Team of the week: British and Irish Lions lead the way
By Emma Thurston
Last Updated: 12/06/17 10:29am
The best of the British and Irish Lions combine with those that excelled on international duty and in Super Rugby.
With the summer internationals going on around the world and the Lions tour to New Zealand continuing at a rate of knots, spaces in our team of the week were hotly contested.
From Lions that pressed their cases further for Test spots to others shining back for the home nations this team of the week has it all.
15. Anthony Watson (British and Irish Lions)
It was an unfortunate accident that led to Stuart Hogg's injury and the hope is that it won't be a tour-ending one for the Scotland international.
The man that arrived onto the field in his place certainly showed exactly what he can provide at full-back.
Watson has run out at Bath many times in the 15 jersey, however at international level we've largely seen him on the wing.
In Christchurch he displayed how potent he can be in broken-field play and asked numerous questions of the Crusaders defence.
While Leigh Halfpenny's solidity at the back is more well-known, and proven at Lions Test level, the 23-year-old worked well in slippery conditions and could provide useful versatility off the bench in the Tests.
14. Keith Earls (Ireland)
218 metres made... when was the last time that we saw a statistics like that!? While you're pondering on that, let's dive further into the performance of Earls at the Red Bull Arena.
Clearly as a collective Ireland were far too strong for their opponents and as an individual Earls was a class apart.
The Munster man scored two of his own and set up tries for Kieran Marmion, James Ryan and Jacob Stockdale on a sublime outing.
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Everything that you wanted from a winger - footwork, pace, work rate and distribution - Earls had in spades.
A notable mention must be made to Denny Solomona, who turned around a tricky early start to his international career with a match-winning wonder try, and Henry Speight for his brace against Fiji.
13. Jack Goodhue (Crusaders)
Goodhue announced himself on the game 11 minutes after the break in Christchurch.
The centre's step on Farrell is one that the Lion won't want to watch again and then his acceleration and chip forwards sent alarm bells through the Lions defence and forced an impressive scramble.
On top of this the 21-year-old topped the Crusaders' tackling charts with 14 and certainly looks like another very handy Kiwi prospect.
12. Sonny Bill Williams (Blues)
Prior to Wednesday's game at Eden Park there were question marks over whether Williams would make the All Blacks squad. By the 80th minute those doubts had long subsided.
Sonny Bill was outstanding in both attack and defence as the Blues consigned the Lions to their first defeat. He reacted quickest to score on the stroke of half-time when Steven Perofeta's penalty came back off the post, and was heavily involved in the decisive score, running a great line to take Steven Luatua's offload and then producing a trademark offload of his own to send Ihaia West sprinting clear.
Williams also put in a shift in defence, making eight tackles and winning two turnovers to nail down his place in Steve Hansen's squad.
11. Rieko Ioane (Blues)
If we cast our minds back to Wednesday morning then the place out wide could not be handed to anyone other than Ioane.
The 20-year-old has scored 10 tries in 14 matches for the Blues and shifted out to the wing to accommodate the returning presence of Sonny Bill Williams and George Moala.
Ioane threatened constantly and, as Jack Nowell found out, is an extremely difficult customer to keep in check defensively.
The back has been released to play for the New Zealand Maori against the Lions so Warren Gatland's side better do a little more homework on the young man to minimise his impact next time out.
10. George Ford (England)
The decision at fly-half was not an easy one as two English internationals - Ford and Owen Farrell - put in head-turning performances nearly 6,000 miles apart.
The 10 that wore the blue of England nudges into the team of the week having contributed 23 of England's 38 points with a try and seven out of eight off the tee.
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Wayward goal-kicking has often been a criticism of the 24-year-old, however he was striking the ball superbly and only missed a touchline conversion that came directly after his lung-busting try.
Ford's flat-to-the-line play and decision-making put England into all of the right areas and the young fly-half's leadership came to the fore...it was arguably one of his best outings with a red rose on his chest.
Meanwhile in Christchurch, Farrell took the British and Irish Lions' game in his hands and alongside his half-back partner provided the composure and structure that the game required.
Off the tee Farrell was again assured; out of hand he delivered and as a defensive leader he was vocal and physical throughout. Another outstanding performance for the man that looks nailed-on to be a Test starter.
9. Conor Murray (British and Irish Lions)
Murray's form has been consistently excellent for a long time now and once again he showed that against the Crusaders.
The scrum-half's kicking game is one of the best around and with the experience and prowess of Farrell next to him the Lions have a formidable and highly effective half-back partnership.
