The best performers from the Champions Cup semi-finals, Super Rugby and the Championship in our latest team of the week.
15. Alivereti Veitokani (London Irish)
Veitokani came up with a man-of-the-match display as he helped the Exiles secure a place in rugby’s top flight with a 46-7 victory over Championship strugglers Richmond, pipping Alex Goode to a place in our team of the week.
A carnival atmosphere awaits the Madejski Stadium in the final round of fixtures against Ealing Trailfinders next weekend after the full-back scored in the bonus-point win which sealed their return to the Gallagher Premiership.
14. Matt Faddes (Highlanders)
Faddes was at the heart of the Highlanders’ 24-12 Super Rugby win over the Blues. With his knee heavily strapped, he showed no shortage of pace and skill with his hands as he capitalised on an interception to score from his own half.
The 27-year-old is such a solid operator, and his reading of Sam Nock’s pass came at a vital moment as any chance the Blues had of building momentum were quashed as the men from Dunedin moved out to a virtually unassailable lead.
13. Adam Ashley-Cooper (Waratahs)
The weekend’s ninth round of Super Rugby saw the recent trend of come-from-behind victories continue, and the Waratahs’ dramatic 23-20 win over the Reds from a 10-point half-time deficit owed plenty to the performance of Ashley-Cooper.
The experienced Wallaby came up with the goods as his industrial display was rewarded with a try.
12. Samu Kerevi (Reds)
Captain Kerevi produced a man-of-the-match display to further underline why the Reds must do all they can to keep him at Ballymore and away from the clutches of Japanese clubs, with whom he has been strongly linked.
A million-dollar payday awaits should he decide to leave the Reds, but he was everywhere in Durban as he outplayed Andre Esterhuizen, his opposite number for the Sharks, during the 21-14 victory.
11. James Lowe (Leinster)
Lowe continued his fine try-scoring form in this year’s Champions Cup as Leinster advanced to face 2017 winners Saracens in a mouth-watering May 11 decider at St James’ Park courtesy of a thumping 30-12 win at the Aviva.
Leo Cullen praised Irish province’s application, and Lowe typified his side’s resilience and attitude as he brought the majority of the 42,960-strong crowd to its feet by receiving Sean O’Brien’s pass to break Pita Ahki’s tackle and score in the left corner past Rynhardt Elstadt.
Only obstruction from Jack Conan prevented him from adding to his tally.
10. Bernard Foley (Waratahs)
Waratahs’ Foley gets our vote in front of Johnny Sexton, Marcus Smith and the Reds’ Bryce Hegarty for his astute decision-making as he outplayed Quade Cooper in the Waratah’s win against the Rebels.
“That bloke has so much ticker,” captain Michael Hooper said of Foley. “He rises to the challenge when he gets put under the pump. He had a great game and led us so well.”
The variation in Foley’s game was a joy to behold – and without Israel Folau, it was the fly-half who scored a try, kicked two conversions and three penalties to account for all 16 of the Waratahs’ points in the second half.
9. Ben Spencer (Saracens)
Mark McCall spoke of the importance of “wearing down” Munster in the aftermath of Saracens’s 32-16 victory at the Ricoh Arena – and it was the relentlessness of Spencer that helped them reach their third European final in four seasons.
With his boot, he was clinical and controlled – as he was in the quarter-final against Glasgow Warriors – to further enhance his claims for an England call-up.
Having waited patiently, the scrum-half is now taking his moment, and will surely soon leave Eddie Jones with little other option.
1. Cian Healy (Leinster)
At the ripe old age of 31, Healy looks stronger than ever, three years on from fearing his career was over. His neck problems had made key-turning a real challenge, but the front-row forward showed those issues are well and truly behind him.
The prop demonstrated lovely hands to help build the overlap on the left that allowed Lowe to score the opener for Leinster. After a monstrous display at the breakdown, with nine tackles and six carries to his name, he was deservedly handed an ovation after 60 minutes.
2. Liam Coltman (Highlanders)
After six games without victory, the Highlanders returned to winning ways, and All Blacks hooker Coltman capped a fine week by playing an integral role for his club side.
The 29-year-old has recommitted himself to staying in the South until 2022, and his head coach Aaron Mauger will have been delighted with his work ethic at the weekend as he produced countless turnovers to lay the foundations for a first win since February.
3. Tadhg Furlong (Leinster)
Furlong looked refreshed after being withdrawn from the Glasgow game last week, and Toulouse were unable to handle his physicality at the heart of a formidable shift from the Leinster pack.
Any coach would want Furlong in his side when he is at full throttle, and Saracens know they will be in for a colossal battle should one of the best tightheads in world rugby be passed fit.
4. Rory Arnold (Brumbies)
There can be very few arguments with this selection when you consider Arnold’s impressive numbers in the Brumbies’ 19-17 win over the Stormers.
The northern NSW-raised lock, who is joining Top 14 side Toulouse next season, is determined to sign off his Super Rugby career on a high, and his incredible 24 tackles and superb offload to try-scorer Pete Samu led to the Stormers suffering a shock home defeat.
Los Jaguares vs Brumbies
April 27, 2019, 10:35pm
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5. James Ryan (Leinster)
Ryan overcame the concession of a sloppy early penalty when he impeded at a ruck to help guide Leinster into the Champions Cup final.
Only CJ Stander (132) and Elstadt (126) has made more tackles than Ryan’s 123 across this year’s tournament, while the Irish lock took his carries tally to 120, second only to Edinburgh’s Fijian No 8 Villiame Mata (141).
6. Michael Rhodes (Saracens)
Goode admitted Saracens’ last Heineken Champions Cup defeat a year ago helped “fuel the fire” for another concerted European title challenge – and in Rhodes, they had a back-row forward who underpinned their latest semi-final triumph.
Goode’s superb pass to Titi Lamositele on the left wing created space for Rhodes to burst over and set the tone before Saracens’ superior quality showed after the break.
7. Liam Wright (Reds)
Wright played his part in an heroic defensive performance as the Reds produced a long-awaited Super Rugby win in Durban against an out-of-sorts Sharks on Friday.
It was the 21-year-old flanker who secured the vital final turnover after the final siren. He represents the future for the Reds, but he stepped up to the plate to deny the Sharks a try in the dying minutes, and stood up to a huge pack that was expected to dominate.
Reds vs Sunwolves
May 3, 2019, 10:40am
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8. Billy Vunipola (Saracens)