International Rugby

Six Nations Championship 2014: Assessing Star Players Heading into Break Week

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - FEBRUARY 08:  Luther Burrell of England goes over to score a try during the RBS Six Nations match between Scotland and England at Murrayfield Stadium on February 8, 2014 in Edinburgh, Scotland.  (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
David Rogers/Getty Images
Tom SunderlandFeatured ColumnistFebruary 11, 2014

As we head into the first break week of this year's Six Nations, it's time to look back over the past fortnight's action, consider who's impressed and who's fallen short of expectations.

Names both old and new, big and small have come to Europe's fore, some players thriving under the spotlight while others have popped up from relative obscurity to lead their sides thus far.

Whether they'll be able to maintain momentum for the rest of the championship is anyone's guess, but here we've taken a look at some of those stars who have made a big impact already.

All statistics come courtesy of ESPNScrum.com.

 

Jonny Sexton, Ireland

Leading Ireland through both boot and body, Jonny Sexton has taken the bull by the horns for Ireland this year, stepping into the lead role that many have expected he's been capable of for some time now.

The fly-half is currently the top point-scorer in the Championship with a tally of 27 to his name, all of which have come from the tee.

Sexton's injection of an eager running game was especially evident in the win over Scotland, although he's only averaging 36 carrying metres per game thus far.

Without Sexton kicking for territory with such aplomb, one might argue that the 26-3 win over Wales in Week 2 wouldn't have been anywhere near as comfortable, and the fact that he's yet to miss one of his 16 tackling attempts simply adds a more rounded quality.

The playmaker's excellent performance against Wales drew plenty of praise from those watching on, including Rugby World's Paul Williams:

 

Wesley Fofana, France

Leading into this tournament, a lot of France's hopes were being pinned on whether or not Wesley Fofana could shoulder the attacking responsibilities of his side, and the Clermont man has responded in style.

In the crunch 26-24 win over England, Fofana was the only member of Philippe Saint-Andre's starting back-line not to miss a tackle, showing that there's more to the centre's game than just penetrating runs.

That being said, this trait in particular came to the fore against Italy, where the 26-year-old exploited the slightest gap down the right wing to cruise over for his first score of the competition and one can bet the counter doesn't stop there. 

 

Luther Burrell, England

Stuart Lancaster's lack of experienced centres was a major concern for the English leading into the tournament, but Luther Burrell has coped magnificently with his baptism of fire, showing he's immune to the pressure of his surroundings.

Making his debut against France in Week 1, the Northampton Saints favourite scored to give England some early hope at the Stade de France, and his 100 percent scoring run was maintained with another fine outing in Edinburgh.

The No. 13 gives Billy Twelvetrees a technical outlet that's more than capable of hitting the same crashing lines that Manu Tuilagi so often loves to exploit and more importantly has provided England with reason to be hopeful of another emerging midfield star.

According to The Times' Alex Lowe, his rising form could even mean that Tuilagi shifts onto the wing this summer:

In two games, Burrell has carried for more than 80 metres, but he has had a surprisingly small amount of defensive work to take part in.

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