Six Nations team of the week: Which players starred in round three?

Ireland’s Caelan Doris, Italy’s Michele Lamaro, Scotland’s Duhan van der Merwe and Wales’ Cameron Winnett are among our standouts (Getty Images/Fotor)
Ireland’s Caelan Doris, Italy’s Michele Lamaro, Scotland’s Duhan van der Merwe and Wales’ Cameron Winnett are among our standouts (Getty Images/Fotor)

The middle weekend of this year’s Six Nations is at an end as Ireland took another big stride towards back-to-back grand slam crowns.

Andy Farrell’s men weren’t at their best but still had too much for a valiant Wales in Dublin to make it three wins from three.

The defending champions are the last unbeaten team left standing after England were dealt a defeat by Scotland, continuing their recent Calcutta Cup supremacy with a strong win at Murrayfield.

But it was Italy who produced the performance of the round, within a whisker of perhaps the biggest upset in tournament history as 14-man France held on for a draw in Lille.

Which players sparkled across the three games? Here,The Independent’s rugby writers pick our team of the weekend.

1 Andrew Porter (Ireland)

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

There were a few of the usual grumbles over the legality of Porter’s scrummaging, but referee Andrea Piardi was happy and the Ireland loosehead was firmly on top against Keiron Assiratti. The prop was busy resourcing rucks on both sides of the ball and came up with a jackal turnover.

2 Giacomo Nicotera (Italy)

Busy and bruising in defence, Nicotera responded well to his elevation to the starting side, hitting his lineouts and providing breakdown threat. Replacement Gianmarco Lucchesi impressed off the bench, too.

3 Uini Atonio (France)

France snatched at their opportunities in the first half in Lille having been totally dominant for 40 minutes. Atonio was a key part of that supremacy: that super-sized tighthead side of the French scrum always looked likely to cause Danilo Fischetti problems, and Atonio continues to carry powerfully from a variety of launch points. England’s Dan Cole had an effective evening at Murrayfield and merits mention.

4 Scott Cummings (Scotland)

Cummings produced one of his best performances in a Scotland shirt as Scotland won the back five battle in the pack.

5 Tadhg Beirne (Ireland)

His concession of a penalty try and the yellow card that followed are obvious blots on the copy book, but there were precious few otherwise for Beirne, who finished with a flourish with a nicely taken try. His partnership with Joe McCarthy is bedding in beautifully.

6 Aaron Wainwright (Wales)

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

A shift from eight to the blindside for Wainwright, where of course he is completely comfortable. The Dragons back row continues to have an excellent tournament, and is stepping up as a leader in a Welsh side fighting hard to make progress.

7 Michele Lamaro (Italy)

His usual workaholic self defensively, Lamaro merits selection after his best game in attack for a while. Italy’s defensive calm and cohesion in the first half was a really positive sign for a side who were rightly disappointed with only a draw.

8 Caelan Doris (Ireland)

Scotland’s Jack Dempsey was very close to securing this spot, and Ben Earl was one of England’s best, but Doris is just such a complete number eight. Ireland’s top tackler, Doris was busy around the ruck and as ever a frighteningly consistent carrier.

9 Jamison Gibson-Park (Ireland)

Gibson-Park’s sharp silver service is such a key aspect of Ireland’s attacking play. The scrum half’s 103 passes were more 50 more than any other player made in round three, and each and every one seemed to be zipped precisely to a man in motion.

10 Finn Russell (Scotland)

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(Getty Images)

He’ll have flashier outings, but don’t overlook Russell’s role in Scotland’s fourth successive claiming of the Calcuta Cup. The fly half is in a goalkicking groove and largely did the simple things well at Murrayfield to allow his side to pounce on English errors. His kick for Duhan van der Merwe’s third try was classice Russell - spotting the space and being good enough to execute.

11 Duhan van der Merwe (Scotland)

A freak of nature. Men of Van der Merwe’s size should not be able to move at such ridiculous velocity. None of his three tries were nearly as sensational as his solo spectacular score at Twickenham 12 months ago, but he’s just such a threat. England tried to go after him aerially at times, but Van der Merwe generally handled their high hoists appropriately.

12 Bundee Aki (Ireland)

Another week, another classy Aki performance, with some moments of game-breaking brilliance sprinkled in. His 119 metres carried were about 40 more than any other non-back three player made across the weekend.

13 Juan Ignacio Brex (Italy)

Often the quiet cog in Italy’s young backline, Brex was at his best against France. The is a really intelligent player on the gainline changing his angles or shifting the ball on, and defended with typical pluck. George North was good again in Welsh red.

14 Tommaso Menoncello (Italy)

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(Getty Images)

Brex’s sometime centre parter seemed to relish a free role on the wing, roaming with purpose throughout. Potent through contact, Menoncello looks to be recovering some of his trademark explosivity after missing the first half of the season with a bicep injury.

15 Cameron Winnett (Wales)

It’s hard to put your finger on Winnett’s specialist skill, but the Wales full-back does so little wrong. Increasingly confident in the air, his ability to evade contact is impressive for a man not necessarily blessed with overwhelming physical gifts.