The Autumn Nations Series kicked off this past weekend with a plethora of Test matches which lived up to the billing. Every encounter produced intense, thrilling and nail-biting moments as spectators were treated to classics. Bet Central assembles the best team of the past weekend.
15. Thomas Ramos (France)
Melvyn Jaminet’s injury has given Thomas Ramos a chance to establish himself as the 1st choice French fullback and the 27-year-old seems to be taking the opportunity with both hands. He was outstanding against the Wallabies.
Ramos showed both his tactical and attacking arsenal as he drove France forward with his boot and with ball in hand. Beauden Barrett and Hugo Keenan were good, but the Toulouse magician was so much better.
Honourable mention: Beauden Barrett (New Zealand)
14. Damian Penaud (France)
If Darcy Graham can be so outrageously good against Fiji, but still fall short for the Bet Central Test team, then the man selected ahead of him must have had a blinder.
Damian Penaud certainly had a blinder against the Wallabies and displayed how amazing an attacker he is when he went over in the corner for the winning score. The try was an exhibit of his elusiveness, power and pace.
Honourable mention: Darcy Graham (Scotland)
13. Jesse Kriel (South Africa)
Jesse Kriel had his best game in a Springboks jersey in years as he stood in a crushing defeat for the world champions, he showed the attacking prowess that made him a mainstay during the Heyneke Meyer era while he tackled himself to a standstill.
It was encouraging that another 13 emerged with Lukhanyo Am still out injured. Despite being on the losing side young Wallaby Len Ikitau continued to show why he may be the next great outside centre in Australia.
Honourable mention: Len Ikitau (Australia)
12. Jordie Barrett (New Zealand)
If one reads the New Zealand media outlets often, in years gone by many a-pundit have called for Jordie Barrett to be played in what they believed is his best position – inside centre. It was just his 2nd start there for the All Blacks and he was outstanding against Wales, many of those pundits and fans will feel vindicated.
Stuart McCloskey started like a house on fire against the Boks and may well have been the man selected if his game hadn’t been cruelly ended by injury before the half-hour mark, Garry Ringrose shifted one and had an excellent outing, but not quite to the level of Barrett
Honourable mention: Garry Ringrose (Ireland)
11. Emiliano Boffelli (Argentina)
For the umpteenth time, Emiliano Boffelli was the hero for Los Pumas, 25 of Argentina’s 30 points came courtesy of the Edinburgh as he added 20 points with the boot and brilliantly finished a well-worked set move by the Pumas. He was magnificent under the high ball and produced a well-rounded performance.
If it weren’t for Boffelli’s Sunday afternoon heroics, Italian winger Monty Ioane might have cracked the team for his performance against Samoa. Apart from the missed tackle for Penaud’s try, Tom Wright was near faultless on the wing.
Honourable mention: Tom Wright (Australia)
10. Richie Mo’unga (New Zealand)
With Jordie Barrett looking more and more like the answer at 12 for the All Blacks, it leaves a hole at 15 that brother Beauden is most likely to fill. That would ultimately mean Richie Mo’unga’s biggest rival for the 10 jersey is elsewhere. The positional rejigging aside, Mo’unga is simply the best no.10 in New Zealand and had a game to remember against Wales. He got his backline ticking and cemented his spot at 10.
Santiago Carreras is growing into the flyhalf role and Michael Cheika will be happy with his progress – with time this may prove to be a bit of a genius on the part of the Australian coach, the signs are certainly there.
Honourable mention: Santiago Carreras (Argentina)
09. Aaron Smith (New Zealand)
Another player who enjoyed his best outing in years in the black jersey shows why he is the most-capped All Blacks backline player of all time. In his milestone Test, Aaron Smith rolled back the years to his vintage best and showed why he has been the best scrumhalf of the past decade since his debut in 2012.
When Smith plays well, the All Blacks go to a different level and Wales were on the receiving of a masterclass from the no.9. Despite a heart-wrenching loss for Australia scrumhalf Nic White seemed to get the better of French captain Antonie Dupont
Honourable mention: Nic White (Australia)
08. Gregory Alldritt (France)
The most difficult selection of the week as there were so many impressive from the 8thmen across the board. Taulupe Faletau seemed like he was fighting a lone battle for Wales while Caelan Doris continued his good work in the amazing Irish loose trio. Ardie Savea had a world-class outing for the All Blacks.
