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Six Nations Team of the Week: Irish dominate selection after dominant win in France

Round one of the Six Nations is now in the rear view mirror, and what a feast of rugby it was!

Ireland kicked their Grand Slam defence off in brilliant fashion as they stunned France in Marseille. This win for Andy Farrells side was not only their first away win over France since 2018, but it was also their biggest ever win over Les Bleus.

This match set the tone for the weekend, and Italy vs England certainly met those lofty expectations. Italy showed real ambition under new coach Gonzalo Quesada, and led at half-time. England grew into the game though, and once they got their noses in front they didn’t relinquish the lead and secured a good win. The Azzurri never gave up though, and a try at the death earned them a deserved losing bonus point.

Rounding off the weekend was Wales vs Scotland in the ultimate ‘game of two halves’. Scotland were brilliant in the first 40, and tore Wales apart to lead 20-0 at the break. They extended their lead early in the second half, but then Wales turned it on and fought their way back to 26-27. It was too little too late for Wales in the end, but it showed they are capable of some beautiful rugby, and arguablly they will take more positives out of the game than Scotland will.

But in the midst of all the action, which players stood out? Here is our Six Nations Team of the Week:

15 Hugo Keenan

2024 Guinness Six Nations Championship Round 1, Orange Velodrome, Marseille, France 2/2/2024 France vs Ireland Ireland s Hugo Keenan Hugo Keenan applauds the fans after the game 2/2/2024 PUBLICATIONxNOTxINxUKxIRLxFRAxNZL Copyright: xï½INPHO/BenxBradyx BB4_4140

The Irish full-back is one of those players who makes those around him better, and this was again on show this weekend. He is always an important cog in the Irish attack, and he really helped his side secure a stellar victory in France

14 Tommy Freeman

The man of the moment Tommy Freeman has had a difficult International career to date, but he put in a brilliant showing against Italy. He was a constant threat on the right wing, and helped England get a foothold in the game after a fast Italian start.

13 Henry Slade

Rome, Italy 03.02.2024: Henry Slade ENG in action during Guinness Six Nations 2024 rugby match between ITALY vs ENGLAND at Stadio Olimpico on February 03, 2024 in Rome, Italy. PUBLICATIONxNOTxINxITA Copyright: xmarcoxiacobuccix/xipa-agency.netx/xmarcoxiacobuccix IPA_43162621 IPA_Agency_IPA43162621

After a tough World Cup omission, Slade is back in the white jersey and he looked like he’d never been away. He was a huge part of the new blitz defence-a policy he will be used to from Exeter as they run a very similar system, but this proved crucial in helping his side get used to it and this got them over the line.

12 Bundee Aki

Bundee Aki was a one man wrecking ball on Friday night. Could easily have been given Man of the Match, but either way his ability to punch holes in the French defence got his team consistently on the front foot. A stellar showing from the Connacht man.

11 James Lowe

France – Guinness Six Nations Rugby Championship – France vs Ireland – 02/02/2024 FRANCE, MARSEILLE, FEBRUARY 02. James Lowe of Ireland during the Guinness Six Nations Rugby Championship match between France and Ireland, on February 02, 2014 at the Stade Velodrome in Marseille, France. Photo by Manuel Blondeau/ AOP.Press Marseille Stade Velodrome Provence France Copyright: x ManuelxBlondeau/AOP.Pressx AOP20240202 0124

James Lowe is always crucial to the Ireland back line, but his cannon of a boot proved even more important than ever on Friday night. It really put France under pressure, and also it shifted some of the limelight away from Jack Crowley too, which helped him have a brilliant game too. He was also a busy man ball in hand, and impressed as always.

10 Jack Crowley

There was a lot of pressure on the Munsterman’s shoulders on Friday night, but he seemed to thrive under it. Things got off to a shaky start after his kick was charged down, but he grew into the game and dictated the play. A mature performance from the 24-year-old.

9 Jamison Gibson-Park

Rugby Union – 2024 Guinness Six nations Championship – Round One – France vs Ireland – The Stade Veldrome, Marseille – Friday 2nd February 2024. Jamison Gibson-Park, IRELAND passes the ball out COLORSPORT / Winston Bynorth PUBLICATIONxNOTxINxUK

Much of the narrative ahead of the game was about the French number nine jersey, but the man in the Irish one was at his brilliant best on Friday night. Gibson-Park loves to play with quick ball, and this really helped Ireland move the heavy French team around the park with relentless intensity. He also grabbed a try for his troubles.

1 Cyril Baille

The only real positive for France this weekend was in the scrum. They took Ireland to the cleaners in that department, and the combination of Baille and Atonio were again at the forefront of this scrum dominance.

2 Dan Sheehan

If the Lions squad was picked today, Sheehan would be a nailed on starter. He grabbed himself a try, but his defensive work is what gets him into our team this week. He is known for his abrasive carrying and winger-esq skillset, but he got through so much defensive work on Friday night against the heavy French pack.

3 Uini Atonio

France – Guinness Six Nations Rugby Championship – France vs Ireland – 02/02/2024 FRANCE, MARSEILLE, FEBRUARY 02. Uini Atonio of France during the Guinness Six Nations Rugby Championship match between France and Ireland, on February 02, 2014 at the Stade Velodrome in Marseille, France. Photo by Manuel Blondeau/ AOP.Press Marseille Stade Velodrome Provence France Copyright: x ManuelxBlondeau/AOP.Pressx AOP20240202 0120

Atonio is a monster at scrum time, and he had Andrew Porter on toast on Friday night. His front-row partnership with Cyril Baille has worked wonders for France over the years, and it was again there to be counted against Ireland.

4 Joe McCarthy

A stellar showing from Man of the Match Joe McCarthy against France. He seemed to be everywhere on Friday night, and his imposing figure helped Ireland get one over France in the power game. He was also solid in the lineout.

5 Tadhg Beirne

It’s a second-row double for Ireland, as Tadhg Beirne joins McCarthy in our team of the week. He was again busy around the park, and was a big part in helping get Ireland over the gain line and also grabbed himself a try to cap an impressive display.

6 Ethan Roots

What a debut from the Exeter back-rower. He is one of those players that does all the unseen work, but yet if he wasn’t on the pitch you would notice his absence. Roots may be a different type of six to Courtney Lawes, but he had just as much impact as the England legend. Could he be the long term answer at blindside?

7 Tommy Reffell

Wales v Scotland 6 Nations 03/02/2024. Tommy Reffell of Wales applauds the fans after the 6 Nations match between Wales and Scotland at The Principality Stadium, Cardiff, Wales on 3 February 2024. Cardiff Millenium Stadium Wales Wales Editorial use only , Copyright: xSimonxKingx PSI-18937-0213

Tommy Reffell was incredible in that second-half against Scotland. He is an absolute menace in the ruck, and was able to win crucial turnovers to give his side momentum. He was also strong ball-in-hand.

8 Aaron Wainwright

Another Welsh back-rower makes the team of the week. Aaron Wainwright’s dominant carries helped Wales gain a foothold in the game, and he played a crucial role in their late fightback. It was also arguablly his best ever showing in Wales colours, and Welsh fans will be begging to see this version of him against England.