Team of the Week: Premiership, PRO14 and Top 14 standouts combine
By Michael Cantillon
Last Updated: 01/01/19 7:22am
After another busy weekend of festive rugby across the Premiership, PRO14 and Top 14, some 13 clubs are represented in our team of the week...
Find out who makes our cut and have your say when it comes to the most influential player of the weekend with our vote below...
15. Charles Piutau (Bristol Bears)
Bristol registered a pivotal 35-28 Premiership victory over Newcastle Falcons on Sunday to give themselves some extra breathing room from the foot of the table.
Dominant in that success was ex-All Black Piutau from full-back, who was in lethal form with ball in hand.
The 27-year-old made 20 carries, beat 10 defenders, earned a monstrous 141 metres in attack, two clean breaks and scored a try. When on song, he can prove virtually unstoppable at times.
14. Jared Rosser (Dragons)
PRO14 strugglers Dragons entertained Ospreys in a Welsh derby on Sunday, and picked up their first victory over a Welsh region for some four years with a dramatic 23-22 victory.
Man of the match went to 20-year-old wing Rosser, who scored a stunning 60-metre try when nonchalantly making the most of a peculiar bounce to sprint in. The back also impressed with his pace and athleticism.
13. Pierre Aguillon (La Rochelle)
La Rochelle annihilated defending Top 14 champions Castres at the Stade Marcel Deflandre on Sunday in front of the Sky Sports cameras, with centre Aguillon the pick of the bunch.
The 31-year-old scored two tries in the 53-27 bonus-point win, and would had a hat-trick but for the referee awarding a penalty try instead.
Aguillon made 11 carries for 102 metres and beat an incredible 10 defenders. Superb.
12. Luca Morisi (Benetton)
Benetton were facing Zebre in their second Italian derby of the season on Saturday, and earned a convincing 28-10 success in Treviso.
Inside-centre Morisi was one of the standouts for Benetton as they rose to third in the PRO14 Conference B standings.
The 27-year-old made 14 tackles - only one player on the pitch made more - earned two turnovers and made nine carries in an eye-catching performance.
11. Toby Arnold (Lyon)
Lyon put 52 points on Agen in a stonking Top 14 victory to keep themselves within the upper echelons of the table on Saturday - a victory which, it turned out, would move them above Racing 92.
Arnold was in free running form, making 15 carries - more than anyone on the pitch - and 136 metres with ball in hand.
The 31-year-old's piece of attacking play down the left ahead of Pierre-Louis Barassi's try was magnificent.
10. Dan Biggar (Northampton)
Northampton stunned Premiership high flyers Exeter Chiefs on Friday night with an exciting 31-28 win in front of a sold out Franklin's Gardens on Friday night.
Out-half Biggar ran the game brilliantly, notching 16 points individually courtesy of a try, four conversions and a penalty.
The Wales international is really starting to grow into things at the Saints, and Friday demonstrated so in spades.
9. Faf de Klerk (Sale Sharks)
A regular entry into our Team of the Week selections this season, De Klerk was outstanding yet again on Saturday as Sale travelled to Gloucester and put 30 points on Johan Ackermann's side.
De Klerk was his usual bundle of energy around the park, while he also finished off a fantastic team score in the first half with a try of his own.
In the second half, he put in a monumental hit on Billy Twelvetrees to force a knock on and regather the ball before producing a trademark long left hand pass out to Denny Solomona in the same period of attack, clinching the bonus-point score and with it, the match.
The Springbok would be an asset to any side in world rugby with the quality of his play at the moment.
1. Mako Vunipola (Saracens)
Reigning Premiership champions Saracens were given a bit of a scare by Worcester on Saturday, but ultimately recovered from 14-0 down to win 25-17.
Central to their success was Vunipola, who scored their first try en route to the comeback after 30 minutes and made a phenomenal 18 carries - the most of anyone from either side and a sensational figure for a prop forward.
He also made nine tackles and beat two defenders.
2. Stuart McInally (Edinburgh)
After Richard Cockerill's Edinburgh smashed Glasgow 23-7 at home in the first 1872 Cup of the season last week, they faced a real test when travelling to Scotstoun for the second clash on Saturday.
But once again the side from Scotland's capital took the bragging rights, with skipper McInally grabbing the all-important try in a 16-8 win.
The hooker led from the front and also made 11 carries - nobody made more. He also made 11 tackles and was 91 per cent on his own throw.
3. WillGriff John (Sale Sharks)
Potentially the headline result of the weekend came from Sale, who travelled to Kingsholm and beat Gloucester 30-15 on Saturday.
Tighthead John put in another display full of unyielding work ethic. The prop lasted 77 minutes and made 13 tackles, missing none - only one person on the pitch made more.
4. Matt Symons (Harlequins)
Quins registered a valuable Premiership success over Wasps at Twickenham on Saturday, winning 20-13 and remaining fourth in the table.
Lock Symons was immense for the home side in victory, making an extraordinary 20 tackles during an 80-minute performance.
The 29-year-old was also Harlequins' main man at the lineout against his former side, claiming four balls throughout the game.
5. Tadhg Beirne (Munster)
Munster beat Leinster 26-17 in a fiery PRO14 interprovincial clash on Saturday, and man of the match - for what seems the umpteenth time this season - was second row Beirne.
The forward earned two crucial breakdown turnovers against the defending champions, demonstrating his exceptional jackal technique once more, while he also proved a nuisance at lineout time.
Beirne also made 13 tackles, eight carries and called the lineout in a comprehensive performance. There isn't another second row in world rugby who does what Beirne does at the breakdown.
6. Fineen Wycherley (Munster)
Munster academy product Wycherley was brought in for the province's derby with Leinster on Saturday, with skipper Peter O'Mahony missing from the fold.
The forward, who only turned 21 this month, was superbly physical and set the tone with a crunching hit on World Player of the Year Johnny Sexton inside the first three minutes - a tackle which then saw Sexton rip the scrum-cap off the youngster's head and threw it into his face.
Wycherley made 13 tackles during the match - only two players on the pitch made more - and excelled in a white-hot atmosphere, while he also claimed three lineout balls.
7. Colby Fainga'a (Connacht)
Connacht are playing some of the best rugby in the PRO14 at present, and on Friday they impressed again as they dispatched Ulster 21-12 in Galway.
Their most impressive performer was Australian flanker Fainga'a, who made 15 carries - more than anyone else for Connacht - 10 tackles, 64 metres with ball in hand, two clean breaks, three lineout takes and one turnover.
The 27-year-old stood out in almost every facet at the Sportsground.
8. Nick Williams (Cardiff Blues)
The Blues travelled to Scarlets on Saturday and inflicted the home side's first defeat at Parc y Scarlets for some 26 games and over two years.
Key to their resounding 34-5 success was forward domination and a high workrate, with No 8 Williams putting in a monumental 24 tackles.
When the 35-year-old is in the Blues team, they are a completely different force.