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Here's our Irish XV of the Heineken Cup weekend

We’ve taken on the demanding task of picking out Ireland’s best after a wonderful weekend in Europe.

Keith Earls was in superb form for Munster.
Keith Earls was in superb form for Munster.
Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

After what was a superb weekend for the Irish provinces in the Heineken Cup, we’ve given ourselves the difficult task of selecting a dream team based purely on the last couple of days of action.

We’re sure there will be disagreements, and the difficulty we had in selecting this XV points to the fact that there were so many strong individual performances from Irish players. A thought-provoking weekend for Joe Schmidt and his Ireland coaching team.

15. Robbie Henshaw

The 20-year-old [yep, he's still only 20] was part of Connacht’s historic win in Toulouse yesterday. While he had a try ruled out late on after a marginal knock-on decision, the fullback was in superb form. His back-of-the-hand offload to Fionn Carr in the build-up to Kieran Marmion’s try was gorgeous. Prodigious.

14. Keith Earls

Back on the wing after playing at outside centre against the Dragons the weekend before, Earls looked at home. For us, it’s plain that the 26-year-old is at his best out wide. Against Perpignan, he showed his pure pace to scoot away for a try, and could easily have had another. Lethal.

13. Brian O’Driscoll

The 34-year-old was in spectacular form for Leinster as they swept aside the challenge of the Northampton Saints. O’Driscoll was full of running in an energetic, accurate display. Being steamrolled by Courtney Lawes was the only blip in a performance which provided a magical piece of skill. Classy.

12. Dave McSharry

Not the flashiest performer of the weekend across the provincial back-lines, but the Connacht centre was vitally effective. The 23-year-old has emerged as his team’s defensive leader over the past two season, and was evident in that role again against Toulouse. Tackled offensively and communicated well. Bruising.

imageMcSharry celebrates Connacht’s superb win. ©INPHO/Billy Stickland.

11. Luke Fitzgerald

A hat-trick of tries will be the focus, but there was so much more to the wing’s performance against the Saints. His intelligence and work rate off the ball meant he was invariably in an excellent supporting position to take offloads, while his footwork is a joy to watch. Defensively as sound as ever. Complete.

10. Paddy Jackson

It may have been a straightforward day at the office for Ulster as they hammered Treviso 48-0, but the seven tries still had to be scored. The 21-year-old got the ball rolling in the fourth minute and went on to kick six attempts from eight off the tee for an 18-point haul. Accurate.

9. Kieran Marmion

It’s sometimes easy to forget that the Connacht scrum-half is only 21, given the maturity he demonstrates in directing play for his province. Intelligent, calming and knowledgeable, Marmion was decisive against Toulouse and scored his team’s only try when he burrowed over from close range. Commanding.

1. Dave Kilcoyne

The Limerick man needed a stand out display as he aims to regain his international spot and on yesterday’s evidence, Joe Schmidt will be hard pushed to leave him out for the Six Nations. Carried explosively, scoring a try, and was strong in the scrum against Paulica Ion. Dominant.

imageIt takes two men to stop Kilcoyne on the charge. ©INPHO/James Crombie.

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2. Rob Herring

Mark Anscombe’s worries after losing Rory Best to a fractured arm were eased by a man of the match display from the South African-born hooker, who is Irish-qualified. The 23-year-old bustled around the pitch with his socks down as always, tackling, carrying and being largely accurate with his throwing. Imposing.

3. Brett Wilkinson

Yep, he’s a loosehead but we’ve switched him over to the right-hand side of the scrum for this exercise. Wilkinson is the definition of an unsung hero. Scrummaged intelligently against Toulouse, as he always does. Didn’t contribute hugely in the carrying and tackling counts, but he can certainly hit a ruck. Dogged.

4. Mike McCarthy

A fine return to form from a man who hadn’t been at his best so far this season. Doubts over his fitness were quashed by a high-intensity 60 minute performance. The former Connacht lock smashed rucks with excellent technique to provide quick ball and was top of the tackle count for Leinster. Unseen.

5. Dan Tuohy

The Ulster lock has added an aggressive edge to his play this season, and that was once again on display against Treviso. Tuohy did slip off a few tackles but more than made up for those errors by producing two clean line-breaks in the build-up to two Ulster tries. Topped it off with a score of his own. Athletic.

imageTuohy on the run during Ulster’s hammering of Treviso. ©INPHO/James Crombie.

6. Rhys Ruddock

This was the type of performance that Leinster have been waiting for from the 23-year-old. Ruddock’s form has been good this season, but he stepped that up another level against the Saints. Other players had more involvements, but the once-capped Ireland international made every tackle, ruck and carry count. Powerful.

7. Sean Dougall

For us, Dougall may well have been the best Irish forward of the weekend. Munster’s clash with Perpignan was perfectly suited to his skills, with lots of loose kicking meaning it was an open affair. Still, the 24-year-old was magnificent, linking play, cover tackling and claiming line-outs. Visible.

8. John Muldoon

The Connacht stalwart lined out at blindside against Toulouse, but we couldn’t leave him out of our team. Muldoon was hurt by last weekend’s capitulation to Edinburgh and that was clearly evident in his aggression and desire. The 31-year-old made over 20 tackles and inspired his teammates. Legendary.

Who would you have picked on an Irish XV of the weekend? Let us know by commenting below with your selections and reasons…

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Murray Kinsella

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