22 Jun 2012
June Internationals - Team of Week Two
Wales were silenced after the hooter with a heart-breaking penalty by Australia's Mike Harris, which secured a narrow win for the Wallabies in Melbourne. Ireland were also denied late as a 14 man All Black side showed the composure needed to prevent an embarrassing loss for the World Champions' new coaching team. Dan Carter as always was the man to settle any nerves as his wobbly drop-kick separated the teams in Christchurch late on. England also provided a late surge in Jo'burg but were undone by the early exploits of South Africa's power men.
For your critical eye, Dumptackle Rugby Blog scanned the games with intent and after much deliberation, produced week two's team of the week.
What do you make of the selections? Please leave your views in the comments section below
1. Cian Healey (Ireland)
Cian Healey and his fellow Irish props have come in for a bit of bashing over the last year or so for their (at times) inept scrumaging at International level. The Leinster loose-head prop showed his quality in Christchurch last weekend though, and for parts of the game even had the much vaunted All Black pack back-pedalling at a rate of knots. His impressive display adds to a pretty polished portfolio of work in 2012. He scored thundering tries against Clermont and Ulster in the Heineken Cup knockout stages, but his destruction of Ben Franks was arguably the pinnacle of his year so far.
2. Bismark DuPlessis (South Africa)
How was this man on the bench during the last World Cup? For all John Smit's apparent leadership skills, no one in world rugby can compare to the sheer physicality of the Sharks hooker's bruising efforts. His battering of the English pack for much of the match in Jo'burg made a mockery of DeVilliers selection policy last year. South Africa built up a sizeable lead in England's first match at altitude this tour and DuPlessis was at the heart of all things good. Quite simply, the Boks out-passioned Stuart Lancaster's men. DuPlessis was swatting away defenders as if they were just pesky flies.
3. Dan Cole (England)
This was a tough call on Mike Ross of Ireland who came out on top in a tough battle with arguably the best loose-head prop in world rugby currently (Tony Woodcock). However, given the notable drop off in New Zealand's scrummaging when Kieran Reid limped off injured and was replaced with rookie Sam Cane (an openside flanker), I think Dan Cole's efforts perhaps (and I know this may be debated by some of you) pipped the Irishman's. The Leicester tighthead survived a brutal onslaught early on and then helped lead a late charge which noticeably shocked the Boks. Like Healey and Co in NZ, Cole got the South African scrum into all sorts of trouble late on. The Boks will be weary in the third test.
4. Eben Etzebeth (South Africa)
Every week I seem to churn out the same spiel about this young rookie. What else is there to say though? The Stormers lock is a real freak. It's scary to think that he is only 20 years old too. There will be many who will criticize the rather dire and predictable game plan imposed by Heyneke Meyer on his squad but when you have young men like Etzebeth carrying it out with intimidating force, it's hard to argue.
5. Dan Tuohy (Ireland)
Tom Palmer added good value as a substitute for England, but it was Dan Tuohy of Ireland who was the real mover in International rugby last week. Without the much celebrated Paul O'Connell in the engine room, Tuohy took the fight to the All Blacks for Ireland and really gave team a good scare. NZ's rookie lock Brodie Retallick will now know just what International rugby is all about. He was dealt a harsh lesson by the Ulsterman.
6. Willem Alberts (South Africa)
As per the first test, Alberts was a real thorn in England's side. After two tests this year, Alberts is arguably the form player in International rugby. He has that unplayable combination of Sione Lauaki 'esque power and Kieran Reid's work-rate.
7. David Pocock (Australia)
A few players put their hands up for this position. Sean O'Brien had another stormer for Ireland where he helped dominate the breakdown once more. Sam Cane also made a pretty good cameo in the same match, full of energy and verve. For me though the one openside who really showed his class was Australia's new captain David Pocock. In a nerve-wrackingly close match, the Western Force flanker led his team against all odds with a strong all round effort and showed the leadership and belief which perhaps Wales lacked.
8. Pierre Spies (South Africa)
Just like his team mate Willem Alberts, Spies was brutal in the opening stanza. For many years Spies had flattered to deceive in International rugby (often outplayed by opposites with a higher work-rate), but his game has really grown since he earned the Bulls' captaincy in this years Super 15. When he and Alberts were subbed, the authority noticeably dropped for the Springboks and for a moment, it looked like an unlikely comeback for England was on the cards. Thomas 'the tank' Waldrom's efforts in a losing team also warrant praise.
9. Ben Youngs (England)
Francois Houggard may have impressed early on in Jo'burg but it was Leicester's nappy scrum-half Ben Youngs who really stole the show. Quick thinking, quicker feet and impressive marshalling of his pack marked Youngs as England's best player on the day. His starting spot may have been debated a few weeks ago, due to the impressive domestic form of Harlequins' Danny Care, but surely now Youngs has to be regarded as an automatic choice?
10. Berrick Barnes (Australia)
Barnes has been made the scapegoat of much of the Waratahs' woes this year in Super Rugby. On Saturday though, he showed why at one point he was regarded as Stephen Larkham's long term successor in the Wallabies 10 jumper. A welcome return to form saw Barnes navigate Australia to a narrow win over an increasingly confident Wales team and capped a fabulous week for him personally as he welcomed a new baby into the world too. Quade who?
11. Tim Visser (Scotland)
In a weekend where wingers didn't really shine, Visser was the speedman who reaped the glory. His adopted Scotland side were in a pickle for a while against a confident Fiji side, but the flying dutchman stepped up to the plate to rescue them from a potentially embarassing loss against the Islanders, scoring a brace of tries in a strong comeback. Anyone who queried the impact the Edinburgh winger would give to an uninspirational scottish backline now knows very well.
12. Gordon D'Arcy (Ireland)
D'Arcy didn't particularly shine with the ball in hand but his defence was outstanding. Sonny Bill Williams and Conrad Smith are not used to being negated to such effect, so D'Arcy's efforts deserve praise. With all the mutterings of fresh impetus needed in the centres, the Leinster and Ireland stalwart proved that their is life in the old dog yet.
13. Brian O'Driscoll (Ireland)
Brian O'Driscoll has long been a class act but this performance will have gained him a number of admirers in the land of the long white cloud. Kiwis have never really seen the best of Ireland's talisman as he was cruelly injured during the Lions tour of 2005 and was on the receiving end of a couple of thumpings throughout the years, but his leadership, defence and all round bravery came to the fore during the weekend. If Jonny Sexton's penalty had been struck more cleanly, O'Driscoll could have been the first ever Irish captain to have beaten New Zealand, on Kiwi soil too.
14. JP Pieterson (South Africa)
Pieterson had an unspectacular year in 2011 but has returned to his pomp this year. He could be seen regularly eating up the yards with his long strides on Saturday in Jo'burg and arguably was the pick of the outside backs on show. His Stormers coach has tested him in the centres this year with varying success, but surely thw wing is his most potent position. He certainly was on fire against England in the second test.
15. Leigh Halfpenny (Wales)
Halfpenny took a real battering for Wales and for about 10 minutes looked like he was in 'la la land' as a knock to the head led to him punting a few balls un-characteristically out on the full. His general assuredness under the high-ball, threat with the ball in hand and nerveless goal-kicking in Melbourne almost secured his nation a famous victory down under. He was desperately unlucky to end up on the losing team.