Team of the Week: Runners and riders
SIX NATIONS ROUND THREE: The Six Nations passed the halfway mark, as the runners and riders positioned themselves for their final push for success in the two rounds still to come.
France took themselves out of wooden spoon contention by recording their first victory of the championship, beating Italy, 34-17, in Marseille, whilst Ireland kept alive their Grand Slam hopes, defeating Wales, 37-27, in Dublin.
The Calcutta Cup wrapped up the weekend's action, with Scotland securing silverware and ending England's hopes of a Grand Slam, as they recorded a 25-13 victory over the reigning champions at Murrayfield and reignited their own title challenge in the process.
Team of the Week - Round Three:
15 - Leigh Halfpenny, Wales
Halfpenny impressed in defeat for Wales, mopping up plenty of the kicks from Ireland and doing his best to keep Wales playing in the right parts of the pitch. It was not a vintage performance, but it did help keep Wales in contention right up until the final minute, when Ireland ran home the game-winning try.
14 - Sean Maitland, Scotland
Maitland shifts over from the left wing, where he did an excellent job denying Anthony Watson any opportunities that came the Englishman's way. He also took his try well and was inches away from adding a second, were it not for a desperate try-saving tackle from Mike Brown.
13 - Huw Jones, Scotland
Both Mathieu Bastareaud and Chris Farrell are unlucky to miss out, but Jones was in scintillating form at Murrayfield. He scythed through the English defence with ease and really didn't have to do too much defensively, such was the control Scotland had on the game, as well as the damage they did at the breakdown before England could get the ball wide to their dangermen.
12 - Owen Farrell, England
Really, Farrell was the only England player worthy of inclusion this week, with his biggest competition coming from Ireland's Bundee Aki. In a poor team performance, Farrell shouldered his responsibilities well, continued to fashion half-holes with his play on the gain-line and took his try well, running an incisive line that Scotland's defence had no answer for.
11 - Remy Grosso, France
A late intercept try added some gloss to Jacob Stockdale's performance and would have him here for many people, but Grosso was quietly excellent against Italy. It was an all-round performance, with the Clermont man keeping Italy bottled up in defence and, aside from Bastareaud, proved the key attacking threat for Les Bleus.
10 - Finn Russell, Scotland
Russell bounced back wonderfully from criticism to lead Scotland to a famous victory on Saturday. Johnny Sexton was also impressive, but his goal-kicking issues, combined with Russell's composure in key moments, was enough to swing this in favour of the Scotsman.
9 - Conor Murray, Ireland
It was a masterclass in control and game-management from Murray on Saturday afternoon. He mixed up his passing nicely close to the Welsh try line to keep defenders guessing and constantly delivered tempo for his side to dictate, for the most part, the game. He even kicked a late penalty to make it a two-score game and alleviate Wales' growing momentum.
8 - Christiaan Stander, Ireland
France's Marco Tauleigne was also impressive, but it was the work rate of Stander which really caught the eye against Wales. He may not have been flash with some of the plays that the Frenchman did, but he constantly battered – with success – the Welsh defensive line as a ball-carrier and kept Ireland moving forward.
7 - Yacouba Camara, France
Camara looked a class apart in the French forward pack, showing adept handling to keep phases alive, as well as an eagerness to look for work all over the pitch. Errant passes, carries and offloads blighted the French pack in Marseille, but Camara executed with efficiency and composure throughout.
6 - John Barclay, Scotland
Italy's Sebastian Negri did well but there was only one person who this spot was going to this week and that was Barclay. The Scotsman caused havoc at the contact area against England, stymieing everything and anything the visitors to Murrayfield tried to work in the tighter areas of the game.
5 - Grant Gilchrist, Scotland
Didn't quite get through the amount of work that his second-row partner Jonny Gray did, but Gilchrist made several “splash plays”, helping the dominant Scottish pack turnover the English ball-carriers almost at will.
4 - James Ryan, Ireland
Ryan continues to grow in his role with Ireland and Saturday's win over Wales was another big step in his development. He is becoming one of Ireland's more trusted ball-carriers and filled that role well at the Aviva, both with his power around the fringes and his speed further out from the breakdowns.
3 - Andrew Porter, Ireland
Porter coped well with the added expectations that come with being a Six Nations starter. He went very well against Rob Evans, one of the more adept props in the game, and the speed with which he has become accustomed to his new position on the right of the scrum is impressive.
2 - Stuart McInally, Scotland
Dylan Hartley went well at Murrayfield and if there was one area England had an advantage, it was at the line-out, but McInally contributed much more in the loose, particularly at the breakdown, and was hardly a loose cannon at the set-piece.
1 - Jefferson Poirot, France
Poirot scrummaged well against Italy and made a telling impact in the loose. He was constantly busy, either as a carrier, a tackler or at the ruck and is one of the few French forwards that is comfortable playing well into the second half at a high intensity.
Our previous selections:
Team of the Week - Round Two: 15 Mike Brown (England), 14 Teddy Thomas (France), 13 Huw Jones (Scotland), 12 Owen Farrell (England), 11 Jonny May (England), 10 Jonathan Sexton (Ireland), 9 Conor Murray (Ireland), 8 Ross Moriarty (Wales), 7 Hamish Watson (Scotland), 6 Aaron Shingler (Wales), 5 Jonny Gray (Scotland), 4 Grant Gilchrist (Scotland), 3 Simon Berghan (Scotland), 2 Guilhem Guirado (France), 1 Mako Vunipola (England).
Team of the Week - Round One: 15 Leigh Halfpenny (Wales), 14 Teddy Thomas (France), 13 Scott Williams (Wales), 12 Owen Farrell (England), 11 Byron McGuigan (Scotland), 10 Johnny Sexton (Ireland), 9 Gareth Davies (Wales), 8 Sam Simmonds (England), 7 Josh Navidi (Wales), 6 Aaron Shingler (Wales), 5 Maro Itoje (England), 4 Iain Henderson (Ireland), 3 Dan Cole (England), 2 Guilhem Guirado (France), 1 Mako Vunipola (England).