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Six Nations 2014: Team of the Fourth Weekend

Tom SunderlandFeatured ColumnistMarch 10, 2014

Six Nations 2014: Team of the Fourth Weekend

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    Stu Forster/Getty Images

    And then there were three. Wales' hopes of defending their Six Nations title all but came to an end in London this weekend, where England once again defended Twickenham's borders to whittle the race down to three.

    Stuart Lancaster's side now eye up Ireland and France as the three sides tied on six points apiece heading into the tournament's finale on level pegging.

    Aside from England's 29-18 home triumph, Ireland also managed to inflict major pain on Italy with a thumping 46-7 victory, while Scotland were left empty-handed in Edinburgh, losing 19-17 to Les Bleus.

    We've taken a look at the most impressive stars from those results, the best and brightest making it into this week's Six Nations XV.

Front Five

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    1. Cian Healy, Ireland

    Continuing his rise as the testament to what the modern prop should be, Cian Healy gave another mobile performance against the Azzurri, charging for 30 metres with ball in hand.

    The loosehead had to come off after injuring himself in the process of crossing over for a short-range try, but his contributions in the set piece and in the loose were already telling. 

     

    2. Dylan Hartley, England

    Lions tour member Tom Youngs continues to slip into the England shadows as a triumphant Dylan Hartley impresses more and more under Lancaster's command.

    Though there wasn't much to speak of in terms of attacking input, Hartley lost just one line-out throw all day against Wales and contributed an impressive 13 tackles in total. 

     

    3. David Wilson, England

    Paul James gave the Bath figure some hassle after coming on as a second-half substitute, but David Wilson was largely settled against the Welsh scrum in what was very much a back-and-forth affair.

    It was Wilson's initial burst through the middle of the Welsh defence that eventually resulted in Luther Burrell scoring against Wales, the prop carrying for more metres than Wales' Jonathan Davies by the time the last whistle was blown.

     

    4. Courtney Lawes, England

    Nominated Man of the Match for his performance against Warren Gatland's men, Courtney Lawes excelled, once again showing that he and Joe Launchbury can be their nation's lock partnership for years to come.

    Seventeen metres made with ball in hand, 10 tackles and three takes out the line-out, losing just one jostle, the Saints man got himself about all areas of the pitch, and the London hosts profited as direct result. 

     

    5. Joshua Furno, Italy

    For the third week in a row, Joshua Furno finds a place in our line-up. The Italian giant filled in as blindside flanker for his side this week, but it just serves as testament to how versatile the towering lock really is.

    In an Italian team that was tackle-happy and then some in Dublin, Furno reigned supreme with 24 of his own, missing just two attempts at the Aviva Stadium.

Back Row

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    6. Tom Wood, England

    This week's flanker selection was difficult with so many fine performances, but Tom Wood adds to the burgeoning list of Northampton Saints alumni included in this week's line-up.

    No player managed more than the blindside's tally of 16 tackles at Twickenham, and Wood's spotless influence at the line-out provided England with a stable platform to work from.

     

    7. Chris Robshaw, England

    And lined up in the No. 7 jersey once again was England's captain and leader Chris Robshaw, continuing to show that his international duties at openside don't pose a problem.

    Only one member of the English pack carried further than the Quins figure who, despite missing four of his tackles, ultimately got his team arguably their most crucial win of the tournament, leading from the front in all examples.

     

    8. David Denton, Scotland

    Special mentions for Ben Morgan and Jamie Heaslip this weekend, but it's Man of the Match David Denton who gets the nod at No. 8 thanks to a powerful showing against the French.

    Scott Johnson may once again wonder what the logic was behind his decision to drop the burly forward several weeks ago, following on from a run-out against Les Bleus that produced 45 carrying metres, three beaten defenders and a couple of turnovers to boot.

Half-Backs

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    9. Danny Care, England

    Danny Care opened the scoring against Wales in a fashion that was just all too Care-esque, capitalising upon a momentary lapse in the opponent's concentration to touch down with a quickly taken penalty.

    After that fourth-minute score, the scrum-half continued to impress and Care's control of the ball off the base of the scrum proved essential in easing the home side to their eventual victory.

     

    10. Owen Farrell, England

    Jonny Sexton can count himself unfortunate not to have been included in this week's line-up after scoring two tries against Italy, but the magnitude of Owen Farrell's task means that he gains precedence in this case.

    Against Wales, the fly-half once again proved exactly how capable he is of rising to the big occasion, age be damned.

    Scoring 19 points in total, the youngster failed to miss a kick all day, and his decision-making when passing through the hands was superb, the likes of Billy Twelvetrees and Mike Brown seldom receiving bad ball at inopportune moments.

    A masterclass under the most intense pressure.

Centres

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    12. Luther Burrell, England

    Shifted to the No. 12 spot in order to accommodate a certain record-breaking international staple, Luther Burrell brought his international scoring record back up to 75 percent after once again crossing the whitewash against Wales.

    The first Twickenham try of what promises to be a very successful national team career for the Northampton Saint, Burrell benefited from the slickest of grubbers through from Twelvetrees, getting on the end of a well-timed surge down the left wing.

    That being said, Burrell was consistent throughout the game, making eight tackles and generally keeping Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies at bay, while managing to probe the visitors defence all the while.

     

    13. Brian O'Driscoll, Ireland

    One last Six Nations outing in Dublin; one last demonstration of just how Ireland will struggle to replace the legendary figure that is Brian O'Driscoll.

    Some might argue that were it not for the context of this being the centre's send-off, Man of the Match honours may have gone elsewhere, but O'Driscoll's elusive outing against Jacques Brunel's was very much illustrious in its own right.

    The veteran was on hand to set up Jonny Sexton's second try, unsurprisingly injecting one of his trademark, inventive passes into the build-up, but four offloads, 50 carrying metres and two defenders beaten along the way are also impressive numbers.

Back Three

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    11. George North, Wales

    It speaks volumes of George North's quality that the Wales wonder can have a bad outing by his standards yet still impress greatly in general terms, as was the case on Sunday.

    Granted, two wasted opportunities to score came directly from the Northampton Saint, who kicked and passed away decent chances to score either side of halftime, but he still managed to carry for 93 metres, making three clean breaks and beating seven defenders.

    Each of those statistics reigns as the finest that any Welsh player could manage on the day.

     

    14. Jack Nowell, England

    This was Jack Nowell's most encouraging performance in the colours of the Red Rose to date, a confident display that many might feel is the true beginning of the winger's international ascendancy.

    North did get the better of his man at times, but the Exeter Chiefs youngster showed a secure pair of hands, and it's difficult to argue with 103 carrying metres and five defenders beaten along the way.

     

    15. Mike Brown, England

    The front-runner for this year's Player of the Tournament award did his chances of winning the accolade no harm with another safe and secure outing against the Welsh.

    No matter how hard North, Leigh Halfpenny and Alex Cuthbert may have tried, kicking was the only way that the Twickenham visitors were able to get points on the board, largely thanks to Brown's terrific positioning in defence.

    The full-back finished with 145 metres carried, seven defenders beaten and not one missed tackle to his name. Not too shabby at all.

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