European Team of the Week
This week saw an especially ill-disciplined week in European rugby, with more than 20 yellow cards being dished out among the continent’s top three divisions.
Having said that, the spike in behavioural conflict only ended up lending itself to the entertainment of the rugby on offer, with Europe’s finest out in force once again.
This week’s pick of talent takes on a bigger influence from France’s Top 14 compared to the Pro 12 and Aviva Premiership.
Loosehead Prop: Alex Corbisiero
Maintaining his 100 percent record of appearing in the Team of the Week, Alex Corbisiero somehow managed to persevere through the wet conditions at the Stoop.
Given the weather, the pack’s graft was a vital aspect of Northampton’s 13-6 win over Harlequins, where the newly acquired loosehead eased the pressure on his back line by providing a secure platform going forward.
Corbs carried well and pitched into the defensive duties throughout.
Hooker: Brice Mach
Scorer of the sole try in Castres’ 22-15 victory over Toulon, Brice Mach was on the finishing end of a cleverly crafted 10-man lineout score.
The reigning French champions were pushed in their match against Toulon, but Mach’s defensive work and displays in the scrum enabled Castres to push on for a tight win.
Tighthead Prop: WP Nel
As part of an Edinburgh pack that led in all areas of the forward battles against Newport Dragons, WP Nel stood out as one of the more impressive.
The South African tighthead’s work in the scrum was by far the most effective part of Nel’s play, while his work in defence across the park was also a highlight.
Lock: Scott MacLeod
Although Sale’s attackers will have felt they deserved more from their loss against Newcastle, it was figures like Scott MacLeod that ensured the Sharks were restrained in their efforts, moving his frame well about the AJ Bell Stadium.
Playing a major role in his side’s first win back in the Premiership, MacLeod was a leading figure in Newcastle’s triumph, most of all in defence.
Lock: Romain Taofifenua
The hulking figure of Romain Taofifenua may not have had to work particularly hard for his try in the corner against Montpellier this weekend, but Perpignan were constantly buoyed by his eagerness to carry the ball forward en masse.
The French international made a conscious effort to make himself available and contributed a great hand to the eventual winners thanks to his support play.
Blindside Flanker: David Denton
An essential figure in the buildup to Tim Visser’s try, Denton had a Man of the Match performance against Newport and popped up everywhere.
The Scotsman’s work when carrying the ball may have been impressive, but the blindside’s work at the breakdown was again of characteristically great quality.
Openside Flanker: CJ Stander
Crossing over for two tries in the win over Zebre, CJ Stander drops into the No. 7 jersey to accommodate Denton’s inclusion, but could easily ply the openside role with ease.
The South African was, like his Edinburgh counterpart, a force at the breakdown for Munster this weekend and led well from the front and was frequently involved in the attack.
No. 8: Damien Chouly
Two of Clermont’s three tries against Grenoble came through the impressive ball skills of Damien Chouly, whose considerable figure lent more than its share of help.
The bruising No. 8 put his side on the front foot and stood out among Julien Bonnaire and Gerhard Vosloo in a massively impressive back-row performance.
Scrum-Half: Rory Kockott
Rory Kockott’s display was the defining factor in a Castres victory over Toulon, most of which came from the boot, scoring 17 of his side’s 22 points.
The highlight of these came through a drop-goal attempt Kockoff slotted after having Delon Armitage return his failed attempt at a penalty.
Fly-Half: Camille Lopez
The script might have been written for Francois Trinh-Duc to lead his Montpellier side past Perpignan, but it was in fact Camille Lopez that emerged as the dominant fly-half figure.
With James Hook taking care of kicking duties, Lopez provided the catalyst for Perpignan while carrying the ball and was just too slick for Montpellier to handle on the day.
Wing: Hosea Gear
Scorer of the opening try, Toulouse's Hosea Gear reminded the masses once again just what a clinical finisher he can be, attacking the Biarritz defence with pace at every opportunity.
Inside Centre: Luther Burrell
Again, a scrappy outing at the Stoop was more about defence for the Saints than anything else in a game that was decided by fine margins.
While not the most successful going forward, there’s little doubt that Harlequins would have threatened more going forward were it not for Luther Burrell’s defensive contribution.
Outside Centre: Vereniki Goneva
There wouldn’t be any evidence of outside centre not being Vereniki Goneva’s natural position given the way that he’s played over the last two weeks.
Again, the mountainous Fijian was a staunch platform in attack but showed especially good footwork once again, finishing his display off with a try thanks to some fine support play.
Wing: Tom James
Bagging no less than two tries in just his second appearance for the Chiefs, Tom James showed just how talented a wing he can actually be following his summer switch.
Fullback: Dave Kearney
The finishing product on the end of a brilliantly try set up by Jimmy Gopperth, Dave Kearney soared over for an impressive score in the draw with Ospreys.
Kearney’s not quite his older brother when it comes to the kick-and-chase game, but was a great asset for Leinster to call upon when linking into an attacking line.
He also had a vital hand in setting up a try for Richardt Strauss.