After a European rugby weekend of controversy, excitement and an array of attacking running rugby, here’s a Lions XV based on the best performers of round three.
1.Mako Vunipola (ENG) – steady in the scrum, carried the ball reliably as always and broke the line that caused Sale’s defence problems. Had hand in Maitland’s second try with composed final pass.
2. Rory Best (IRE) – pivotal in Ulster’s win at the Kingspan. 100% success rate in the lineout gave Ulster a solid platform to attack. Secure in the scrum and competed well against Clermont attackers to gain vital turnovers for his team.
3. Tadhg Furlong (IRE) – the young prop has come to the fore of late and none more so than for Leinster against Northampton Saints. The Irishman dominated his opposite number in the scrum and cemented a brick wall in defence. A definite outsider for a seat on the plane in June.
4. Maro Itoje (ENG) – man of the match display in Saracens demolition of Sale. Could have scored himself on numerous occasions. Tackled his socks off and impervious in the lineout as always. Has surely done enough for a starting Lions spot.
5. Devin Toner (IRE) – caused Northampton Saints so many problems. Carried over the gain line, a stalwart in the lineout and a real nuisance for the Saints at the breakdown.
6. Iain Henderson (IRE) – supported brilliantly to take his scoring chance in Ulster’s win. A man of the match performance which included an incredible 15 carries and as always a rock in the defensive line.
7. Sam Warburton (WAL) – dispatched Bath with ease and Warburton, who was a doubt going into the game, went about his business to give Cardiff a lot of go forward. Composed pass to send Morgan over for a very well worked try.
8. CJ Stander (IRE) – a hugely impressive performance against Leicester will certainly stake his claim for a ticket to NZ. The standout forward in the dominant pack with an excellent break early on to set the tone.
9. Conor Murray (IRE) – won his battle with the in-form Leicester scrum half Ben Youngs and controlled the game excellently. Murray’s box kicking game is becoming world class.
10. Owen Farrell (ENG) – another supreme kicking display before going off with what looked like a niggle. Offload to Maitland for his first try was superb – drew in the defender to open the space for the winger.
11. Simon Zebo (IRE) – a workhorse winger will score from anywhere on the pitch and as was the case against the Tigers – an inside ball from Murray off the ruck. Ran constantly to carry for his side and always looked threatening.
12. Stuart McCloskey (IRE) – may not be high on Warren Gatland’s pecking order, but McCloskey put in an incredible shift against Clermont. Tackled and carried well in the midfield.
13. Alex Dunbar (SCO) – Dunbar and the Warriors, arguably won the tie of the weekend. A try of the weekend contender his line of run and pace proved impossible for the Racing defence to stop. His score proved fruitful for his side before corresponding fixture this weekend.
14. Sean Maitland (SCO) – a brace of tries for Saracens and is looking more and more at home at Allianz Park following his move in the Summer. Speed, strength and panache to score his second try when it didn’t look on.
15. Leigh Halfpenny (WAL) – kicked superbly and scored a great Toulon try against his countrymen. With the form that he’s in, he has to a dead cert for the red jersey.