With the majority of the 2019 Guinness Six Nations squads now in training camps, many players were absent from domestic games this weekend – but one or two individuals in action stood out nonetheless.
With Rugby’s Greatest Championship kicking off with France against Wales on Friday night, we are just days away from some first-rate rugby, and one or two players were given a final chance to shine before the international action.
Here’s a few stories the statistics tell from the weekend.
McKinley and Ruzza lead the way
What a season Benetton are having in the Guinness PRO14.
A last-gasp penalty try from Ulster at the Kingspan Stadium denied the Italian side a sixth straight league victory, with Benetton finishing the weekend a lofty second in Conference B.
Benetton were missing many of their international stars but were spearheaded by Italy fly-half Ian McKinley, who controlled the game superbly and notched seven points, while also beating three defenders.
Italy lock Federico Ruzza got the first try and was totemic all night in Belfast – making 18 tackles in a timely display of his industry before the Guinness Six Nations begins.
Azzurri centre Marco Zanon didn’t let Ruzza have all the fun, though.
He matched the lock’s tackle-count while also beating five defenders and claiming 42 metres – Conor O’Shea will no doubt be pleased with what he saw.
Italy squad members Cherif Traore and Luca Sperandio also got a run-out as Benetton helped provide the national side with a springboard of momentum going into their clash with Scotland on Saturday.
Ireland players shape up nicely
Most of the Ireland players stayed in camp this week but one or two were allowed to turn out for Leinster in their entertaining 22-17 victory over Scarlets.
Rob Kearney captained the side from full-back and made one clean break, claiming 24 metres and providing his usual composure at rear guard.
Prop Jack McGrath started the match and was as busy as ever, making 13 tackles and beating three defenders in a useful display before the Championship begins.
Munster full-back Mike Haley is yet to turn out for Ireland yet after moving over from Sale Sharks in the summer but is perhaps not too far away from the squad and put in a huge performance at the weekend.
Munster squeezed past Dragons 8-7 but Haley stood out with his work-rate, carrying 15 times, beating two defenders and claiming 126 metres – eye-catching stuff.