As the Six Nations prepares for a thrilling climax this weekend, Joe Harvey takes a final look back at Round Four and selects some of his top performers.
1. Ellis Genge (England) – Genge’s first start of the tournament was everything we hoped it would be. Carrying to good effect, scrummaging well and completing 10 tackles, Genge’s 57 minutes were extremely solid and could result in the loosehead starting on Saturday afternoon against Scotland.
2. Rory Best (Ireland) – Best was sorely missed in Rome. The Irish side were seemingly without a leader as they lumbered over the finish line against Italy, but the hooker was back last weekend. Best’s presence was felt early on as the 36-year-old scored a try from the back of the lineout. Playing soundly in the loose too, Irish fans would have been happy to see the Ulsterman back in action.
3. Tomas Francis (Wales) – One of Wales’ most consistent performers this Six Nations campaign, Francis played for just over an hour at Murrayfield and made an astonishing 13 tackles in the process. Scrumming at a high standard too, Francis has simply been monumental for Wales.
4. Alun Wyn Jones (Wales) – Another great game for Alun Wyn Jones, that was only overshadowed by Hadleigh Parkes. The lock played the full 80 minutes yet again. Tackling 15 times for Warren Gatland’s side, Wyn Jones is the epitome of leading by example.
5. George Kruis (England) – Making 16 tackles, it would seem that the George Kruis of old is back with us. Running the lineout for England and charging down the ball twice for tries, Kruis’ performance was extremely promising given the injuries in his position.
6. Brad Shields (England) – This was Brad Shields’ best performance since coming to England. Scoring two tries on his first start this Championship, the New Zealand-born flanker played to a high standard on Saturday afternoon. Added to this, he made an impressive 20 tackles so Shields may be going up the pecking order.
7. Josh Navidi (Wales) – Navidi made man 22 tackles in a hard-fought victory over Scotland in Edinburgh. A handy option in the loose, the Cardiff Blues man carried extremely well and was one of several top performers for the Welsh.
8. Justin Tipuric (Wales) – Tipuric is well known for his all-round ability on the field, but in this game, it was his defence that really caught the eye. The Ospreys man made a pretty impressive 25 tackles, but only touched the ball twice in the entire game. Added to this, in a bruising 80 minutes at Murrayfield, he was extremely impressive.
9. Conor Murray (Ireland) – Having an indifferent campaign thus far, Murray outplayed his half-back opponents at the Aviva on Sunday. Kicking consistently in everchanging conditions in Dublin, Murray remained calm and composed throughout.
10. Owen Farrell (England) – A commanding performance on Saturday afternoon, Farrell looked far more assertive than his last showing in Cardiff. Kicking four conversions and a penalty, the Sarries star was unflappable at Twickenham, standing him in good stead for this weekend.
11. Josh Adams (Wales) – Considering that Adams has played during the fallow weeks for Worcester, his performances have remained consistent for Warren Gatland. Scoring a terrific try, using his quick feet to escape Scottish defenders, Adams is easily one of Wales’ best wings and will probably be moving home soon to further his international opportunities.
12. Hadleigh Parkes (Wales) – The man of the match on Saturday, Parkes has certainly recaptured his form from last year’s campaign. One of his 17 tackles left the Scarlets man with some scars, but his efforts shut down any Scottish hopes. He also produced 14 carries that made over 70 meters and Parkes thrived in every aspect of his rugby. Amazing.
13. Manu Tuilagi (England) – Carrying extremely well, Tuilagi’s performance in the 13 shirt was exactly what England have been missing for some time now. Scoring two tries for Eddie Jones’ side, Tuilagi carved the Italians apart.
14. Joe Cokanasiga (England) – Travelling for well over 100 meters at Twickenham, seeing Cokanasiga back in an England shirt was a welcome site. Without even crossing the whitewash, the Bath winger was named man of the match as he continuously kept the ball alive due to his unique carrying style. Defensively could of been more intelligent with his placement, but he won't worry about that with a The Calcutta Cup call-up waiting.
15. Jordan Larmour (Ireland) – A late starter for Ireland after Rob Kearney pulled out due to injury, Larmour stepped up to impressive effect against the French. Probably the perfect game for the young Leinsterman to be involved in, Larmour played the full 80 minutes, coped well under the high ball and beat eight of his opposite numbers.