The European club season is back in full swing but sadly the Americas influence wasn’t all that great last weekend. Thankfully the World Rugby u20 Trophy was there to help us out when we needed it most and several players put their hands up, most notably from the Teritos who rebounded with a superb effort against Fiji on Saturday. It’s a jam-packed weekend coming up with the u20s finishing up, European clubs, and the Rugby Championship all on deck.
1 – Piero Zunino (Chile) The stocky customer looks a good find for the Cóndores, strong in the scrum and also happy with ball in hand. Chile were ultimately defeated by Namibia but Zunino got his name on the score sheet in the first half and gave his all. Eric Fry also went well for Vannes.
2 – Yamandú Arburúas (Uruguay) Entered the tournament in high regard and has done nothing but enhance his reputation. Low to the ground and deceivingly strong, his work in the set piece and the loose are of high quality. Scored a try and spearheaded the scrum in the big win over Fiji.
3 – Guillermo Pujadas (Uruguay) Not without competition from a few contenders, but the young Tertitos tighthead was outstanding against Fiji and cannot be denied. Had no trouble with his core roles and his mobility in the loose was impressive, scoring once and creating another with a shimmy and a shake.
4 – Samu Manoa (Toulon) Played at the back of the scrum for his club but we needed to sandwich him into ‘the row’. Didn’t clock up heaps of metres but drew in defenders like a magnet and either passed or offloaded to keep the move alive. Also impressed with his tackling, per usual.
5 – Manuel Leindekar (Uruguay) A good game for the strongman of the Teritos pack who towers above the competition. Supplied plenty of grunt and was rewarded with a try in the second half.
6 – Facundo Isa (Toulon) Another week, another strong outing though this time in defeat. Might be a near-permanent fixture in this side all season as long as he stays fit.
7 – Andrew Durutalo (Ealing Trailfinders) The USA dual-international had a brilliant competitive debut in Ealing colors, scoring twice and earning man-of-the-match honors. Many were surprised that he landed in the Championship and one has to wonder if a bigger club might come calling sooner rather than later.
8 – Sergio Parisse (Stade Français) Had to be named despite his Italian preference. Two tries in a commanding performance as the Parisians toppled La Rochelle at Jean Bouin.
9 – Joaquín Freitas (Uruguay) Earned a rest in the final quarter after a very good match. Kept his forwards moving and the tempo high, leaving the Fijian defense all at sea and providing space for the backs to exploit.
10 – Benjamín Urdapilleta (Castres) Not his best day kicking for the posts but otherwise his usual self. Took the correct options and defended well as Castres put the sword to Bordeaux.
11 – Jeff Hassler (Ospreys) Only just back from injury but already looking fit and strong. Giving the left wing a go with Keelan Giles on the right, Hassler had some key carries in the win over a feisty Zebre side.
12 – Agustín Della Corte (Uruguay) Couldn’t have asked for any more from his charges after their disappointing loss to Portugal in the opening round. There was nothing flashy from the captain on Saturday, only steely resolve that saw his side completely shut down the Fijian attack.
13 – Ciaran Hearn (London Irish) A fine defensive effort as the Exiles celebrated their return to the Premiership with a superb win over Harlequins at Twickenham. Has a fight on his hands for the starting role this season with a few midfield options available to Irish.
14 – Anton Ngongo (Canada) It certainly isn’t happy days for the team but the Castaway Wanderers winger still found a way to impress against Japan. Denied what looked a legitimate try in the first half, he grabbed a super score near the end with some aerial acrobatics at the kickoff followed by a display of speed and determination.
15 – Alejo Piazza (Uruguay) Played mostly on the wing against Fiji but is typically a fullback so that’s where we’ll take him. His compact build makes for an exciting running style that landed him a try just barely into the match, to which he added a four-from-four effort off the tee.