Team of the week: Racing 92, Saracens and Ospreys dominate
By Tony Tighe and Keith Moore
Last Updated: 18/01/16 5:54pm
Racing 92, Saracens and the Ospreys are well represented in our team of the week following impressive Champions Cup victories.
15. Brice Dulin (Racing 92)
Dulin put his hand up for the France No 15 shirt with a brilliant attacking display against the Scarlets. The Racing back three tore their Welsh visitors apart with Dulin beating a team-high seven defenders.
The 25-year-old is a fantastic counter-attacker and made three breaks, one which led to Racing's third of nine tries. "We had a lot of fun in this game," said the full-back.
14. Louis Dupichot (Racing 92)
Dupichot threw an audacious pass to tee up fellow wing Juan Imhoff for Racing's opening try, but there was even better to come from the 20-year-old, who made 104 metres from 10 carries.
Taking Dan Carter's offload inside his own 22 on 32 minutes, Dupichot showed fantastic footwork to leave Scarlets defenders trailing in his wake and then pinned back his ears for a length of the field score.
Harry Mallinder also deserves a mention after the 19-year-old came off the bench to score the winning try for Northampton against Glasgow.
13. Garry Ringrose (Leinster)
Hat-trick hero Casey Laulala will be crossing us off his Christmas card list after this selection but Ringrose caught the eye once again as Leinster's young guns knocked Bath out of Europe.
The 20-year-old made a team-high 19 carries at the RDS, including a lovely break from inside his own half shortly after the restart.
Ringrose gained 95 metres, beat four defenders and led the way in defence with 11 tackles, and Shane Horgan and Will Greenwood have called for his inclusion in Ireland's Six Nations squad.
12. Dan Carter (Racing 92)
Carter is becoming an ever-present in our teams of the week but it is impossible to leave him out on current form. The two-time World Cup winner moved to inside centre against Scarlets but maintained his impeccable high levels of performance.
Carter had a hand in everything good about Racing as they decimated Scarlets from start to finish. No handling errors, six out of six from the tee, Carter also combined well with fly-half Remi Tales before departing on 52 minutes.
11. Keith Earls (Munster)
Juan Imhoff is unlucky to miss out after his try double against Scarlets but we're going with Earls after he put a smile back on the faces of Munster supporters and Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt.
The Ireland wing lit up a dour encounter in the final minute of the first half against Stade Francais when he burst past Pascal Pape and turned on the gas, sliding underneath the posts for a fantastic individual score.
Earls made 56 metres from his five carries and completed all seven attempted tackles, which will not have gone unnoticed by a certain Kiwi sitting in the stands.
10. Owen Farrell (Saracens)
Farrell was named man-of-the-match despite a patchy goalkicking display, which underlines his influence in open play as Saracens clinched a home quarter-final with victory over Ulster.
The 24-year-old left opposite number Paddy Jackson and Robbie Diack for dead as he raced through a gap on 52 minutes, drawing Jared Payne before passing to Duncan Taylor for Sarries' second try.
Farrell's passing was excellent throughout and he moved into inside centre for the final 20 minutes, a position he's expected to occupy for England during the Six Nations.
Special mentions go to Sam Davies for his match-winning introduction against Clermont, Nicky Robinson's excellent display for Oyonnax in the win over Toulouse, and Remi Tales' team-high 15 tackles for Racing.
9. Joe Simpson (Wasps)
You don't expect your scrum-half to be one of the leading tacklers but Simpson was outstanding in defence as Wasps suffered late heartbreak in Toulon.
Omitted from England's elite player squad, Simpson was hell-bent on proving a point at the Stade Felix Mayol. He made 10 tackles, including a try-saver on Bryan Habana, and won three turnovers.
A late kick from Simpson went out on the full, providing Toulon with the platform to snatch victory from the final play, but that should not overshadow an excellent display by the 27-year-old.
1. Mako Vunipola (Saracens)
The England loosehead maintained his fine recent form as the Saracens pack fronted up against Ulster at Allianz Park.
Vunipola worked hard in the loose, making 17 carries and five tackles. He got the better of Wiehahn Herbst in the scrum, the Ulsterman conceding two penalties before departing injured, and also pressurised replacement Ricky Lutton.
2. James Tracy (Leinster)
Tracy shone on his first European start as Leinster salvaged some pride from a underwhelming European campaign.
The 24-year-old was faultless in the lineout, hitting his target on all nine throws, and made 10 tackles as Leinster's young pack stepped up at Champions Cup level.
Tracy put his hand up as a strong ball-carrying option, gaining 20 metres, and showed great hands to release Isa Nacewa down the right wing midway through the first half.
3. Ben Tameifuna (Racing 92)
It wasn't just the Racing backs who impressed in their rout of the Scarlets. Former New Zealand U20 prop Tameifuna made 10 carries and five tackles, while also providing a platform for his backline at the scrum.
Tameifuna beat two defenders and even put boot to ball at one stage. It was that kind of afternoon for Racing.
4. Maro Itoje (Saracens)
Whether it's at blindside or lock, Itoje has consistently produced the goods for Saracens this season. The 21-year-old celebrated his England call-up by pressuring the Ulster lineout, making one steal, and he was driven over for Saracens' third try on 58 minutes after claiming Jamie George's throw.
Itoje made 11 carries, beat two defenders and completed six tackles as Sarries returned to winning ways.
5. Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys)
What a performance from the Welsh colossus. Jones' leadership shone through as the Ospreys kept their quarter-final hopes alive with victory over Clermont Auvergne.
The talismanic second row made an incredible 20 tackles, was industrious at the lineout and produced a powerful second-half break that swung the game in the Ospreys' favour. He even showed that he's an all-round good egg by asking the referee to not sin bin Viktor Kolelishvili!
Jones stepped as captain for the British and Irish Lions series-clinching victory over Australia in 2013, and looks the outstanding candidate to lead the tourists in New Zealand next year.
6. Sam Underhill (Ospreys)
There has been a lot of talk about Chris Robshaw playing well at six but the Ospreys' 19-year-old flanker is making everyone sit up and take notice. He bossed the more underappreciated facets of loose forward play against Clermont.
Underhill was outstanding in defence, making 18 tackles and winning two turnovers. A former England U18 captain, he was born in the United States and could qualify for Wales under the three-year residency rule. There could be an international tug of war coming down the tracks.
7. Justin Tipuric (Ospreys)
While opposite number Viktor Kolelishvili was losing his head, Tipuric stayed composed and fiercely committed as the Ospreys came from behind to beat Clermont.
The Welsh region's top ball-carrier (13), Tipuric also made 14 tackles. "Outstanding at contact and in the wide spaces," said Stuart Barnes, and the openside's performance has sparked further discussion about how Wales can accommodate him in their back row for the Six Nations.
8. Guy Thompson (Wasps)
Thompson controlled the ball well at the back of a scrum that was going backwards all afternoon, and kept Toulon's international trio of loose forwards at bay.
The No 8 topped the ball-carrying charts for Wasps with 18 and showed searing pace and power to steam over for Wasps' 70th-minute try.
Elsewhere, CJ Stander starred yet again as Munster restored some pride against Stade Francais. He looks certain to feature for Ireland in the Six Nations.