RBS 6 Nations 2016: Best XV from Matchday 3

Danny Coyle@dannyjpcoyleFeatured ColumnistFebruary 29, 2016

RBS 6 Nations 2016: Best XV from Matchday 3

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    Kirsty Wigglesworth/Associated Press

    Two teams left unbeaten, one left in search of a Grand Slam, and both play each other next.

    Week 3 has teed up the penultimate round of Six Nations games nicely.

    The weekend didn't bring us a major upswing in quality of this year's instalment of the championship, but there was no shortage of grit.

    Here are the men who stood out at the halfway mark of the tournament.

Back Three

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    Kirsty Wigglesworth/Associated Press

    15. Stuart Hogg

    Stuart Hogg was superb against Italy for Scotland, attacking with intent and using his slick hands to make two try-scoring offloads. A mention for Mike Brown, too, who was safe under every bomb sent his way by Ireland and posed a danger on the counter when opting to run. His defence was sound and he finished his try well.

    14. Anthony Watson

    Anthony Watson scored the try that handed the lead back to England, and he was also reliable under the high ball. Watson could be hard to shift from this shirt for the Red Rose.

    11. Jack Nowell

    Other wings got on the scoresheet at the weekend, but England's Jack Nowell produced the standout moment of any wide man with the tackle that denied Robbie Henshaw a certain try.

Centre

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    12. Robbie Henshaw

    Robbie Henshaw played at 13 for Ireland on Saturday, but we'll pick him at 12 here. The 22-year-old showed up well, bursting through the English defence in the first half in a moment that should have produced more for Ireland had they been able to capitalise on is break.

    His charge down the touchline in the second half looked set to bring him a try until Jack Nowell's intervention. In a team shorn of so much experience, Henshaw is putting his hand up for work.

    13. Jonathan  Joseph

    Bath man Jonathan Joseph didn't get much ball to show his attacking sharpness for England, but his defence was outstanding against the bigger Henshaw—a day for the dirty work, done well.

Half-Backs

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    10. Jonny Sexton

    Jonny Sexton rose above the nonsense spoken in the build-up and delivered an accomplished performance for Ireland. He tried his hardest to unlock the English defence and succeeded at times, but Ireland couldn't finish what he created.

    9. Gareth Davies

    Gareth Davies was the key man for Wales. He made one searing burst that should have led to a try, and his service was smooth.

Back Row

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    8. Billy Vunipola

    Another man-of-the-match display from England's Billy Vunipola. Ireland could not stop him rampaging over the gainline time and time again. He is barging his way into the small club of world-class No. 8s.

    7. Sam Warburton

    Sam Warburton was back in the No. 7 jersey for Wales in a back row that looked better balanced with Dan Lydiate reinstated in the blindside. Warburton revelled in his return to his best position.

    Honourable mention for Josh van der Flier. A debut away to an unbeaten side in the Six Nations is one of the toughest bows you could ask for. Josh van der Flier rose to the occasion, leading his team's defensive effort and performing the role of link man well.

    6. John Barclay

    Scotland's John Barclay has been brought in from the cold in the championship and has rapidly established himself as one of the best back rowers on the European circuit. Barclay even scored against Italy to mark another outstanding performance.

Second Row

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    5. Donnacha Ryan

    Back in the Irish side in place of Mike McCarthy, Donnacha Ryan put in a massive defensive shift against England, with his side under pressure for large parts of the contest. The Munster man made 18 tackles, per ESPN, more than anyone else in a green shirt.

    4. Maro Itoje

    A deeply impressive England debut from Maro Itoje. The young Saracen made 16 tackles and also carried the ball powerfully. He looked comfortable in his surroundings and had thrown down a challenge to Eddie Jones. The Australian may find it hard to drop the newcomer after this performance.

Front Row

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    1. Alasdair Dickinson

    Alasdair Dickinson was part of a dominant Scotland front row that put Italy into reverse. If your loosehead has a good day against Italy, you're going places.

    2. Dylan Hartley

    England's Dylan Hartley was unlucky not to score in the first half at Twickenham and was solid in the set piece throughout. He also maintained good communication with the referee.

    3. WP Nel

    WP Nel was well on top of his opponent at scrum time and was hugely useful at the breakdown. Scotland's front row had an enjoyable afternoon in Rome, and Nel's late yellow card was the only black mark.

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