Team of the Week: England absentees and try-scoring props
By Louise Warr
Last Updated: 26/01/16 12:57pm
An on-fire winger, try-scoring props and England squad absentees all feature in our team of the week.
15. Jared Payne (Ulster)
Could we see the Ulster star at full-back for Ireland in the Six Nations? Payne was the stand-out performer as Ulster produced a bonus-point victory against Oyonnax which proved too little too late for the Irish province as they were pipped to qualification for the Champions Cup last eight.
He was outstanding in the No 15 shirt, running some fantastic lines. The full-back was also instrumental in the build-up to Darren Cave's try and scored one himself.
14. Noa Seru Nakaitaci (Clermont)
Clermont Auvergne crashed out of the Champions Cup after a dramatic 37-28 defeat to Bordeaux-Begles at the Stade Marcel-Michelin. However, the side were gifted a dream start from Nakaitaci.
The winger's break and chip sent Jonathan Davies over after just one minute, before he crossed himself two minutes after. He also put in 12 carries for his side, second only to Fritz Lee.
13. Elliot Daly (Wasps)
Wasps stormed to a home quarter-final with their 51-10 rout of Leinster on Sunday with Daly influential throughout the match. His performance levels show no signs of waning and the centre once again pressed his claim to start England's Six Nations opener against Scotland.
He was a constant threat with ball in hand and pinned back his ears back to outpace Rob Kearney and Zane Kirchner to score a fantastic try.
12. Harry Mallinder (Northampton Saints)
Harry Mallinder bagged himself a second man-of-the-match award in as many weeks as he helped Northampton keep their European dreams alive with a comfortable 22-10 win over the Scarlets.
The youngster latched on to the end of a floated Morgan Allen pass to touch down and his distribution skills allowed those outside him to showcase their attacking talents.
11. James Short (Exeter Chiefs)
Exeter snatched a last-minute place in the Champions Cup quarter-finals with a 33-17 bonus-point win over the Ospreys at Sandy Park, with Short shining for the home side.
Short, a 2011 Aviva Premiership winner with Saracens, scored two tries and made 191 metres in the process, as Exeter advanced to the knockout stages of Europe's premier competition for the first time in their history.
10. Jules Plisson (Stade Francais)
Stade Francais recovered from a slow start to beat Leicester Tigers 36-21 in Paris. Fly-half Plisson pulled the strings for Stade as they secured the bonus point they needed to progress, nipping over the try-line himself in the 23rd minute.
9. Ben Spencer (Saracens)
Scrum-half Spencer helped Saracens maintain their 100 per cent record in this season's Champions Cup against Toulouse on Saturday.
A early injury replacement for Neil de Kock, Spencer scored his side's first try of the afternoon after a fine break from full-back Alex Goode set up the field position and found Spencer, who dinked the ball over the top of the onrushing Toulouse defender before collecting his own kick to score.
1. Sebastien Taofifenua (Bordeaux-Begles)
Bordeaux ended Clermont's 25-game winning run at home in Europe, which went back to 2008, with their 28-37 victory on Sunday, and Taofifenua put in his fair share of hard work.
He contributed to a 100 per cent success rate scrum and had some strong carries, all topped off when he powered over from close range for Bordeaux's second try after 19 minutes.
2. Jamie George (Saracens)
George put in a man-of-the-match performance for Saracens as they recorded a 28-17 victory over Toulouse.
The hooker made 36 metres with ball in hand and 14 tackles without it, as well as making the burst to set up Owen Farrell for his howler of a drop over the try-line.
3. Brian Mujati (Sale Sharks)
Sale secured a home quarter-final in the Challenge Cup courtesy of a 38-5 bonus-point victory over the Dragons at the AJ Bell Stadium. Mujati was an integral member of the Sale pack with the Dragons suffering in the set piece, conceding a penalty try at the scrum.
The former Northampton Saint also got himself on the scoresheet when Sale worked a five-man overlap down the right wing, allowing the prop to dive over.
4. Joe Launchbury (Wasps)
Launcbury was among the Wasps try-scorers in their crushing win over Leinster. Plaudits were flying around for him post-match and it's easy to see why.
It was another relentless performance from Launchbury, who put in 14 carries and was only just beaten to the top-spot in the stats by team-mate George Smith.
5. Leone Nakarawa (Glasgow Warriors)
Nakarawa was man of the match as Glasgow signed off from Europe with a morale-boosting 22-5 win over Racing. He featured at No 8 against the French side but has made his way into our team of the week at his usual position of lock.
The Fijian was once again influential in the Glasgow pack and his 15 carries gave his side some much needed go-forward as they toppled one of the tournament favourites.
6. Tom Wood (Northampton Saints)
As the backs chased the four tries needed to keep themselves in the hunt for a quarter-final spot, Tom Wood did the dirty work up front for his side.
A notable omission from Eddie Jones' recently-named EPS squad, the flanker put any disappointment behind him and put in 18 tackles in the must-win match.
7. Steffon Armitage (Toulon)
A late Bryan Habana try snatched victory for Toulon in Bath but it was up front where the battle was won. Once again Armitage proved a menace at the breakdown, denying the home side of quick possession and earning penalty after penalty for the Toulon cause.
Come the Six Nations, will Eddie Jones regret sticking to the overseas policy that stops the former European player of the Year from adding to his five England caps?
8. Thomas Waldrom (Exeter Chiefs)
The tries keep on flowing for the No 8 and he scored the crucial one that booked the Chiefs' place in the last-eight. Waldrom also contributed to the victory with 23 carries.
An honourable mention must also go to Nick Williams. The big ball-carrying No 8 ensured Ulster worked off front-foot ball, the only shock was he failed to get on the score-sheet.