With the big hitters of the Six Nations taking a deserved week-off, we take a look at the British & Irish Lions team if it was chosen on this weekend’s action.
15 Joey Carbery
It has been quite the year for Carbery, and it continued again on Saturday as he scored two tries from fullback. With injury concerns surrounding Rob Kearney and Jared Payne, Joe Schmidt does have the option of throwing in the youngster who has excelled at every appearance.
14 Christian Wade
A shame the talented winger has never added to his solitary England, that coming back in 2013. He showed glimpses of the form that led to that call up with his blistering pace causing Bath endless problems. Being part of a backline that includes Willie Le Roux and Kurtley Beale does help.
13 Jared Payne
The Irish international was back with Ulster after recovering from injury. In very difficult conditions he did well in attack and will continue to improve as he comes back to full match fitness. His ability to beat defenders, the odd offload and if he is fit, he could return as Sexton did, to the Ireland starting team, or at least provide a centre/fullback option from the bench.
12 Brad Barritt
His last appearance for England came in that ill-fated game against Australia at Twickenham at the 2015 Rugby World Cup, but he’s putting in a string of good performance. He put in a colossal 20 tackles in defence and provided a spark at times in attack.
11 Tim Visser
The Scotland international just can’t stop scoring tries. He put in a good performance in Harlequins’ phenomenal fightback against Gloucester. His ability to score tries, and injury, saw him return to the Scotland starting lineup but if he continues, a Lions spot could be around the corner.
10 Henry Slade
Having been released by Eddie Jones, Slade put in his usual masterclass as Exeter continued their push the playoffs as they demolished Leicester Tigers. Slade controlled the game at halfback, kicked well and set an explosive backline in motion. In defence he put his body on the line, putting in eight tackles.
9 Luke McGrath
There were questions surrounding McGrath, given his stature, but he has continued to perform. He grabbed a brace against Scarlets at the weekend and with the retirement of Eoin Reddan and Isaac Boss, he has really come into his own at Leinster. His chance will come.
1 Mako Vunipola
Each game he plays he comes closer to getting back to the old ball carrying and defensive master that saw him as one of the first names on Eddie Jones’ team sheet. Another fine display as he played 70 minutes in the victory over Newcastle, making 10 carries while putting his body on the line in defence.
2 Tommy Taylor
Taylorwas immense in Wasps’ victory over Bath, with a wonderful try assist, making a clean break through the heart of the Bath defence, beating a defender before offloading to the onrushing Kurtley Beale to score. In defence, nine tackles and looked solid at the set piece.
3 Kyle Sinckler
It says a lot of the high esteem in which Eddie Jones holds the young front row that he has featured for England in every game, since the victory over South Africa last November, except the victory over France. He was part of the magnificent turnaround as Harlequins scored 15 points in the last 10 minutes to beat Gloucester.
4 Donnacha O’Callaghan
The Irish second-row rolled back the years, in an incredible effort which started from the off, putting unbelievable pressure on the Bristol defence straight from the kick off. His leadership qualities are still evident and his experience over two tours as a British & Irish Lions.
5 Geoff Parling
He won three lineout steals in Exeter’s victory over Leicester. His last England appearance came at England’s Rugby World Cup group stage victory over Uruguay, and while the wealth of experience Eddie Jones has at his disposal means he might not get a recall any time soon, he reminded Jones that he can still do a job; 13 tackles in defence was slightly overshadowed by a sin-binning.
6 James Chisholm
The former England U20 player put in a great performance for Harlequins, scoring a try and unfortunate that a forward pass ruled out an assist of a try. He took his own well, brushing Billy Twelvetrees aside, made 42 metres and two clean breaks. A senior cap should be in the pipeline for the 2015 World Rugby Junior Player of the Year.
7 Tommy O’Donnell
Injury and a plethora of choice for Joe Schmidt has seen O’Donnell spend more time at Munster when Ireland camp is ongoing, but he has continued to put in good performances for the Province and ready to be called upon. He was Munster’s second biggest ball carrier in attack and 12 tackles in defence.
8 Billy Vunipola
His return from a knee injury will be a welcome boost for Eddie Jones and might worry Scotland and Ireland. He made a few important steals in the win over Newcastle, and was Saracens’ third biggest ball carrier in metres gained. Newcastle ran in two tries when he and Mako were replaced, but having just played his first match in four months, Scotland next week could come too soon.