Team of the week: Premiership, PRO14 and Top 14 standouts combine
By Sky Sports Rugby Union
Last Updated: 02/09/18 8:34pm
The Gallagher Premiership and Guinness PRO14 seasons both started strongly at the weekend. Our latest team of the week combines the best from the two leagues, plus a couple of notable performers from the Top 14.
Take a look at the XV below and have your say by voting for the player who you think delivered the strongest performance.
15. Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors)
The full-back started, and finished, the Warriors' Round 1 encounter against Connacht by standing up at the vital moments.
It was his chip forwards that put Tommy Seymour away for their first try of the afternoon. Hogg was also the man to make a 66th-minute touchline conversion count and it was his 30-metre drop goal that sailed through the middle of the uprights with six minutes to go.
Clearly, the back who captained his country for the first time against the USA this summer, is eager to deliver another big season.
14. Darren Sweetnam (Munster Rugby)
There was a whole host of players in 14 jerseys that put in strong performances, including George North for Ospreys, Nathan Earle for Harlequins and Bristol Bears' Luke Morahan. But Darren Sweetnam is handed our jersey.
The 25-year-old had an excellent day at the Thomond Park office. His footwork, pace and dynamism going forwards was just too much for the Cheetahs to handle.
He created a try for Rory Scannell, was instrumental in the build-up for Dave O'Callaghan's five-pointer and scored a corker of his own, breaking inside his own half, in the 70th minute.
13. Ian Whitten (Exeter Chiefs)
Exeter Chiefs' opening performance of the new season in their 40-6 home win over Leicester was highly impressive, and it could have been a more emphatic scoreline because they left points out there in the first half.
In the midfield, the player who has been at the club since 2012 showed his class.
It was a no-nonsense outing from the outside centre who was everywhere from start to finish. He spent the day busting through defenders and coupled that with superb distribution skills.
12. Stuart McCloskey (Ulster Rugby)
Ulster started Dan McFarland's reign on the right note with a 15-13 home win over Scarlets, although the new head coach will be hoping that future PRO14 wins are achieved by a slightly larger margin.
In the end, John Cooney's boot secured the 'W' but the tough ball-carrying of their inside centre was crucial to Ulster's success.
McCloskey, who signed a three-year contract extension in late August, made 15 carries, 56 metres and offloaded well out of contact.
11. Luke Morahan (Bristol Bears)
"He was on the other wing we hear you cry..."
We know, but, this team of the week would not be complete without the 28-year-old, so forgive us if you will for switching him over!
Morahan, who was the Championship's top try-scorer with 17 in 19 outings last season, was electric in front of his home crowd.
He questioned Bath, time and time again, and it took the outstanding pace and strength of Joe Cokanasigna to prevent him crossing.
The Australian shrugged that off, and still managed to make his presence felt, by setting up Alapati Leiua for the Bears' match-winning try.
10. Danny Cipriani (Gloucester Rugby)
That pass... you know the one!
We have to start with it because it was simply sublime and shows the brilliance of Danny Cipriani in full.
The impact the fly-half had for his new side against Northampton went beyond that try-creating moment too. He regularly sparked them into life on the front foot, kicked well out of hand and looked instantly at home in cherry and white.
Before we move on, allow us to tip our hat to the work of Camille Lopez in Paris too. After suffering such a horrific injury last season, it is great to see him back on the field and pulling the strings so well again.
9. Richard Wigglesworth (Saracens)
The Saracen did not expect to be starting at Kingston Park on Sunday but illness to Ben Spencer thrust him into the starting XV.
The highly-experienced nine's kicking game was on song (as you would expect) and it combined with the boot of Owen Farrell to force Newcastle into making errors off their high kicks.
1. Loni Uhila (ASM Clermont Auvergne)
At Paris La Défense Arena, the visiting front row of Loni Uhila, Benjamin Kayser and Rabah Slimani, had their opposing unit's number marked from the offset.
Les Jaunards' dominance at the set-piece earned key penalties and disrupted Racing 92's fluidity significantly.
Uhila, who extended his contract last December, created oodles of problems for Ben Tameifuna at scrum time and his 57-minute shift will have caught the attention of every scrum coach in the Top 14. Superb.
2. Jamie George (Saracens)
The England international's prowess in the loose is widely known and his one-two with David Strettle, that produced Saracens' first try against Newcastle, showed his skills in all of their glory.
If Jason Robinson likes your work in attack then you know you are doing something right!
George also showcased excellent fitness to keep his intensity high and, five minutes from time, he set up their bonus-point score with a storming clean break.
3. John Afoa (Bristol Bears)
One of the areas that newly-promoted sides always look to strengthen is their pack and, in particular, their front-row resources.
On Friday night, Bristol's 36-capped tighthead prop was the force that you would expect him to be against Bath.
The home side won 12 of their 13 scrums on their own put-in and Afoa's continued presence in their front three will be vital this Premiership season.
4. Dave Attwood (Bath Rugby)
Todd Blackadder's side had a frustrating night at Ashton Gate but one positive was the re-introduction of Dave Attwood into their engine room.
The lock, who has returned to the club after a loan spell with Toulon, tried to lead the charge from the front with his trademark physicality and work-rate.
5. Chris Vui (Bristol Bears)
A purposeful ball carrier, a gain-line breaker and an out-and-out athlete. That is the short and sweet summary about Bristol Bears' lock.
Vui's 57-minute performance against Bath included 12 carries and eight tackles. He also turned heads at the full-time whistle with an exceptional celebratory dance.
Check out his floss on Bristol Bears' Twitter feed during their video of the bench at the final whistle. Genius.
6. Braam Steyn (Benetton Rugby)
Last season Benetton notched up a club-record number of wins (11) in the competition and they have started this term as they mean to go on.
In the back row, Braam Steyn, put in a man-of-the-match performance and powered across for one of their three tries. He beat eight defenders too, more than any other player in the PRO14 at the weekend.
It was the first time that Benetton have started their season with a victory since 2012 and it should cause them to have a spring in their step at home against Cardiff Blues in Round 2.
7. Matt Kvesic (Exeter Chiefs)
Rob Baxter commented after the game against Leicester that Matt Kvesic had come into pre-season in excellent shape and it showed.
The 26-year-old, so often singled out for his scavenging skills, highlighted added dimensions to his game on home turf.
An intense and physical work-rate in defence combined great purpose and dexterity in attack. It made him a force to be reckoned with and he duly deserved his 76th-minute try.
8. Sam Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs)
Eighteen carries, 86 metres, six defenders beaten and 11 tackles - those are the numbers stemming from Sam Simmonds' first outing of the new season.
The back-rower was at his dynamic and effervescent best. From minute one, to minute 66, he was a handful and caused Leicester headache after headache.
If that is what the 23-year-old's first competitive hit out of the new season looks like, we cannot wait to see what is to come.