Wales lit up the third weekend of the Six Nations with a blistering win against England.
Elsewhere, Ireland and France secured victories against Italy and Scotland.
Here, we pick out the top performers from the weekend’s action.
ALUN WYN JONES
The Wales captain led from the front and his teammates followed him along the way. The Ospreys man made 16 tackles and 14 carries in a dominant display, covering every blade of grass along the way. At 33, he is far from a fading force and was trojan-like at the breakdown, causing a nuisance for the England forwards. If Wales are to go on and secure a first Grand Slam since 2012, then the towering Jones is going to be central to their ambitions.
Absolute class act and was unfortunate to finish on the losing team. The Sale man has been consistently superb over the three Six Nations matches to date. He was sublime against Wales on Saturday, making 24 tackles and seven carries. One of the stand-out features of his performance was his tireless work at the breakdown, where he made a glorious turnover on Hadleigh Parkes midway through the second half. Capped off a fine performance with a try too. Hard to believe he is only 20.
The 19-year-old controlled the pace of the game excellently and combined well with elusive scrum-half Antoine Dupont. The Toulouse man finished well for the first try, taking a pop pass from Dupont to touch down. For the second, he teed up Mathieu Bastareaud to send a cleverly weighed chip that led to Yoann Huget crossing the line. Despite limited game time at out-half for his club, his sizzling performance against Scotland proves his future lies in that position at international level.
Third man-of-the-match display for the Ireland captain in his last four international matches (New Zealand, Scotland and Italy). At 29, O’Mahony continues to step up and show his class both as an influential leader and sensational player. His voracious work at the breakdown was sublime, making three poaches and 14 successful tackles. Got through his usual high volume of work, producing some line-out excellence on both Irish and Italian throws.
The Edinburgh man stepped in for Stuart Hogg and ran hard but it was a thankless task as France attacked in waves. The 22-year-old showed his pace and power with ball in hand, running 122 metres for 16 carries and beating three defenders. He kicked well and his restarts were sharp but unfortunately Scotland did not take full advantage. The decision making – especially in defence – may not be there yet, but more game time at full-back will only improve him further at this level.
Although it might be harsh not to select scrum-half Tito Tebaldi, it was Hayward who also created countless problems from full-back and put Ireland under serious pressure. The 32-year-old made 148 metres from 11 carries, beating five defenders and making two clean break. It was his surging run that set the platform for Edoardo Padovani to cross for a try just before the breaks. And he earlier prevented a certain score when successfully chasing back to deny winger Andrew Conway.
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