Another thunderous round of European rugby ensued at the weekend, the teams reaching the halfway stage in their ultra-competitive pools.
In the Champions Cup it was a big weekend for Toulouse, Gloucester and Saracens; while in the Challenge Cup Clermont Auvergne, Sale Sharks and La Rochelle are all three from three.
With the 2019 Guinness Six Nations now less than eight weeks away, here’s a look at some of the underlying statistics from another superb European weekend.
OUTSIDE BACK COMPETITION FOR ENGLAND
Such are England’s resources there is always plenty of squad competition at centre and in the back-three, and the latest European weekend highlighted a number of options for head coach Eddie Jones.
Leicester centre Manu Tuilagi was only fit enough to make the end of the autumn, coming on as a replacement against Australia, but is in fine form for his club and continued that form in Paris on Sunday.
Leicester lost out 36-26 but Tuilagi stood out and has now scored tries in each of his last four appearances for Tigers – his best scoring run ever for the club – whilst also making three clean breaks to claim 75 metres.
England speedster Jonny May made 130 metres in that match while one of his international back-three teammates also stood out – Sale Sharks’ Chris Ashton scored two tries in the 50-24 win over Bordeaux-Begles and is the first man in European competition history to pass the 50-try mark (39 European Cup, 12 Challenge Cup).
It’s impossible to leave out young Gloucester wing Ollie Thorley too – not a man who has made it into Eddie Jones’ squad yet but someone who has been tearing up the English Premiership in recent weeks and made 139 metres against Exeter, beating eight defenders and creating two tries.
SCOTLAND SCRUM-HALF SIZZLES
Scotland are blessed with options at scrum-half with the likes of Greig Laidlaw and Ali Price, but it was Glasgow Warriors man George Horne who stood out at the weekend, starring in the stirring 42-22 victory over Lyon in France.
Lyon are a hugely impressive side but four-cap international Horne pegged them back time after time with his pace, trickery and passing.
The 23-year-old beat four defenders, made four clean breaks, scored one try and assisted another – we saw Horne twice in the autumn and expect to see more of him in the spring.
There was good news in the front row for Gregor Townsend also, Edinburgh beat Newcastle Falcons 31-13 on Friday with Stuart McInally and WP Nel impressing – the Edinburgh pack earning five decisions out of the referee from eight scrums.
Away from Glasgow and Edinburgh there was joy for Scotland elsewhere, with wing Sean Maitland irrepressible in Saracens’ 51-25 win over Cardiff Blues to grab two tries and 142 metres in an eye-catching display.
IRISH STAR AND FRANCE NOT BELLEAU PAR
There hasn’t been much bad news for Joe Schmidt and Ireland in 2018 and that’s a trend that continued this weekend, with all four Irish provinces victorious in Europe.
Ireland lock James Ryan has enjoyed a dream 2018 and isn’t showing any signs of slowing down, leading the way in Leinster’s 17-10 victory at Bath with 14 carries and 17 tackles, also claiming two lineouts and stealing another.
Munster also enjoyed a successful weekend with their 30-5 win over Castres, the Irish province now haven’t conceded a home first-half try in the Champions Cup for 10 games, Leicester the last team to achieve that feat in December 2015.
France playmaker Anthony Belleau played second fiddle to fly-half Camille Lopez in the autumn, coming on three times, and gave a timely reminder of his talents in Toulon’s 38-28 victory over Montpellier.
Belleau led the Toulon charge at the Stade Felix-Mayol with 16 points from the tee, three clean breaks, 111 metres made and a whopping seven defenders beaten.