It wasn’t to be for any of the men above this week simply, because of the quality of Gregory Alldritt who is the best no.8 in the world. It’s the smaller details that Alldritt does that make him that much more influential. He’s an all-rounder who does everything exceptionally and the game against the Wallabies was no different.
Honourable mention: Ardie Savea (New Zealand)
07. Josh van der Flier (Ireland) – Player of the Week
If there is no such thing as a perfect performance, then Josh van der Flier’s performance was near-perfect. He was everywhere on defence and on attack. He gave the Irish so many different outlets and took the fight to the abrasive Boks and to a large degree won the battle.
Any other week Marcos Kremer cracks the team on his display against England, but the man many deem to be the best player in the world – van der Flier – was simply too good this past weekend.
Honourable mention: Marcos Kremer (Argentina)
06. Charles Ollivon (France)
A bit of a cheat move, Charles Ollivon played at openside flank, but he was so good against Australia that it is impossible to leave him out. Seems to have shrugged off the disappointment of losing the captaincy to Dupont and was monstrous on Saturday evening.
A much-loved figure in French circles and his performance is evidence of just why he is beloved. Another cult figure in Irish rugby circles is Peter O’Mahony who is a player reborn under Andy Farrell after stagnating under Joe Schmidt.
Honourable mention: Peter O’Mahony
05. Nick Frost (Australia)
The young Australian lock, Nick Frost, is a breath of fresh air for the Wallabies. For many years the Australians have looked underpowered in the 2nd row and struggled to find a guy who can make an impact on the international stage, but Nick Frost looked great in all facets against a tough and confrontational French side.
He is going to become an important figure if Australia are to become the powerhouse they once were again. Fijian debutant Ratu Rotuisolia got a yellow card within a minute of the game kicking off, but was outstanding after coming back on.
Honourable mention: Ratu Rotuisolia (Fiji)
04. Tadgh Beirne (Ireland)
Perhaps the only position where no one was particularly exceptional this past weekend. Tadgh Beirne was the best of the lot as he put in an all-action and industrious performance to help Ireland get over the line against South Africa.
His opposite number on the day Eben Etzebeth played well and got a wonderful basketball pass away for Kurt-Lee Arendse’s try, but Beirne’s dynamism makes him that much more efficient on attack and defence hence he gets the nod over Etzebeth.
Honourable mention: Eben Etzebeth (South Africa)
03. Tyrel Lomax (New Zealand)
Tyrel Lomax started the international season as the All Blacks’ 4th choice tighthead but got his opportunity after injuries to Nepo Laulala and Ofa Tu’ungafasi. Angus Ta’avao subsequently struggled for form and Lomax took his opportunity with both hands. It’s hard to see how Ian Foster could drop the 26-year-old with how well he is playing at the moment.
He is so dynamic away from the set-piece, but continues to show he can more than hold his own on that end as well. Taniela Tupou had one of his better Tests against France and Dave Rennie would have been encouraged.
Honourable mention: Taniela Tupou (Australia)
02. Dan Sheehan (Ireland)
Codie Taylor had his best game in an All-Black jersey since 2019, it will have come as a relief for Foster to see Taylor can still perform at this level with Dane Coles looking done at the top level. As good as the Crusaders man was, he was 2nd fiddle to Dan Sheehan in terms of performance.
The Leinster hooker came up against the world’s leading hooker in Malcolm Marx and got the better of the South African. Sheehan’s mobility and athleticism is amazing for a front-row forward. His work rate is insane and he does the basics well. He had a game to remember on Saturday against the Boks.
Honourable mention: Codie Taylor (New Zealand)
01. Andrew Porter (Ireland)
Andrew Porter was a big talking point going into the Test match in Dublin because many felt for all his ability in the tight-loose, he would struggle against formidable South African tighthead Frans Malherbe come scrum time. On the contrary, it was Porter who brought the pressure to the South African anchor. His work with ball in hand and on defence – never in doubt.
We hardly see props go the full 80 in domestic rugby, it is unheard of in international rugby these days, but Thomas Gallo was there till the very end for Argentina yesterday and when one looks at his performance in the game, it is understandable why Cheika did not want to mess with his rhythm.
Honourable mention: Thomas Gallo (Argentina)