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Dublin: 6°C Tuesday 11 May 2021
Advertisement's Irish XV of the Champions Cup weekend

Six Munster men, three Ulster players and six Leinster stars make our selection.

15. Felix Jones

Sam Tuitupou and Felix JonesSource: James Crombie/INPHO

THE MUNSTER FULLBACK was excellent with ball in hand, beating defenders almost every time he was involved. His determination and centre of gravity allowed him to ship heavy hits to the upper body and spin away, while his defence was as solid as ever.

14. Tommy Bowe

Tommy Bowe keeps the ball alive Source: Presseye/Andrew Fosker/INPHO

Had one unfortunate moment with the tackle on Miles Benjamin in the air, but was a major threat for Ulster otherwise. Combined superbly with Jared Payne for his try and generally ate up metres in possession.

13. Jared Payne

Jared Payne makes a break Source: Presseye/Andrew Fosker/INPHO

We still think Ulster are best served using him at 15, as demonstrated by his graceful counter-attacking break when shifted to the back, but this was a good outing in the centre. Had a handful of excellent reads in defence and laid on Bowe’s try expertly.

12. JJ Hanrahan

Conor Murray and JJ Hanrahan celebrate at the final whistle Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Played less than a half of Munster’s last-gasp win in Sale and had only three direct attacking involvements, but all were crucial. His raking kick allowed Anthony Foley’s side to build the platform for their drop goal, while his energy was infectious.

11. Darragh Fanning

Darragh Fanning scores a try Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

‘Fanj’ just keeps on getting better for Matt O’Connor’s Leinster and he took his two tries well at the RDS yesterday. Wasn’t greatly tested on D, but looked entirely comfortable making his European club debut at the age of 28.

10. Ian Keatley

Ian Keatley kicks a drop goal to win the game Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Would have made the team for his drop goal alone, but his distribution against Sale was superb too. Two gorgeous right-handed passes in the first half stand out, while his extremely low tackle focus was useful at times.

9. Conor Murray

Conor Murray celebrates after the game Source: James Crombie/INPHO

The rate at which Murray, arguably already world-class, is improving is hugely exciting for Irish rugby. His passing against Sale was close to perfect, his calm head was obvious once again and he adds so much defensively. Kicking game is sensational at present.

1. Andrew Warwick

Andrew Warwick Source: Presseye/Matt Mackey/INPHO

Every one of Ulster’s forwards will hold their hands up for the collective set-piece failings that cost them the game in Leicester, but Warwick continued his progress around the pitch. One remarkable try-saving tackle on Blaine Scully and was excellent in contact.

2. Duncan Casey

Felix Jones, Duncan Casey, Peter O'Mahony and Conor Murray run at Michael Haley, Mark Easter  and Magnus Lund Source: James Crombie/INPHO

A man who goes about his business without much fuss, but has been excellent for Munster in the absence of Mike Sherry and Damien Varley. Technically superb, with possibly the best darts in Ireland at the moment. His tackling is very strong.

3. Michael Bent

Wasps Christian Wade is tackled by LeinsterÕs Michael Bent and Rhys Ruddock Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

Yes, there were creaks from the Leinster scrum on several occasions, but Bent got the job done with Mike Ross missing. The oft-criticised 28-year-old has been as solid as a rock for Leinster in the last year, and his ability to cover tighthead and loosehead is valuable.

4. Devin Toner

LeinsterÕs Noel Reid is tackled European Champions Cup Branding board Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

The Ireland lock will have been angered by the line-out malfunctions, which need to be sorted for the trip to line-out specialists Castres. However, Toner was superb around the pitch, carrying, raking up a high tackle count and clearing out efficiently.

5. Dave Foley

Paul O'Connell and Dave Foley speak to referee Laurent Cardona Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Outshone his more illustrious locking partner with a performance of huge work rate. Adds another element of class to the Munster line-out and was excellent around the breakdown, particularly in the second half. Looks a future Ireland international.

*Foley wore the number four for Munster, 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. Rhys Ruddock

Rhys Ruddock passes the ball back Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Took on a heavy ball-carrying burden along with Jamie Heaslip for Leinster at the RDS, invariably making yards. Also tackled well, even if he will look for more impact in that area of the game next time out. Continues to mature at just 23.

7. Dominic Ryan

LeinsterÕs Dominic Ryan is tackled by Wasps Matt Mullan Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

“Went off on his own little mission” for his try, according to Heaslip, but Ryan’s call proved to be correct. Got through a similar amount of work to his back row partners. We feel he’s more comfortable at six, but this was a strong display at seven.

8. Jamie Heaslip

Jamie Heaslip receives the Man of the Match Award from Pat Maher Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Again underlined his importance to Leinster with an all-action performance in attack and defence. Will never silence some of his critics, but Matt O’Connor and Heaslip’s teammates remain appreciative to have the No. 8 in their midst.

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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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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