European Team of the Week

Tom SunderlandFeatured ColumnistDecember 9, 2013

European Team of the Week

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    Halfway through the pool stage of this season's Heineken Cup and Challenge Cup campaigns, groups across Europe have begun to take shape and give us an idea of who the heaviest hitters are this term.

    However, even the heavy hitters don't turn up every week, with each round presenting each player with the chance of a fresh start and some taking the opportunity better than others.

    This week, Ireland's clubs reign most powerful in the continental hunt for silverware, while representatives from France and England also contribute some strength to this edition of the European team of the week. 

Front Five

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    1. Florian Fresia, Toulon

    There wasn't much between Exeter Chiefs and Toulon at the set piece this weekend, where Florian Fresia found a stern opponent Hoani Tui.

    However, the Frenchman touched down for the opening try of the pair's Sandy Park clash and got some fine work done carrying around the fringes. 

     

    2. Tom Youngs, Leicester Tigers

    With Dylan Hartley having strengthened his position inside Stuart Lancaster's England squad of late, Tom Youngs shone with a dazzling display against Montpellier.

    The hooker added two try assists to his name, showing a consistent effort to get forward with ball in hand, and helped the Welford Road hosts dominate at the set piece. 

     

    3. Daniel Kotze, Clermont Auvergne

    Offensively, there wasn't much to remark about Daniel Kotze's outing against Scarlets, but the South African-born French international made light work of his defensive shift.

    Eight tackles for Clermont laid some groundwork for the French hosts in an appearance lasting just under 60 minutes.

     

    4. Dan Tuohy, Ulster

    After a tireless offensive workout against Treviso, Dan Tuohy's 58th-minute try against Ulster's Italian opponents served as little more than icing on the cake for the second row.

    Ever eager to take the ball right to the opposition, the 28-year-old could have been stronger in defence, but his graft going forward more than made up for any lapses.

     

    5. Craig Clarke, Connacht

    Craig Clarke stood out as one of Connacht's prime performers in their win over Toulouse this weekend, contributing a huge tally of 18 tackles when it was needed most against fearsome offensive opposition.

    Winning all but one of his attempted line-out takes, the former Chiefs lock showed all the experience of his years and was an omnipresent leader for his side.

Back Row

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    6. Sean Doyle, Ulster

    Although an openside by nature, Sean Doyle moved into the blind to accommodate his fellow back rower this week, but he shone in his own regard, scoring one try during Ulster's 48-0 mauling of Treviso.

    However, it wasn't attack that stood out for the flanker, whose tally of 21 tackles shows just how dynamic Doyle was in getting his large frame around the Ravenhill pitch. 

     

    7. Mamuka Gorgodze, Montpellier

    It may not have been a successful outing for Montpellier, but Mamuka Gorgodze helped to at least ease the crushing weight of Leicester for periods on Sunday.

    The Georgian international was one of a few key men for the visiting team, scoring one try himself as well as assisting another and throwing in a contribution of eight tackles to boot. 

     

    8. James Coughlan, Munster

    Munster's only inclusion this week may not have gotten on the score sheet until the last dying minutes of his side's confident rampage over Perpignan, but the No. 8 was nonetheless seamless throughout.

    Ten tackles made, 31 metres gained with ball in hand and four key line breaks tell the story of Coughlan, who was very much up for the physical side of things at Thomond Park this weekend.

Half-Backs

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    9. Kieran Marmion, Connacht

    Connacht's shock win at Toulouse this weekend served as the surprise result of the round, with the province relying largely on several key individuals in order to come back from France victorious.

    With half-back partner Dan Parks providing the finishing touches from the tee, scrum-half Kieran Marmion crossed over for the visitors' only try of the game inside 47 minutes.

    Marmion didn't miss a tackle on his Sunday outing and made an impressive total of 38 yards against Toulouse, with his quick ball and fine work at the base of the ruck providing a stable platform for Connacht to work from. 

     

    10. Nick Evans, Harlequins

    The New Zealand powerhouse in Nick Evans transcended the fly-half's slight frame this weekend as the playmaker scored 17 of his team's 27 points, dabbing down for one of his own in the 32-8 win over Racing Metro.

    Keeping the English side's European hopes alive, Evans was energetic in attack and gave Harlequins a reliable source of points from the tee.

Backs

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    11. Luke Fitzgerald, Leinster

    Luke Fitzgerald's hat-trick of tries at Franklin's Gardens set the tone for the Irish province's rousing victory over their English opposition, sending a message to the rest of the continent that they are indeed back to win this tournament.

    Fitzgerald's initiative knew no bounds as he crossed over the whitewash in the second and seventh minutes before adding another in the second period.

    Special mention for Munster's Keith Earls, who carried for more than 170 metres against Perpignan.

     

    12. Darren Cave, Ulster

    Undoubtedly benefiting from the level of opposition, Darren Cave's performance against Treviso was incredibly impressive, regardless.

    In total, the centre produced assists for four of his team's seven tries, adding 10 tries to the mix during a performance where it would be an understatement to say Cave was consistently in the right place at the right time.

     

    13. Brian O'Driscoll, Leinster

    Not for the first time this season, Brian O'Driscoll helped assist a Leinster try with a superb through-the-legs pass that's become something of a trademark for the veteran.

    The Irish figure also managed to score one breakaway try of his own in the demolition of the Saints, beating two defenders and making the attacking job far easier for all of those around him. 

     

    14. Napolioni Nalaga, Clermont Auvergne

    Special mention goes to Leicester's Miles Benjamin this week, who just misses out on the line-up despite scoring two tries, but it was another rampant winger, Napolioni Nalaga, who put in an immense attacking shift against Scarlets this week.

    Sniffing up the slightest of defensive lapses that the Welsh visitors were kind enough to make, Vern Cotter's Fijian constant battered his way to 96 carrying yards, beating eight defenders, scoring two tries and generally being an unstoppable force with no immovable object in sight.

     

    15. Rob Cook, Gloucester

    One of only a couple of Englishman to make this week's line-up, Rob Cook delivered the goods to Gloucester this weekend with a spotless attacking display, clocking up 84 metres with ball in hand.

    Providing the Cherry and Whites with a mostly secure presence at the back, the 29-year-old scored one and assisted another, building on the consistent start he's had to the Aviva Premiership season.