Oval Talk

Team of the Weekend: Sharples sparkles

Oval Talk

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England wing Charlie Sharples staked his claim for Chris Ashton's no.14 shirt with two tries against Fiji.

But who else from the opening autumn internationals won a place in Oval Talk's Team of the Weekend?

International results (click on links for reports):

England 54 - 12 Fiji

Ireland 12 - 16 South Africa

Scotland 22 - 51 New Zealand

Wales 12 - 26 Argentina

France 33 - 6 Australia

Italy 28 - 23 Tonga

Romania 23 - 34 Japan

Canada 12 - 42 Samoa

Team of the Weekend

1 Joe Marler (England)

The set piece was never going to be Fiji's strong point and Marler's strong scrummaging exploited that weakness. In open play though he was quick to be on the shoulder of the ball carrier and for someone with very little experience at international level looked like a player full of potential.

2 Tom Youngs (England)

With Hartley out injured Youngs was drafted in as a debutant replacement. There were pre-match concerns about his lineout throws, but he silenced his critics from the off. Good throwing, strong running lines and physicality all showed the youngster can handle the big stage.

3 Lorenzo Cittadini (Italy)

Cittadini's try six minutes into Italy's game against Tonga put the momentum in the Blues' favour. In the scrum he was powerful and was always looking to break the line in midfield. A key performer for the Azzuri.

4 Mike McCarthy (Ireland)

South Africa came to bully Ireland into submission but the likes of McCarthy put up strong opposition. His bone-shuddering hit on Eben Etzebeth typified his dedication to the cause.

5 Jim Hamilton (Scotland)

It was a brutal encounter with the world champions but Scotland put together some good phases. Hamilton was physical and put in the tackles, despite New Zealand's obvious desire to avoid contact and take the game wide.

6 Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe (Argentina)

The physical presence of the Argentine no.8 was too much for Wales. In contact he was ferocious and inspired the rest of the pack to front up at the Millennium Stadium. Great support play for Juan Imhoff's try.

7 Richie McCaw (New Zealand)

He just seems to get better with age. Forever willing to hit rucks, turnover ball and put in the hard yards, McCaw's performance against Scotland was typical — understated but crucial to the functioning of the All Black side.

8 Louis Picamoles (France)

The pressure was on Picamoles to impress in the absence of Imanol Harinordoquy but a try from the back of the scrum in France's 33-6 win over Australia helped him state his case for the position. Was omnipresent at the breakdown and nullified the Australian back-row.

9 Piri Weepu (New Zealand)

Being part of the best back line in the world must make life pretty easy but Weepu is still a potent attacking threat. Shifted the point of contact well against Scotland and his service was up to his usual high standards.

10 Frederic Michalak (France)

The French fly-half had not played on home soil for his country since 2010, but after scoring 15 points through kicks and setting up one his side's tries, fan of Les Bleues were happy to see him back. Integral to the 33-6 victory.

11 Robert Lilomaiava (Samoa)

With four tries to his name against Canada at the weekend, Lilomaiava was an easy pick for man-of-the-match. Wales will face the Samoans next week and after their 42-12 win over the Canadians they will be sure to have an eye on him next weekend.

12 Jean de Villiers (South Africa)

It was by no means South Africa's most elegant victory but De Villiers looked solid throughout. His driving runs, smashing through Keith Earls and Gordon D'Arcy, showed he has still got the motivation to play at the highest level and that he can handle the pressure of captaincy to grind out the wins.

13 Ben Smith (New Zealand)

Playing outside Dan Carter and Tamati Ellison is a dream for any outside centre but Smith's try late on in the match against Scotland was a suitable end to a solid performance. Quick hands and imperious athleticism is making him one to watch for the future.

14 Charlie Sharples (England)

The Gloucester winger scored England's first try against Fiji with a show of strength and athleticism to smash through the defence. He notched up two in total and has now put pressure on Chris Ashton for the no.14 shirt in next week's clash against Australia.

15 Alex Goode (England)

A surprising starting choice considering the form of Harlequins' Mike Brown at the moment, but showed just why Lancaster considered him suitable for the job. Has the ability to take pressure off Flood with his kicking ability and defensive organisation. A great showing from the Saracens man.

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