Six Nations 2014: Team of the Second Weekend
It's only taken a fortnight for the Six Nations entertainment to hit fever pitch, with Week 2's results having a dramatic impact on the standings and who we see as favourites heading into the break.
France maintained their 100 percent winning start to the championship with a firm thumping of Italy, while England managed to get their first points on the board at Murrayfield, having began the tournament with defeat in Paris.
However, it was Ireland's resounding win over Wales in Dublin that perhaps left jaws agape, the 26-3 deficit more than what many would have thought possible heading into the game.
Read on for a breakdown of those stars who impressed most in Week 2, regardless of their team's result.
1. Alberto de Marchi, Italy
A fine performance from the Treviso unit saw Alberto de Marchi storm to 46 carrying metres at the Stade de France this weekend, just one metre less than Sergio Parisse.
Granted, that tally came from one lung-busting run in particular, but the prop was a menace in the loose at times and helped out with a mobile eight tackles, too.
2. Rory Best, Ireland
Ireland lost just the one line-out at the Aviva Stadium this weekend, and it was thanks to another assured outing from Rory Best that such statistics were possible.
Ireland's hooker made run attempts, but his tackling tally of nine outshines most in terms of open-play contribution.
3. Martin Castrogiovanni, Italy
For all the doubts that there might be in certain aspects of this Italian squad, Martin Castrogiovanni is one of those few names that the national team need not hold much concern with—and this weekend showed why.
The veteran gave Thomas Domingo a tough time of things at the set piece, winning penalties here and there, as well as getting about the pitch with a decent tally of seven tackles.
4. Joshua Furno, Italy
The third of our Italian trio to make this weekend's pack, Joshua Furno had a fine outing in the Azzurri's loss to France, despite the damning result that his side were subjected to.
Flawless in the line-out, two defenders beaten, two forced turnovers and 11 tackles to his name, there wasn't much else that Jacques Brunel could have asked of the 24-year-old individually.
5. Courtney Lawes, England
Ever growing into his role as one of England's most reliable figures, Courtney Lawes makes another appearance in the team of the week for his glowing game against the Scots.
With a frame like his, it's encouraging to see the English giant spoiling opposition ball as much as Lawes did in the Murrayfield line-out, denying the hosts even the slightest of advantages on the way to a 20-0 triumph.
6. Peter O'Mahony, Ireland
A turnover machine against Wales, Peter O'Mahony was perhaps the most effective player this weekend when it came to matters off the ball.
The Munster flanker was constantly smothering the ball as the first man to the ruck, securing a consistent sweep of Irish penalties in Dublin, although it sometimes came too close to the risk factor resulting in calls being made against him.
7. Chris Henry, Ireland
Building on the back of last week's impressive showing, Chris Henry might be looking to give Sean O'Brien an added bit of competition even when the Tullow Tank makes his return from injury.
Against Wales, the open-side crossed over for the breakthrough try on 31 minutes that would ultimately help pave the path to glory, not to mention making 11 tackles in defence.
8. Louis Picamoles, France
Billy Vunipola posed some stiff competition for the No. 8 role, but veteran Louis Picamoles steps in after commanding the Stade de France turf on Sunday, grabbing a try for his troubles.
From 14 carries, the Toulouse monolith made 46 metres with ball in hand, forcing four turnovers, making two offloads and contributing eight tackles in the process.
9. Conor Murray, Ireland
As long as Conor Murray and Jonny Sexton continue to link up in such fluid and assured a manner, Ireland can be sure to pose a threat in this year's Six Nations, if not make a Grand Slam claim with France in their sights.
The scrum-half's box kicking from inside his own territory is evidently something the Munster man has been working on, laying a sturdy base on which the rest of the game plan was to be built, but Murray's control of pace, slowing and speeding play when necessary, was at its optimum.
10. Jonny Sexton, Ireland
And the other component in that tandem was a Sexton figure full of confidence and missing just one of his six kicking attempts to boot the boys in green to glory.
As well as impressing from the tee, however, Sexton rose to the occasion from open play, casually but strictly adhering to a tactic of forcing the Welsh back into their own territory time and again.
12. Wesley Fofana, France
The gem of Wesley Fofana's afternoon against Italy was undoubtedly the score shown above, a gritty, empowered burst down the right wing resulting in five points for the Clermont superstar.
However, the centre's day ran far deeper than that, where Fofana carried for 83 metres, beating two defenders and making a number of breaks both off his own graft and linking up well with those outlets surrounding him.
12. Luther Burrell, England
Stuart Lancaster may have indeed come upon a relieving goldmine in Luther Burrell, whose only shame is that he wasn't given a run in the national setup earlier on.
The centre maintained his 100 percent scoring start to the tournament, touching down for the opener against Scotland, but the Saints talisman also added two turnovers to his name, giving a very well-rounded display.
11. Jonny May, Scotland
Another face whom Lancaster will have been pleased to see stepping up to the new international goals put before him, Jonny May's dazzling footwork wasn't deterred by the boggy "Maggotfield."
Instead, the Gloucester speedster chipped in with a superb carrying tally of 92 metres, beating a total of seven defenders as part of an offensively sound day's work.
14. Yoann Huget, France
Andrew Trimble can count himself unfortunate to miss out on this week's line-up, but another dominant run-out from Yoann Huget can perhaps be considered of greater impact in the win over Italy.
The 26-year-old Toulouse winger got on the end of a Fofana break, searing into Azzurri territory before releasing Hugo Bonneval for a debut try, showing that—unlike the two-try display against England—there is selflessness in the speedster's arsenal.
15. Brice Dulin, France
The man from Castres continues to impress in Philippe Saint-Andre's setup, carrying for more than 100 metres against the Italians, speeding past six defenders as he went.
If Brunel's men had any ball to throw downfield, Brice Dulin was more than happy to run it back up on a very frequent basis.