From the minute we heard Samson Lee would be unavailable for this game it become obvious that the Scottish pack would go after the inexperienced Welsh tighthead at scrum time and they did exactly that.
Dickinson gave Welsh prop Aaron Jarvis a thoroughly difficult afternoon at scrum time.
As well as this the Edinburgh man-made an impressive 7 carries and 12 tackles highlighting his work rate around the pitch.
Hooker: Ross Ford
Ford like his team-mate Dickinson deserves credit for the solidity of the Scottish set piece. A player often criticised for inconsistent throwing in the past, Ford seems to have worked hard to eradicate those errors from his game.
His work in the loose was impressive also as the Scottish captain made as many tackles as any other hooker in the tournament in round 2.
Tighthead prop: Dan Cole
With Dave Wilson ruled out through injury and Kieran Brookes relatively untested at this level England have been relying heavily on Cole and the Leicester man has delivered. Despite coming into the tournament with very little game time under his belt due to a neck injury, Cole has gone very well for England playing a key role in what many believe is the most formidable scrum in the tournament.
Lock: Alun Wyn Jones
Jones put in a performance on Sunday that reminded everyone watching why he is still considered one of the Northern hemispheres finest second rows. Jones managed the Welsh lineout well and keeping the influence of the Gray brothers who caused France so many problems in the air relatively quiet. The Osprey’s man was reliable in defence also making 8 tackles and winning an important turnover for his side.
Lock: Yoann Maestri
The Toulouse lock was arguably the only French starter to leave Dublin with his reputation enhanced. Maestri put in a massive effort for his side working hard all day to challenge the impressive O’Connell and Toner in the air while also leading the French defence against the Irish maul. The big second won more lineout ball than any of his team mates and he managed to make more tackles than any other lock in the tournament with 15.
Blindside flanker: Dan Lydiate
He may not be the most explosive ball carrier in the tournament but his defensive work is as good as if not better than any blind side in the tournament when he plays as well as he did on Sunday. Lydiate was repeatedly was repeatedly tasked with chopping down the giant Gray brothers, a task he succeeded in with minimal fuss making 12 tackles and missing none.
Openside flanker: Chris Robshaw
While Sean O’Brien looked good on his six nations return for Ireland, Robshaw does enough to start ahead of the man he’ll come face to face with in Dublin in 2 weeks. The English captain brought his impressive form he showed last week again today and was one of England’s top performers. Robshaw’s work rate is exceptional, highlighted by the 19 tackles he made and the fact that for the second week in a row no one made more tackles than the England. His battle with the Irish backrow in Dublin should be fascinating.
Number 8: Billy Vunipola
While the try he scored shown above may have been a somewhat dubious decision, there can be no question how good the big Saracens man was around the park on Saturday. Vunipola was at his destructive best with the ball in hand carrying 9 times and making an impressive 55 meters for his side. This strong work in attack was well backed up in defence as he made 17 tackles, almost twice as many as any other number 8 in round 2.
Scrum half: Rhys Webb
While Murray went well for Ireland and Parra looked a class above Kockott when he came on, Webb was the outstanding scrum half this week. The young Osprey’s man showed again why he keeps Mike Philips out of the team as he offered quick passing, attacking threat around the breakdown and he chipped in with his second try in as many games.
Out half: Jonathan Sexton
Despite not playing a game in 12 weeks due to concussion issues Sexton slipped seamlessly back into his number 10 jersey and reminded France and all of the other countries in the tournament why he is Europe’s premier out half. The Racing Metro man controlled the game superbly varying his game between running the big French pack and placing some delicate kick in behind them. He showed his toughness as well returning to play despite his eye being cut open and nearly swollen shut following a collision with Bastareaud.
Wing: Tommy Bowe
While Bowe didn’t have as much involvement in attack as he would have liked, he was still hugely influential in Ireland’s victory over France. While he didn’t get to carry the ball often Bowe managed to beat 2 French defenders with his 4 carries and completed one impressive offload. In defence he was busy also making 7 tackles and winning 2 turnovers. It was Bowe’s work in winning the ball from Sexton’s restarts that was hugely impressive as the Ulster man repeatedly claimed possession he had no right to win.
Inside centre: Robbie Henshaw
Scotland’s excellent Alex Dunbar can feel somewhat unlucky to lose out here but the amount of work Henshaw went through on Saturday was exceptional. Much like his team-mate Tommy Bowe, Henshaw didn’t have too many attacking opportunities yet he still managed 8 carries and he beat 2 French defenders with the ball in hand. What made Henshaw stand out was his phenomenal work in defence where he made 16 tackles, often taking down big men like Bastareaud and his aggressive kick chase ensured France were often on the back foot.
Outside centre: Jonathan Joseph
Despite playing much of this game on the wing due to the horrific injury to Mike Brown, we’ve included the Bath man in the position he started the day in. Joseph was very impressive in attack, combining well with Ford and Watson in particular and adding some spark to the English backline. He made a massive 118 meters when he carried the ball and his 2 tries have him in the lead as the tournaments leading try scorer.
Wing: Anthony Watson
Like Joseph, Watson is included in the position he started the game in. The young back had a good showing when forced off the wing and into fullback, looking dangerous every time the Italians gave him the chance to run back a loose kick. 72 meters made, 4 defenders beaten and 1 clean break highlight a good days work from Watson with more to come as the tournament progresses.
Despite one silly mistake in being fooled by a dummy from Davies that allowed him to score, overall Hogg was no question the rounds outstanding fullback. The Glasgow man reminded everyone for the second week running why he was the youngest man selected on the last Lions tour as he was exceptional in attack. Hogg made more ground than any other player in the round with a huge 144 meters. He also beat 5 defenders, made 3 clean breaks and scored a fabulous try highlighting his pace and ability to counter attack.