10 Jun 2012
June Internationals - Team of Week One
Wales will probably be the most disappointed side, as they mostly flattered to deceive, losing to an understrength Australian side despite coming into the game with an unheralded sense of belief. It appears the Six Nations is not a worthy benchmark for global dominance.
For your critical eye though, Dumptackle Rugby Blog scanned the games with intent and after much deliberation, produced week one's team of the week.
What do you make of the selections? Please leave your views in the comments section below!
1. Tendai Mtwarrira (South Africa)
There was a lot of hype in the press leading up to the first test surrounding how England would cope with 'the Beast'. His opposite, Dan Cole, toiled manfully for a while, at first gaining parity but eventually succumbed to the South African physical prowess. Mtwarrira was at the forefront as the Springboks began to put the heat on in the scrum and the loosehead prop was also a frequent and destructive ball carrier. An impressive game considering he has only played a handful of games this year.
2. Tatafa Polota-Nau (Australia)
Polota-Nau could possibly have expected a hard day at the office against a rock-solid Welsh front row in the first test. He shaded his opposite though in Brisbane, putting in a stirling performance throughout. The hooker gave the Wallabies pack an added energy in the loose which was missing in Newcastle and his power certainly shored up the Wallabies scrum. He must surely be pushing Stephen Moore for a regular starting spot.
3. Owen Franks (New Zealand)
There was no clear candidate for this spot in my humble opinion, so I went for the player who seemed to be the most steady; Owen Franks. Not his best game of all time but he did enough to make sure the All Blacks always had a steady scrum, cleared rucks and made his fair share of tackles too.
4. Eben Etzebeth (South Africa)
The youngster had some big boots to fill, but performed admirably with a monstrously physical effort in the tight. If anyone was wondering who would fill Bakkies Botha's vacated 'enforcer' role....you have your answer. At one point he looked like he was going to crucify England fly half Owen Farrell as things got a little tasty on the touchline. A long international career awaits the Stomers rookie.
5. Sam Whitelock (New Zealand)
Whitelock's game seems to have grown to another level in 2012 and it's a good thing too given the retirement of the All Blacks' legendary lock Brad Thorn. At the grand old age of 23, he has become the main man in the locking department, but that pressure seems to weigh rather comfortably on his broad shoulders. The Cantabrian led a slick lineout for the Blacks against Ireland and could be seen rampaging round the park too. His new locking partner, Brodie Retallick, has made the news for his spectacular yo yo test results, but Whitelock must have a similarly impressive engine.
6. Willem Alberts (South Africa)
Alberts probably inflicted more pain than anyone during this weekend's test matches, with a truly sadistic 80 minutes of rugby. He was a constant thorn in England's backside, it must be said. The backrower was colossal from start to finish, making punishing runs time after time and dishing out his fair share of crunching tackles too. Performances like this will make him a key Springbok in the coming years. Given Heyneke Meyer's direct tactics, one suspects it is a certainty.
7. Chris Robshaw (England)
There were a number of opensides who put their hands up for selection here. Richie McCaw gave an accomplished performance for the All Blacks, displaying how his game has become so multi-faceted since his debut as an out and out 'fetcher' back in 2001. Sean O'Brien was also terrific in a losing team. The breakdown was probably the only area where Ireland were superior. The spot in the team had to go to England's current goldenboy Chris Robshaw though.The Quins captain seems to keep defying logic with his impressive displays and his turnovers against the Springboks even earned the praise of Aussie (Kiwi) ref Steve Walsh. Who said refs had to be impartial?
8. Kieran Reid (New Zealand)
Kieran Reid was an outstanding contributor to NZ's mauling of the Irish in Auckland. His catch and run from the kick-off almost capped it all off, but he was hauled down agonoisingly short. Still though, it was testament to the man's athleticism. He could be a legendary All Black and kiwi fans everywhere can sleep easy knowing that when/if Sir Richie retires, the All Blacks have a bonafide captain in waiting.
9. Will Genia (Australia)
The little nipper is building himself a pretty nice portfolio of wonder tries isn't he? His exploits in last year's Super 15 final were perhaps eclipsed by his mesmeric effort against the Chiefs this year, but seing as his latest solo effort was in an international (against Wales no less), perhaps this is his best? Genia seems to have the ability to put a defender on his arse with his swivelling hips, a feat I don't tire of seeing. Pundits who suggested Mike Phillips was the premier halfback in world rugby should be ashamed! A mention too goes to Aaron Smith of New Zealand. It seems they have unearthed a real gem.
10. Dan Carter (New Zealand)
Class Personified. Need I say more? We...just in case you need any convincing, take a look at his behind the back flick pass in the second half. Genius.
11. Julian Savea (New Zealand)
As current world cup champions, New Zealand were hardly in need of a rugby saviour, but it seems they have one anyway in Wellington's 'triple threat' Julian Savea. The nickname came from his fellow team-mate Beauden Barrett who warned the during the week that young Savea can run round you, chip over you and run over you. His prophecy held true as the flying wing bagged a hat-trick on debut. His defence too was imposing. All in all he took to international rugby like a duck to water. Something tells me we will be seeing a lot more from the former 'IRB U21 player of the year' in the years to come.... Special mention also goes to Bryan Habana who seems to have rediscovered his form following a stale patch and Australia's ever slippery winger Digby Ione.
12. Sonny Bill Williams (New Zealand)
Jean DeVilliers started his tenure as Springbok captain with a resolute performance in the 12 shirt. In defence he seemed impenetrable and the centre also scored a crucial try against the English to settle any creeping nerves. He is however no Sonny Bill Williams. SBW rewarded his coach for selecting him to start with a human wrecking ball performance against Ireland; full of dancing feet, basketball offloads and powerful hits. The fact that he made Brian O'Driscoll seem anonymous tells it's own story. As Wayne Smith mentioned in the week, SBW has come of age as a rugby union player in 2012.
13. Conrad Smith (New Zealand)
As per the above, Smith produced yet another accurate and clever display for the All Blacks, underlining his status as the best centre in the country. His clever running lines and crisp timing gave his outsides acres of room to gain maximum yardage. With Richard Kahui and Robbie Fruean snapping at his heels too, the Hurricanes gave the public (and selectors) a timely reminder that his spot is not up for debate.
14. Alex Cuthbert (Wales)
Cuthbert continued his meteoric rise in professional rugby with a commanding display against the Wallabies. His Six nations success was no fluke. During one passage of play he outsprinted Digby Ione and then also capped off a fine display with a swerving try in the right corner. With a little more help form his team-mates, Wales could have caused the upset so many had hoped for. It's a pity his fellow winger George North limped off injured as the two seemed to cause some trouble early on.
15. Mike Brown (England)
Brown's selection at fullback was met both with praise and bemusment in the English media this week. Some questioned whether the incumbent Ben Foden deserved to be shunted to the wing, while others praised Stuart Lancaster's pro-active thinking, in selecting two fullbacks (in face of an aerial assault). One has to say that Brown's selection was warranted following his nerveless display. One sliced kick apart, Brown was faultless in diffusing potentially difficult bombs. Corey Jane and Rob Kearney will no doubt be asking for Brown's number. A new opening in the 'bomb squad' awaits.