of whom shone for their respective teams. 


    Openside Flanker: Willem Alberts, South Africa

    A superbly physical outing from Willem Alberts set the tone of just how South Africa would look to overcome Wales this weekend, playing the kind of in-your-face rugby that his nation have become so famed for down the years.

    Despite not contributing much in terms of yards gained himself, the No. 7 made 15 tackles, forcing two turnovers, and will have left a sore impact on more than a few Welshmen at the breakdown. 


    Number Eight: Kieran Read, New Zealand

    Kieran Read is another who put in a fine shift at the ruck, forcing two turnovers himself and managing to maintain a fine scoring record with a try of his own in the win over France.

    Read also claimed as many balls from the lineout as any other player on his team and ran for 22 metres with ball in hand.


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    Scrum-Half: Fourie du Preez, South Africa

    It was Fourie du Preez's late try that really rubbed salt in the Welsh wound this weekend, just when the Millennium Stadium hosts thought that there was a chance of making their way back into the game.

    That being said, the scrum-half's contributions ran much deeper and it was his territory finding when kicking the ball out of hand that allowed South Africa their regular bursts into enemy territory. 


    Fly-Half: Owen Farrell, England

    Albeit a patchy performance from the fly-half, not to mention his entire team, Owen Farrell showed glimpses of the calm yet potentially exciting figure that he can grow to become in England's No. 10 shirt.

    The youngster again displayed just what it is that he brings to the table that Toby Flood sometimes can't, splitting Argentina's defence both carrying himself and with some fine interlinking play.

    In total, Farrell ran for 35 yards and showed some superb handling ability for periods, several crisp offloads standing out.


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    Wing: Nick Cummins, Australia

    Nick Cummins' two tries were the highlight of Australia's thrashing of Italy in Turin, pointing out that there is much potential in Ewen McKenzie's emerging back line.

    The Honey Badger was second only to Israel Folau in terms of yardage gained, but his 67 metres from the wing showed off a combination of great short-range finishing, not to mention a whole lot of gas.


    Inside Centre: Jean de Villiers, South Africa

    Jean de Villiers remains one of the best centres in the world and a controlled performance against Wales again showed us exactly why that is.

    The veteran did get shown up by Jonathan Davies' early probing runs on occasion but would go on to thrive against the Welsh, constantly giving early ball for those outside him, not to mention supporting well to bag a try of his own. 


    Outside Centre: Brian O'Driscoll, Ireland

    As the video above shows, BOD hasn't lost his touch for the magnificent and once again featured as playmaker-in-chief against the Samoan threat in Dublin.

    Seven tackles and one turnover showed the defensive graft that O'Driscoll is, as always, willing to put in, but his catalytic worth going forward was what stood out as the Shamrock romped to a 40-9 win. 


    Wing: Charles Piutau, New Zealand

    Charles Piutau is wasting no time in making himself an All Blacks favourite and is now giving Julian Savea a run for his money in the aspiring New Zealand winger stakes.

    The 22-year-old sprinted over for a try of his own against France but also set up another for Kieran Read in what's becoming a very successful early career in international colours for the speedster, who also forced two turnovers in the win over the French.


    Full-Back: Israel Folau, Australia

    Special mentions go to Israel Dagg, Leigh Halfpenny, Brice Dulin and Sean Maitland, all of whom impressed greatly in their respective outings this weekend, but the No. 15 jersey goes to Australia's Israel Folau.

    Although the Italian defence can be called out for its weakness at times, there's no ignoring Folau's stats of 100 metres gained from just eight carries, resulting in five defenders being beaten, three clean breaks and a try for good measure.

    The Waratah star also made two turnovers and one tackle.