International Team of the Week

Tom SunderlandFeatured ColumnistNovember 18, 2013

International Team of the Week

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    Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

    New Zealand maintained their unbeaten 2013 record this weekend, with a 30-22 win over England providing the All Blacks with another reason to stake their claim as the world's strongest side.

    Elsewhere, there were wins for South Africa, Wales, Australia, France and Italy in a selection of dazzling displays featuring a healthy sample of the world's best players.

    With all this talent out in force, fans were treated to an incredible demonstration in rugby pedigree during this weekend's November Tests, but only the elite have made it into the International Team of the Week.

Front Five

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    Loosehead Prop: James Slipper, Australia

    Ireland's pack may have started out as the more dominant of the two, but Australia's forwards quickly came back to mount the superior position in their Aviva Stadium meeting on Saturday.

    By the end, James Slipper was easing his way to victory in the scrum opposite Mike Ross, as Joe Schmidt's men went on to lose no fewer than three of their own feeds. 


    Hooker: Stephen Moore, Australia

    Stephen Moore was another fine component in that scrum effort, but it was the hooker's flash brilliance in the loose that get him a Team-of-the-Week nomination on this occasion.

    As the video above shows, it was Moore's slick handling that provided the assist for a Nick Cummins try, showing the agility of the player to go far beyond his positional reputation. 


    Tighthead Prop: Owen Franks, New Zealand

    One of the most experienced players to have damaged England this weekend, Owen Franks more than held his own against Joe Marler and pitched in with a very respectable 11 tackles at Twickenham.

    The veteran was also as eager as ever to get ball in hand and did his own share of damage when carrying. 


    Lock: Courtney Lawes, England

    Despite losing to New Zealand, Courtney Lawes is one England player who can take positives away from this weekend's display as he continues to mature in the international setup.

    The Northampton Saint won all of his own lineouts, made an impressive seven tackles and once again asserted his presence when carrying, running for 29 metres.


    Lock: Flip van der Merwe, South Africa

    Although Bakkies Botha was the one stealing South Africa's headlines on his return to Heyneke Meyer's squad, it was Flip van der Merwe who had the more commendable outing in the win over Scotland.

    More than anything, it was the towering lock's work in defence that told his tale, 16 tackles being a tally second only to Alasdair Strokosch's 19 registered.

Back Row

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    Blindside Flanker: Willem Alberts, South Africa

    The marauding Willem Alberts has been one of the more understated heroes of South Africa's European tour and managed to grab his first try of the autumn period against Scotland.

    The Sharks star attempted 11 runs with the ball in hand, joint highest of any South African at Murrayfield this weekend, in what was a more offensively effective outing for Alberts.


    Openside Flanker: Michael Hooper, Australia

    The occasion was marred by a sin-binning in the first half, but Michael Hooper's two tries were enough to ensure that he still received Man-of-the-Match credentials come full time.

    The young flanker continues to ascend as one of Ewen McKenzie's more prominent players and this weekend was a fine example of how destructive Hooper can be when hanging out wide. 


    No. 8: Kieran Read, New Zealand

    Another week, another reason to think that Kieran Read may just be the best player in the world right now.

    The No. 8 once again stayed stuck to the flanks as he so often does and assisted a Julian Savea try within a minute before then grabbing one of his own.

    For a 6'4" beast, Read consistently shows off a sense of speed and agility that's extremely uncommon for players of his type.


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    Scrum-Half: Mike Phillips, Wales

    The 40-6 drubbing of Argentina gave no other Welsh player cause to run rampant more than scrum-half Mike Phillips, who carried for a sensational total of 124 metres on Saturday.

    The free agent had a direct hand in half of his team's tries, scoring one and assisting another with an attacking performance that will quickly make fans forget any recent controversies.


    Fly-Half: Quade Cooper, Australia

    Quade Cooper has come full circle since returning to the Australia fold and is now enjoying some of the best rugby in his career, having recently been handed the Australian vice captaincy.

    Against Ireland, the No. 10 kept his flashier antics to one side and simply did what was easiest, using the space ahead of him, kicking for territory with ease and ghosting through the Irish line for a try to cap off a superbly clean display.


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    Wing: Julian Savea, New Zealand

    On his return to the international side, Julian Savea wasted no time in making sure England felt his impact. In fact, it took the winger less than two minutes to get on the scoresheet. 

    Savea would also cross over the whitewash on the other side of half-time to give New Zealand the win they deserved, but it was a non-stop performance from this man in particular. 


    Inside Centre: Scott Williams, Wales

    Scott Williams was one of those who came into the Wales line-up this weekend on the back of a slew of midfield injuries and shone in his responsibilities.

    Argentina were almost helpless but to watch the 23-year-old Carmarthen native run for 72 metres, beating five defenders, making two clean line breaks along with two offloads.

    A busy day for Williams indeed.


    Outside Centre: Gael Fickou, France

    Tonga won't be the toughest opposition France are likely to face this autumn, but if there's anything the Southern Hemisphere bruisers did offer at the Stade de France this weekend, it was physicality.

    Gael Fickou was one of those who felt the strain and then some, recording 15 tackles, as well as going off for a blood sub in the first period but still going on to show some astute link-up play with his fellow backs. 


    Wing: George North, Wales

    Again, it was George North who was among those shining brightest for Warren Gatland's side as the Welsh bounced back from their South Africa defeat to make an attacking statement against the Pumas. 

    The Saints man carried for 89 metres and could have doubled his try tally had Phillips chosen to utilise him in the first half instead of going himself, but North's support didn't go unnoticed.


    Full-Back: Willie Le Roux, South Africa

    Arguably the performance of the weekend, Willie Le Roux will never have a better three-minute period than he did against Scotland this weekend, where he scored one try and created another in quick succession at Murrayfield.

    The statistics speak for themselves as the Springboks' full-back ran for 111 metres, beating two defenders from just seven runs and two clean line breaks.