World Rugby's Team of the Weekend: Aussie New Boys Show Their Class
The international was flung open with a good old fashioned Test match in Auckland where England’s second string gave the World champions a fright.
Things were far less tight in Brisbane as Australia dispensed with a French side who looked like they would rather have been on the beach, while Ireland’s mix of youth and experience proved too much for an up-and-coming Argentinian side.
Those three games provided the highest level of action of the weekend, so it’s from there that we’ll select this week’s finest 15.
Folau was the beneficiary of a game plan devised to get his hands on the ball as much as possible, and he took full advantage to shred the poor French defence in front of him.
He scored Australia’s opening try and delivered a sweet inside pop for Nick Cummins to add another.
He looks like breaking the game open every time he gets the ball in space.
14. Nick Cummins
Cummins was on hand to cut a nice line for his try against France and performed well all night against, frankly, non-existent opposition.
A player like Cummins will seek involvement in a game if the ball isn’t coming his way, and he did so effectively against the tourists.
11. Simon Zebo
Zebo was dangerous against the Pumas with his pace and also displayed world-class hands, slipping between two tacklers, freeing his hands and flipping a brilliant pass out to Darren Cave for a try.
He remains one of the few players in Europe able to create something from nothing, which is a boon to Ireland now they are missing Brian O’Driscoll.
13. Manu Tuilagi
Tuilagi may well find himself on the wing next week against New Zealand if reports such as Rob Kitson’s in the Guardian are confirmed.
The Leicester man was destructive and effective against the All Blacks from his more familiar position of outside centre, so if he does move further out, his team-mates will need to find him as often as possible.
12. Matt Toomua
The Brumbies centre is developing into an all-round threat in the Australian midfield. He showed strength in the tackle to free his hands and create a try for Adam Ashley-Cooper, and fast thinking for the next score as his quick shovel pass left the Wallabies with a three-on-one finished off by Michael Hooper.
He was involved again with a well-timed inside pass that led to Nick Cummins’ try, and is a robust defender to boot. Better sides than the one he faced on Saturday will have a tough time stopping Toomua influence a game.
10. Bernard Foley
It was a comfortable night for Foley as the new man in the Australian No. 10 jersey, but he still got his back line purring, producing seven tries and kicking six from seven conversions plus three penalties.
9. Nic White
White also looked in good form against France, delivering a quality service to his fly-half and looking busy all evening. It was a bold step to drop a man of Will Genia's quality and experience, but White knew he had big shoes to fill, and played like it.
8. Ben Morgan
Morgan provided Stuart Lancaster with a tough decision to make about who starts in the No. 8 jersey next week for England.
The Gloucester man was fast off the base of the scrum and posed problems for the All Blacks defence on more than one occasion. Morgan seems to have more pace off the mark than his rival Billy Vunipola, while the Saracens man is able to rumble a few more yards in heavy traffic. Over to you, Stuart.
7. Michael Hooper
Hooper enjoyed the freedom of the breakdown in Brisbane, so poor were the French, but he still kept his levels high and again demonstrated his nose for a try in the wide spaces.
6. James Haskell
Haskell has never been able to affix himself as an automatic first choice for long periods in his England career, but he had one of his best nights in white against New Zealand.
5. Rob Simmons
Simmons was masterful at the lineout for Australia and operated well at the heart of a pack that is beginning to erase the default opinion that the Wallabies have no decent tight forwards.
4. Sam Carter
Carter was named man of the match on his debut for an impressive display, but he will not have the chance to follow it up next week after an ankle sprain sidelined him for six weeks, according to Chris Dutton of the Sydney Morning Herald.”Carter is aiming for a July comeback to join the Brumbies' finals bid after he courageously played almost 70 minutes of his Test debut with an ankle injury."
3. Davey Wilson
Wilson did not have the best night with his hands, but you don’t pick a tight head prop to play like Brian O’Driscoll. Wilson deserves his place here for the destructive scrummaging he imposed upon the All Blacks’ World Cup-winning loose head Tony Woodcock. The Bath man wrecked the home side’s scrum time after time.
2. Rob Webber
Webber had a fantastic game at hooker and has provided England with more depth at hooker than they imagined. Dylan Hartley may well reappear next week to bring his greater experience into the side, but Webber’s work at the lineout and in the loose was exceptional.
1. Jack McGrath
Ireland seem to have unearthed another world-class loose head in McGrath. He was outstanding against the Pumas on Saturday, but has prompted the Irish Independent’s Tony Ward to call for him to be converted into a No. 3:
The case for Jack McGrath is well proven. In 12 months he has gone from rookie front-rower to arguably now being our second most effective all-round prop.
I bow to the professionalism of Greg Feek and other scrum technicians of that ilk, but if there is any way that the Leinster man can be developed into a temporary tighthead, then it is a route well worth exploring. It just seems such a waste having our two best props fighting for one place, with one restricted to cameo roles off the bench.