Team of the week: All Blacks, Springboks and a couple of Lions combine
By Michael Cantillon
Last Updated: 26/06/17 5:05pm
After a packed weekend of rugby action, the All Blacks dominate our team of the week after their clinical victory over the Lions at Eden Park on Saturday.
It was a victory brought about largely by teamwork, mixed with some outstanding individual performances from the likes of Brodie Retallick and Kieran Read.
The Springboks and Lions also have a couple of inclusions apiece, while France and Wales are represented as well.
15. Liam Williams (Lions)
The instigator to Sean O'Brien's special Lions try, Williams more than justified his inclusion. Starting the score with a superb step on Kieran Read deep in his own 22, the Welshman proceeded to burn another couple of All Blacks and offload to Jonathan Davies in a score which will go down as one of the Lions' greatest.
A serious counter-attacking weapon, Williams was at the heart of another slick move in the second half and a major thorn in the All Blacks side. Will give Steve Hansen something to think about this week.
A very poor drop of the ball let in Rieko Ioane for New Zealand's third score, but all-in-all, Williams was up there with the most creative players on display this weekend.
14. Steff Evans (Wales)
After an excellent season with PRO12 champions Scarlets, Evans was afforded his first Wales call-up for this summer's Pacific Islands tour games. On Friday, he proved his country's saviour in horrible Samoan conditions.
The wing notched a brace of scores, but his late effort in the corner in Apia ensured Wales secured a slender 19-17 victory, and didn't leave with egg on their faces. A lethal finisher, this wont be the last time we see him scoring on the international stage, that's for sure.
13. Jonathan Davies (Lions)
The Welsh centre saved undoubtedly his best game on tour so far for the big one. A slick break inside two minutes should have resulted in the opening try, while he had two key involvements in O'Brien's score, tracking Williams to pick up his offload and shift it on to Daly, before doing brilliantly to keep his hands free and find the Irish openside by the try-line later in the move.
Took it to the All Blacks all game, his Test place is now not in any shred of doubt.
12. Jan Serfontein (South Africa)
The man of the Springboks' whitewash series against France. Serfontein was in our team of the week last week, and he makes it again this time around after another all-action display in the Boks' history making 35-12 victory over France at Ellis Park.
In a largely subdued performance from Allister Coetzee's men, the inside-centre was a leading light. Beginning the game with a key breakdown turnover after a sustained spell of French pressure, Serfontein was everywhere in defence and attack.
He even got lifted in the lineout for Eben Etzebeth's vital try, playing a key role in subtly offloading the ball to a secondary pod after he was hoisted up in a brilliant set-piece move. Not many backs can claim that this week!
11. Rieko Ioane (New Zealand)
The first of many All Blacks in our XV, Ioane's two clinical scores at Eden Park against the Lions belied his tender years.
In just his second Test cap, the 20-year-old showed off searing pace and power to finish off well in the corner for his first and run in his second to kill the contest, leaving Elliot Daly, who is no slouch himself, well and truly in his wake. Blistering.
10. Beauden Barrett (New Zealand)
Forced to play as an auxiliary full-back following Ben Smith's head knock removal, Barrett was still too good to leave out.
His control of the game was at its customary excellence, while his kicking from the tee, something many have declared as a key weakness in his game, was absolutely flawless from all angles. The best around.
9. Aaron Smith (New Zealand)
Alongside Barrett, Smith had his best game for several months in an All Black jersey. Delivering lightening quick ball all game, his pace and control of service would eventually destroy the Lions.
It was his quick tap which opened the door for New Zealand's first try, while he was alert to pick up Reid's ridiculously good offload off the deck for the crucial second. Even before all that, his ankle tap tackle on Conor Murray after just two minutes saved a certain try. Looks back to his best if this performance is anything to go by.
1. Jefferson Poirot (France)
The only Frenchman to come away with any credit from their meek and error-strewn defeat to South Africa in Johannesburg, Poirot was strong at the scrum and a menace at the breakdown.
Earned three turnovers with textbook jackals, the Bordeaux Begles loosehead also did a number on Springbok newbie Ruan Dreyer. Poirot earned numerous scrum penalties and forced two against the head in an eye-catching display.
2. Codie Taylor (New Zealand)
Billed as a potential weakness to the New Zealand pack in the absence of Dane Coles, Taylor proved anything but.
The pick-up for his try off his bootlaces was outstanding by any standards, let alone for a hooker to pull it off. Was also part of a solid set-piece and his work rate was off the charts. Emptied the tank.
3. Kalivati Tawake (Fiji)
Without question the least well-known member of our team, but in a week where several high-profile tighthead's failed to stand out, Tawake has quite the story. After Scotland's sensational victory over Australia in Sydney last week, they were brought down to earth with a bump in Suva on Saturday as Fiji secured a superb 27-22 victory.
At 28, Tawake was making just his third Test appearance and the army officer, who plays for the Republic of Fiji Military Forces Army Green side, admitted he achieved a dream by being called up the national side this summer. He now has a Test start and victory to his name.
The prop lasted 75 minutes, which is almost unheard of for a tighthead in today's game, and left everything out on the pitch. His inclusion is a reward for the whole Fijian XV.
4. Brodie Retallick (New Zealand)
Part of a brutally intense New Zealand forward pack, Retallick was brilliant against the Lions. The Chiefs lock chipped in with 12 carries for a phenomenal 35 metres as Warren Gatland's side struggled to handle his strength in attack and his oppressive and suffocating defence.
His presence is absolutely vital for the All Blacks, they just aren't the same without him.
5. Sam Whitelock (New Zealand)
Hugely physical, Whitelock caused carnage at the breakdown and disruption at the lineout. Got the better of his opposite number George Kruis all game, the second row also chipped in with a vital steal towards the closing stages.
6. Jaco Kriel (South Africa)
South Africa's blindside is starting to forge a partnership to be feared alongside fellow flanker Siya Kolisi for the Springboks. Against France, Kriel was the pick of the forwards on the pitch.
The 27-year-old made several barnstorming runs and must have covered every blade of grass at Ellis Park. Another who has enjoyed a fine summer series.
7. Sam Cane (New Zealand)
Teak tough, Cane tackles everything that moves and is hard as nails at the breakdown. Benefited immensely from the interpretation of referee Jaco Peyper, who leaves a lot go in terms of the physical stakes, Cane was a dominant figure in the All Blacks' victory over the Lions.
He may never be regarded as Richie McCaw, but he is one tough customer.
8. Kieran Read (New Zealand)
Simply the best player on the pitch on Saturday. Staggering to think this was Read's first appearance since April, and just his fifth in seven months. The All Blacks skipper was magnificent. He made 18 carries, 13 of which yielded gainline success, and produced an absolute moment of magic which, in effect, settled the contest.
With the match finely balanced on the hour mark, Read dug out a scarcely believable offload off the ground from a moving scrum, popping it around Lions scrum-half Murray to Smith. Just a superlative moment of skill.
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