The first round of the Guinness Six Nations is in the books with wins for Wales, Scotland and England – two of which came on the road.
Former Ireland flanker and Virgin Media analyst Alan Quinlan kept a close eye on all three games and has picked out his team of round one.
With a bonus-point win in Dublin, England lead the way with ten players, there are three Scots, while two Welshmen make it in for their comeback win in Paris.
Stuart Hogg’s overall play against Italy was outstanding and every time he touches the ball he looks extremely dangerous. He gives Scotland that extra spark and he always seems to play well against Ireland so they’ll be watching him closely next week.
Anyone who scores a hat-trick at international level has done something right, and Blair Kinghorn looked very good. If he gets up a head of steam, he can be tough to stop and he was good at getting into the right position at the right time. It was a brilliant cross-kick by Finn Russell to set up his first try and having an extra full-back in Kinghorn on the pitch worked well for them.
I’ll go for both members of the England midfield, that’s quite an easy choice. When you think Henry Slade and Manu were going up against Bundee Aki and Garry Ringrose, who had done so well against New Zealand in November, it was a really impressive display. They really stifled them.
For Manu Tuilagi, we all know he’s a world-class player, but it was going to be a test to see how he could cope starting at international level after five years. He was excellent though and really stood up well and that’s huge for England to have him available.
I was thinking of George North but it’s got to be Jonny May, he was phenomenal. His ability under the high ball, his finishing and his general energy, it was all outstanding. He’s not just a quick winger, he really brings that energy all over the pitch.
Another easy decision to go with the English half-backs, they just controlled the game against Ireland. Owen Farrell’s tactical kicking controlled the game, and his tackling was very good too. It’s obviously easier when your pack is on top, but he played very well.
The England half-backs played really well together, and Ben Youngs’ kicking was really good, putting Ireland under a lot of pressure. He was able to play with quick ball thanks to the forwards and he made the most of it to get the England backline going.
I picked the official man of the match in Dublin so I’ve got to put Mako Vunipola in my team. To finish with 31 tackles as a loosehead prop is incredible, and he did that while also doing his main job of keeping the English scrum rock solid. To have that impact around the park while also performing in the set-piece is really impressive.
I was tempted to go with Jamie George but in the end I’ve gone with Stuart McInally, who was very good in a very different game. I thought he was full of energy and was everywhere around the field. He was a big reason Scotland were able to dominate for most of the game.
Tighthead prop was a tricky one, without one obvious standout but I’ll go with Kyle Sinckler, who carried very well for England and played his part in the performance of that pack. His work in the tight was very impressive against that Irish team.
I’ve got to go for Alun Wyn Jones who I thought did well in the first half when Wales were on the back foot against France. It then says a lot for his leadership that they were able to turn things around in the second half, I thought he was outstanding.
A tough one to pick but I’ll go with Maro Itoje. He conceded a penalty for the tackle on Keith Earls in the first half but he was very busy around the park and helped that England pack get on top so he gets the nod for me.
A tough call with Mark Wilson but I thought Josh Navidi was an all-action presence for Wales in Paris. He got some great turnovers and tackled his heart out and that effort told in the end as they were able to turn things around.
I was really impressed with Tom Curry, on his first Guinness Six Nations appearance. He was probably a little unlucky with the yellow card but he was great at putting the pressure on Johnny Sexton, he put in so many tackles and really led that England back row.
Billy Vunipola’s offload for the first England try typified what he brings to this England team. He looked to have been wrapped up by Devin Toner but he managed to free his arms and even though Ireland had some defenders in place, that made the difference. He’s a huge presence to have back in the England pack.