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TheScore.ie’s Irish XV of the second Champions Cup weekend

Munster are well represented after their comprehensive win over Saracens.

15. Jared Payne

Jared Payne 25/10/2014 Source: Darren Kidd/Press Eye

He didn’t start at fullback in either of Ulster’s Champions Cup losses so far but in both games the backline improved massively when he was switched to his preferred position. Joe Schmidt will have a big decision to make on whether to keep Payne at outside centre for the autumn tests.

14. Andrew Conway

Andrew Conway with Will Fraser and David Strettle Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

In a tough, forward-orientated Friday night clash with Saracens at Thomond Park, Conway was one of the few backs who was able to consistently make yards. His 35 metres might not sound like a whole lot, but it led the Munster team and he was unlucky not to score a try after Ian Keatley’s kick rebounded off the post.

13. Darren Cave

Chris Henry and Darren Cave tackle James O'Connor Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Like Payne at fullback, Cave has only featured sparingly for Ulster so far. But again, like Payne, the Ulster backline just looks more balanced and self-assured when he is at outside centre. That being said, he probably still didn’t do enough to make Joe Schmidt rethink his initial squad.

12. Ian Madigan

Ian Madigan kicks a penalty Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Madigan wasn’t the dynamic presence he usually is but Leinster badly needed his kicking ability to leave Castres with four points. He shanked one straightforward kick and was just short with another from long-range, but beside that his form was immaculate as he nailed seven penalties.

11. Craig Gilroy

Craig Gilroy beats Chris Masoe to score 25/10/2014 Source: Presseye/Darren Kidd/INPHO

Gilroy has had a nice renaissance during the last few weeks, starting with Ulster’s win over Glasgow in the Pro12. He showed some nice touches against Toulon again, and finished off his try clinically. He carried nine times for Ulster and gained more metres (47) than anyone else on his team.

The battle for Ireland’s spot on the left wing (assuming Bowe will be on the right) between Gilroy and Zebo will be tight.

10. Johnny Sexton

Jonathon Sexton kicks Source: Andrew Fosker/INPHO

Sexton kicked 16 points against Treviso as Racing won their second straight pool game and they go into their back-to-back games with the Ospreys in a strong position to qualify for the quarter-finals.

One thing that will disappoint Sexton is not leaving Italy with a bonus point considering he had Jamie Roberts and Brice Dulin playing outside him.

9. Conor Murray

Conor Murray Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Once again, Murray was a great organiser-in-chief for Munster and made the right decision more often than not. Some people don’t like the frequency with which he kicks, but the scrum-half was on form with the boot against Saracens and put the visitors under pressure with his hanging bombs.

1. Dave Kilcoyne

Dave Kilcoyne scores the first try Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Kilcoyne and James Cronin are having a nice ding-dong battle for the loosehead jersey in Munster, and with Jack McGrath struggling against Castres, whoever comes out on top down south has a chance of getting in the Ireland team.

Kilcoyne only played 20 minutes against Saracens but managed nine carries in his cameo as well as the crucial try.

2. Duncan Casey

Duncan Casey Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

With each week, it looks like Joe Schmidt might regret choosing the undercooked Richardt Strauss ahead of the in-form Casey. The hooker had another solid outing against Saracens, nailing the majority of his lineout throws and making the second most tackles on his team with eight.

As the lineout throwing of Sean Cronin and Rory Best continues to disappoint, Irish fans will hope that the omission of Casey doesn’t cost Ireland dear this November.

3. Tadhg Furlong

Tadhg Furlong Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Furlong has impressed this season for Leinster but injuries have limited his game time. The Leinster scrum was in disarray against Castres but the introduction of the Wexford prop late on steadied it up almost immediately. His solid push also helped Eoin Reddan to make Leinster’s biggest break, which lead to the penalty that saw them take the lead.

4. Dave Foley

BJ Botha and Dave Foley Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Foley was great again for Munster against Saracens and has become one of the province’s most consistent performers. Not only a great lineout target (he won seven on Friday), he also works hard around the field and made eight tackles against the English side. He is in a close battle with Devin Toner to partner Paul O’Connell against South Africa.

5. Devin Toner

Devin Toner 7/10/2014 Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

It was tough to omit Paul O’Connell after all his great work at the breakdown against Saracens, but Toner’s man-of-the-match display against Castres warrants a mention. He was strong at the lineout and was Leinster’s joint top tackler with seven. Leinster’s defence had to be resolute at the start of the second half as Castres grew into the game, and Toner was a big part of the rearguard effort.

*Toner wore the number four for Leinster, but we shift him to five for the purposes of this team. It leaves our locking pairing looking a little imbalanced, but so be it.

6. Peter O’Mahony

Peter O'Mahony appeals a decision Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The Munster back row is now one of the most destructive and tigerish units in the competition and O’Mahony was masterful at slowing down Saracens ball on Friday. His return from injury is one of the key differences to a pack that looked a little soft in the opening weeks of the season.

7. Tommy O’Donnell

Dave Kilcoyne and Tommy O'Donnell Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

O’Donnell’s performance against Saracens was exactly what you want from an openside, rucking effectively but also topping the tackle count with nine. O’Donnell has grown into the jersey over the last two seasons and he is now a worthy successor to some of the great Munster flankers of the past.

8. Jamie Heaslip

Jamie Heaslip Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

For the second week in a row, Jamie Heaslip was immense for Leinster. With Cian Healy and Sean O’Brien absent, someone needed to step into that void and Heaslip has thus far in the Champions Cup – having a team high 23 carries last week and following that with 19 carries and 63 metres gained against Castres, which were both team highs.

Leinster and Ireland will miss those two bulldozing ball carriers but if their replacements keep performing to such a high level, their absence will be manageable.

N.B. We’ve limited this selection to players who are available to Ireland for the November Test series, which explains the absence of CJ Stander.

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