Round 10 Aviva Premiership – Ali’s XV of the Week

Exeter Chiefs v Bath Rugby - Aviva Premiership

Following the return of international players to their respective sides, they bring extra spice to the English rugby scene.

Last Word On Rugby writer Alistair Stokes picks his XV of the week for Round 10.

Loosehead Prop: Mako Vunipola

In the final bruising match-up of the weekend, Mako Vunipola was clearly feeling the benefits of being rested last week. You could be forgiven for mistaking Mako for little big brother Billy.

The British and Irish Lions loosehead was the most effective forward in the premiership this weekend at breaking the gameline.

Hooker: Kyle Cooper

A key part of Newcastle Falcons performance this weekend, Cooper had a stormer of a match at the breakdown. Time and time again, the South African either turned over ball or scuppered the Saints best-laid plans by halting momentum.

Cooper in fact, wasn’t too far off a vote for the ‘seven jersey’ this week. Incredible pace, stamina and guts.

Tighthead Prop: Vincent Koch

It’s almost beggars belief that Vincent Koch isn’t allowed to play for the Springboks. The running lines and line breaks for a prop forward are both stunning and devastating. Solid in the scrum and with a safe pair of hands.

Koch may well be the No.1 tight-head in the world….whilst not playing at international level. Watch below – Koch’s linebreak was the catalyst for Brad Barritt’s superb opening try of the match for Saracens.

No.4 Lock: James Gaskell

The former Sale Sharks captain has struggled with injury in the recent seasons, returning to fitness and top form this weekend.

Now running freely, his surprising turn of pace (for a lock) was a regular component of Wasps home win over Tigers yesterday. That added ability of Gaskell to pin his ears back earned plenty of invaluable yards at the Ricoh.

No.5 Lock: Sam Skinner

Utilised out on the wing, more often than not, Skinner’s work rate was prolific for Exeter. He was at the heart of the Chief’s game-line battle.

Blindside Flanker: Chris Robshaw

After a sterling international shift, Chris Robshaw returned to club duty looking like a man possessed against Saracens earlier today. In was a bruising game overall, the former England captains tenacity in the tight stood out above all others.

Whether he is feeling the heat for competition for his England jersey or just striving for perfection, Robshaw seems the first name on both Jones and John Kingston’s teamsheets.

Openside Flanker: Matt Kvesic

Kvesic is usually forced to play second fiddle to Julian Salvi, but his start this week was easily his best game for Chiefs yet. Dominant at the breakdown and showcasing some impressive open-field running skills, Salvi may drop down the pecking order down in Devon.

Number 8: Nizaam Carr

Despite coming off the back of a Currie Cup campaign, Carr has been the ‘energizer bunny’ for Wasps these last two weeks. Carr’s work rate in defense and sevens quality running ball in hand will leave Wasps fans pining for a longer-term contract (than the 6-month stay contract currently signed in the office draw).

Scrum-Half: Danny Care

The England finisher is on fire for Harlequins at the moment, picking up where he left off before the Autumn Internationals.

When you consider the added responsibility on his shoulders after Marcus Smith dropped out before kick-off, his attacking influence is all the more impressive. This weekend, fans were treated to a Danny Care special; kicking from the base of the ruck to send Charlie Walker over in the corner in the 26th minute. He repeated it splendidly, for Tim Visser’s benefit in the 78th.

Care is top class, and when fit he is a first choice pick for our XV of the week.

Fly-Half: Billy Burns

The younger of the two Burns brothers was in his element verses relegation contenders London Irish. With two tries himself and two assists including one peach of a cross-field kick, Burns is staking his claim on the 10 jersey ahead of Welsh international Owen Williams return.

Left Wing: James Short

In his first start this season [following a broken hand sustained during pre-season] Short ran up a staggering 211 meters. He beat 10 defenders and made five line breaks. An outstanding performance that kept Bath on the back foot in the wider channels.

Exeter and England fans could be forgiven for not understanding why Short (see main photo) hasn’t yet had an England look-in under Eddie Jones.

Inside Centre: Josh Matavesi

The below tweet say’s it all. Beautiful!

Outside Centre: Chris Harris

Chris Harris may have had a disappointing start to his international career last month, but his return to club colors was sublime. Solid in defense, a key cog in attack and has ‘backrower like’ ability at the breakdown. Harris was invaluable to the Falcons victory.

Right Winger: Sinoti Sinoti

Back fighting fit again, the 5 foot 7 inch 32-year-old winger is defying both the odds and the laws of gravity. The Samoan international tore the Northampton Saints defense to pieces on Friday night.

The Falcon notched up 60 meters, beat nine defenders and made three line breaks. An Energizer bunny in a number 14 jersey!

Fullback: Phill Dollman

Dollman’s name may have come as a surprise to many, but he was the only fullback to impose a reliable and solid showing at 15.

Goode, Brown, Mallinder and Watson were all found wanting, on more than a few occasions this round. Dollman showcased the kind of performances that warrants the title of a current Premiership Championship winner.


With the returning talent within the Aviva Premiership, fans are overloaded with choice. But gladly the local talent can still entertain – like Phill Dollman. Homegrown men who show true values, and real fans love it that they are not just appearing in the Anglo-Welsh Cup.

As the sides look toward the Christmas fixtures, follow this regular feature from Ali Stokes, as he casts an eye over the XV of the Week.


“Main photo credit”
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