Murray attacks every game with a fierce competitive intensity that fires up those around them and yet he remains cool when it's required in the pressured situations. The boxes of box-kicking, distribution and personal flair are all ticked and you'd think that the programme for the first Test has his named inked on it.
A notable mention for Ross Cronje who got himself on the board on debut for South Africa against France. Cronje provided lighting quick service as well as knowing exactly when the threaten himself in Pretoria.
1. Mako Vunipola (British and Irish Lions)
From the first moment that the cameras panned to Vunipola nonchalantly taking in the Crusaders' Haka to the moment that he stepped off the field, the Saracen made waves.
Alongside Jamie George and Tadhg Furlong - a fellow team of the week member - he sent a message to the All Blacks at the set piece.
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The Lions' scrum dominated against an All Black-heavy pack, earning four penalties in the process and putting a few questions to Steve Hansen.
In the loose Vunipola was his dynamic best and showcased his extraordinary engine. All nine of his carries made yards and. with the handling skills that he possesses, the prop brings others into the game off his hard yards and gain-line-busting runs.
2. Malcolm Marx (South Africa)
The Springboks lost eight of 12 internationals last year and the pressure was on to deliver on home soil given their less than impressive autumn outings.
A man-of-the-match outing from Marx drove what was a much-needed victory for the home side and one that will slightly ease the pressure on head coach Allister Coetzee.
The hooker was a nuisance at the breakdown, physically dominant and key in attack, setting up Jesse Kriel for a first-half try.
3. Tadhg Furlong (British and Irish Lions)
The Lions tour may still be in its relative infancy however what's clear is that that strength in depth housed up front will stand them in extremely good stead going into the Test matches.
Furlong's rise from club man to international to Lion has been meteoric and against the Crusaders we saw him, alongside Jamie George and Mako Vunipola, send the Crusaders' All Black front row into reverse.
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Alongside his fellow forwards Furlong adds so much in the loose and has made no secret of the fact that pulling on the Lions jersey is fulfilling a dream that he's had since he was 'in nappies'.
4. Ben Toolis (Scotland)
At the Singapore National Stadium Gregor Townsend started his reign as Scotland head coach with a victory over Italy.
It was an outing that blew away a few cobwebs for the Scots who now will focus on a sterner test against Australia next Saturday.
For so long the Scottish second row has been dominated by the Gray brothers but both were absent in Singapore, and Toolis took his first starting opportunity with both hands.
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The Edinburgh lock ran the lineout with precision, carried hard throughout and was part of a strong maul defence.
While the Italians didn't have much in their armoury the 25-year-old could only play what was in front of him and showed that he wants to be firmly in the international mix going forward.
5. George Kruis (British and Irish Lions)
A lock that is already firmly established in the international mix partners Toolis in our engine room.
Kruis is one of the individuals that is thriving in the red of the Lions and made his statement directly opposite Sam Whitelock on Saturday.
The Saracen commanded the Lions' lineout with distinction and like those around him, he attacked the game with the athleticism required. Needless to say Gatland has some big decisions to make in the second row ahead of June 24.
6. Mark Wilson (England)
Wilson has waited a long time for his England debut and even could miss his child's birth while he is out in Argentina.
The Newcastle Falcon topped the tackle count last season in the Premiership  and was only second to Thomas Young this season . In short, his work-rate is known and he transferred that seamlessly into the international arena.
In humid conditions he topped the tackle count with 16, missing none, made three turnovers and added seven carries to his evening's work.
Eddie Jones has described him as a 'real revelation' and a 'very selfless guy'. With Chris Robshaw back to full fitness the Australian has a decision to make regarding selection for the second Test.
7. Sean O'Brien (British and Irish Lions)
April 1 was the last time that Sean O'Brien took to a rugby field and on his first outing back there wasn't a hint of rustiness in his performance.
For 55 minutes he reminded everyone of how much he can add and his versatility and ability to cover any position in the back row could very much be his trump card this tour.
O'Brien's contribution at the breakdown with his penetrating carries caused the Crusaders problems and you expect him to improve with every minute played after such an absence.
A notable mention must also be made to England's youngest starter since Collin Laird in 1927 - Tom Curry. The 18-year-old stood up to Argentina's more experienced pack and continues to start his international career with promise.
8. Steven Luatua (Blues)
Luatua will be at Bristol next season but for now he's turning heads for the Blues and certainly did so against the Lions.
'That' offload to Sonny Bill Williams was absolutely outstanding and was critical in setting up the match-winning try. His ambition impressed all watching.
However, Steve Hansen has decided that there isn't room for him in the national squad right now, therefore he must continue to try and make his presence felt in Super Rugby.