With Round 6 of the Aviva Premiership and the Guinness PRO12 done and dusted and the Top 14 simmering gently, here is, based on this weekend’s form, our composite Lions team of the week.
15. Rob Kearney (Leinster)
The veteran fullback has been plagued by injury in recent times, and so the news that the two-time Lions tourist completed 76 minutes of work in Leinster’s win over Munster on Saturday will not have gone unnoticed by Warren Gatland and his selectors.
14. Marland Yarde (Harlequins)
Yarde impressed in New Zealand in 2014, not something many England wingers do, but recently he has slipped down the pecking order for his country. His display as Quins dispatched Northampton at the Stoop on Saturday reminded all those watching how good he can be.
13. Sam Hill (Exeter Chiefs)
The west country of England is throwing up plenty of ball-playing three quarters in recent years, and the way the 23-year-old Hill created space for his outsides in the Chiefs’ drawn encounter with Gloucester this weekend will have had the purists purring.
12. Matt Banahan (Bath)
The big man has always been hard to ignore on the field, and his form this season, culminating in his performance in Bath’s trouncing of Sale on Friday night, has reignited the ‘Banahan for England’ campaign.
11. Cian Kelleher (Connacht)
Over 120 metres gained from 15 carries – not to mention two tries – in Connacht’s big win over Ulster on Friday night means this 22-year-old Dubliner waltzes into our Lions team.
10. Jason Tovey (Edinburgh)
The 27-year-old from Newport has impressed everyone since arriving in the Scottish capital this season, and he had the ball on a string in his side’s towelling of Benetton Treviso on Saturday.
9. Greig Laidlaw (Gloucester)
The inspirational Scottish skipper will always be in the mix, and not just because his ability from the tee frees up the selectors in terms of goal-kicking. His Gloucester side have endured a tough beginning to the season that was typified by a draw with Exeter this weekend, but under Laidlaw’s leadership you get the feeling they’ll turn it around.
Will Welch of Newcastle Falcons during the match against Bristol Rugby at Kingston Park. Nigel Roddis/Getty
8. Ben Morgan (Gloucester)
Another currently suffering from the Kingsholm blues, but the man with 61 England caps retains his ball-playing ability and rugby nous, and Eddie Jones will be watching closely to see how Morgan handles the cherry and whites’ current adversity.
7. Will Welch (Newcastle Falcons)
The Falcons’ young skipper is acquitting himself well in a solid start to the season for Dean Richards’ men, and his ball-sniffing efforts were rewarded with a try in his team’s win over struggling Bristol on Saturday.
6. James King (Ospreys)
The Welsh blindside was everywhere in Ospreys big win over Cardiff on Friday night, and is showing the kind of form that could see him add to his eight caps in the near future.
5. Graham Kitchener (Leicester)
An old-school performance by the Tigers against Worcester relied heavily on men like their 121kg second-row, who grabbed himself a try for his efforts.
4. Maro Itoje (Saracens)
It would be sheer folly to suggest anyone other than Itoje in the number four jersey in New Zealand in 2017, and his contribution to Saracens’ victory over Wasps on Sunday afternoon was just another extremely good day at the office for the England man.
3. Kieran Brookes (Northampton)
Some things may not be functioning yet this season for the Saints, but the scrum is not one of them, and their tighthead prop’s efforts in a losing cause against Quins this weekend will have been duly noted by former front rowers like Warren Gatland and Eddie Jones.
2. Dave Heffernan (Connacht)
The 25-year-old from County Mayo was a constant thorn in the side of Ulster as they lost to Connacht on Friday night, and Heffernan’s work-rate and mobility should see him called up for his country before too long.
1. Mako Vunipola (Saracens)
The Sarries loosehead was at the centre of another suffocating tight five display by the champions against Wasps on the weekend, spearheading a dominant scrum and even nicking himself a try.
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