Six Nations 2014: Team of the 3rd Weekend
A Grand Slam is now out of reach for Europe's giants, with each and every team having now suffered defeat in this year's Six Nations.
The competition is living up to its billing as the most open and balanced tournament of its kind for some years, with four teams now sitting on four points apiece and the title still within just about anyone's reach.
Week 3 served as a great equaliser among the continental powers, and we've compiled the finest performers of the round into this week's dream XV.
1. Gethin Jenkins, Wales
Elected man of the match for the part he played in a 27-6 battering of France, Gethin Jenkins overcomes a sin-binning to line up as this week's loosehead.
The Cardiff Blues behemoth went toe-to-toe with Nicolas Mas and one would be tempted to say he came off the better of the two, although Paul James also had an instant impact in the scrum.
2. Leonardo Ghiraldini, Italy
Three Italians managed to score a match-high tally of 15 tackles in the 21-20 loss to Scotland, but the fact that hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini is one of them staggers belief.
Such an astute defensive showing was backed up by solid work in the scrum, with the line-out standing as the only area that perhaps could have used some improvement.
Special mentions for Rory Best and Dylan Hartley, who were also strong in their London outings.
3. Martin Castrogiovanni, Italy
Another member of that Azzurri pack that dominated Scotland at the set piece early on, so much so that Scott Johnson was forced to whip Moray Low off before half-time just to stem the tide.
The veteran was massively influential in that regard, although loosehead squad mate Alberto De Marchi was also part of an incredible front-row performance from the Rome hosts.
4. Joshua Furno, Italy
Joshua Furno rounds off Italian matters in this week's pack, thanks largely to the late try the lock managed to cruise over for, giving the hosts reason to believe they were in the clear against Scotland.
It would ultimately prove futile, but Furno still held a great individual account of his powers, recording 15 tackles as well.
5. Devin Toner, Ireland
Devin Toner has sat as something of an unsung hero for Ireland of late, slowly migrating further and further into the international setup without creating much of a stir.
However, this weekend's display against England showed that the 6'10" Leinster lock is capable of stepping into the spotlight as he reigned triumphant at the line-out, making 14 tackles in the process and carried well against his English foes.
Joe Launchbury's 18-tackle display is also worthy of note.
6. Chris Robshaw, England
His international allegiances may have taken him to the open-side, but this weekend sees England captain Chris Robshaw migrate back to his club jersey of No. 6.
The Harlequin hero wasn't to be beaten for tackles this weekend, registering 22 in total during the win against Ireland, and it was his burst through midfield that put Danny Care in for the game's winning try.
7. Sam Warburton, Wales
Another Captain Fantastic performance emerged in Cardiff, where Sam Warburton gave those who may have been doubting his leadership credentials of late reason to think otherwise.
Aside from the seven balls taken at the line-out by the centrally contracted star, Warburton latched on to a Jamie Roberts break, just about scraping Wales' second try, and what a magnificent score it was.
8. Sergio Parisse, Italy
It's all too familiar a story for Sergio Parisse, who once again led his Italian team with a great deal of gusto this weekend, resulting in a story of plenty of huff but eventually no puff.
The Stade Francais man trotted to 38 carrying metres against the Scots, making 11 tackles in the process and consistently putting Jacques Brunel's men on the front foot, as per usual.
9. Danny Care, England
The story of the weekend was, of course, Danny Care's grinning face sprinting under the Twickenham posts, sealing Ireland's first loss of the 2014 Six Nations and putting England right back in the championship mix.
Care carried for 51 metres in total and pitched in with a performance that will help keep the likes of Lee Dickson and Ben Youngs further away from the No. 9 jersey, although special mentions go to an impressive Rhys Webb performance.
10. Duncan Weir, Scotland
And a close runner-up to that Care game-changer is Duncan Weir's equivalent, an almost-as-entertaining 79th-minute drop-goal winner against Italy, the first drop goal of his international career.
Weir wheeled away with delight after scoring the three points that would be good enough to give Scotland their first win in Rome in nine attempts, although his 41 carrying metres and two turnovers were also healthy contributions.
12. Jamie Roberts, Wales
With George North lined up outside him, there was some concern over whether Jamie Roberts would be able to play to his optimum against France and, in fact, his wing teammate helped bring the best out of him.
Roberts helped restrain Wesley Fofana and Mathieu Bastareaud—one of the world's most fearsome midfield make-ups of the last two years—but also added a catalytic step to the Welsh game with ball in hand.
It was the Racing Metro man's burst through the middle that led to Sam Warburton's vital score, and Roberts' tally of four beaten defenders shows precisely how effective he was finding holes in Les Bleus' defence.
13. Alex Dunbar, Scotland
Two tries from the Glasgow Warrior point to a good day's work for Alex Dunbar, who really stepped things up a notch in Rome's second half, as did the rest of his back line.
Two clean breaks, five defenders beaten and a carrying total of 91 metres stand as evidence that the brace-scoring Scot is to be held extremely accountable for an impressive win over the Azzurri.
11. Dave Kearney, Ireland
Following in the footsteps of brother Rob, Dave Kearney is beginning to find prominence in the Irish national set-up, and rightfully so when Twickenham has to put up with the speedster in this kind of form.
Like his sibling, Kearney's handling stands out as one of his major positives at times, and the 66 metres he gained down Schmidt's left wing helped in constantly putting the visitors in the driver's seat against England, albeit for nothing in the end.
14. Yoann Huget, France
England's Jack Nowell had arguably his most impressive performance yet for England, but it's one of France's more reliable staples, Yoann Huget, who makes the line-up once again this week.
Although his side's trip to the Welsh capital resulted in no away tries being scored, Huget was one of Philippe Saint-Andre's brighter sparks in the 27-6 loss, making two offloads, beating two defenders and carrying for 42 metres.
15. Mike Brown, England
Rob Kearney would seek to give his England counterpart a serious run for his money following the performance at Twickenham, but man of the match Mike Brown is fully deserving of the No. 15 shirt for Week 3.
One highlight for the Harlequin has to be the goalkeeper-like save that prevented Brian O'Driscoll from exploiting the void of space behind the English defence, but 82 carrying metres, five defenders beaten and two clean breaks shows that Brown was most certainly an offensive gem, too.
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