The Heineken Cup team of the opening two rounds
It's been a breathtaking opening two rounds of the Heineken Cup. Here we pick the players who have stood out so far.
15. Liam Williams (Scarlets)
Mike Brown has shone but Williams has inspired a team with his intense commitment and bristling aggression. Doesn’t know the meaning of the word ‘fear’. A team full of Liam Williamses would be a handful for anyone.
14. Tommy Bowe (Ulster)
Crossed for an excellent try against Leicester and set up a touchdown in Ulster’s competition-shaking away win over Montpellier. Bowe has been close to his best over the past fortnight, a player who does little wrong and so much right.
13. Casey Laulala (Munster)
The offload king, with 13 to his credit over two games, more than any other player in the competition. Also made 30 carries all told. Maxime Mermoz stood out in opening round and Regan King impressed for Clermont Auvergne against Harlequins, but Laulala has been exceptional.
12. Scott Williams (Scarlets)
A player with a penchant for solo tries, Williams didn’t disappoint against Harlequins, his 50-metre effort lighting up The Stoop and delighting Scarlets’ supporters. Scored another fine touchdown against Racing Metro, he could be a key figure for Wales this autumn and looks a player who feels his time has come.
11. Sitiveni Sivivatu (Clermont Auvergne)
The player of the tournament so far. Sivivatu has made more clean breaks than anyone else (7), beaten more defenders (14) and made more metres (263) than his rivals. He has been magnificent.
10. James Hook (Perpignan)
A shining star at full-back against Gloucester, Hook switched to fly-half against Edinburgh and his class again shone through. He is playing with confidence and isn’t afraid to attempt the unexpected. Dan Biggar’s effort against Northampton was steeped in perspiration, while Jimmy Gopperth has been excellent.
9. Ruan Pienaar (Ulster)
It wasn’t just his 15 points that elevated his display against Montpellier. It was also his precise tactical kicking. Everything he does on a pitch is calculated. The French couldn’t cope with him last weekend.
1. Emmanuel Felsina (Toulon)
Destroyed Glasgow’s scrum and flexed his muscles menacingly against the Blues. Responsible for one of the most memorable moments of any Heineken Cup when he gave Scott Andrews an aerial view of the Welsh capital. Huge power, massive presence.
2. Christopher Tolofua (Toulouse)
Just 19, he is built like a fridge and just as chilling when charging with the ball in the loose. Helped put the squeeze on Saracens and has played a key part in Toulouse starting the campaign with two wins. A nod to the whole-hearted Richard Hibbard, Rory Best and Leinster’s Sean Cronin.
3. Census Johnston
Mighty, just mighty. Provided the power to drive Christopher Tolofua over against Saracens and put in a double-figure haul of tackles in just 40 minutes on the field.
4. Ali Williams (Toulon)
The former All Black was one of the few from Toulon to emerge with his reputation intact against the Blues, while he shone in his side’s demolition of Glasgow the previous weekend. Doesn’t just do the basics. Also has moments of refinement that set him apart.
5. Courtney Lawes (Northampton)
Immense against the Ospreys with his big hitting, appetite for battle and raw physicality. Put in 13 tackles, many of them searing, wipe-out affairs that left opposition players nursing sore ribs. On that form, Lawes is lethal on a rugby field.
6. Roger Wilson (Ulster)
No frills, but no flaws in his game, either. A stalwart in defence against Leicester, when he kept knocking back opposition forwards, he had another stand-out game last weekend, albeit at No. 8, when he pulled off at least two try-saving hits.
8. Gillian Galan (Toulouse)
French rugby’s next big thing, a Scott Quinnell lookalike who has similar power to the former Wales captain. Galan also has incredibly soft hands and keen awareness. Playing so well he is keeping Louis Picamoles out of the starting line-up at Toulouse.
7. Sean O’Brien (Leinster)
The Irishman's performance against the Ospreys was as good as anything we have seen in the tournament in the first fortnight. Huge strength and unyielding commitment, with no reverse gear.