Now that the dust has settled on the European semi-finals, we select the players who stood out from the crowd this weekend.
Without further ado, here comes Planet Rugby’s offering – be sure to add your own 15-1 team selections below.
Heineken Cup Team of the Semi-Finals:
15 Delon Armitage (Toulon): Many forget that Armitage was one of England’s best players during the Martin Johnson era. For those that had, he offered a sharp reminder on Sunday. Outstanding under the high ball and in defence, he also showed great pace.
14 Sitiveni Sivivatu (Clermont): Class. A constant threat whenever he had ball and especially when offloading, ‘Sivi’ will be one of the first names in the mix when we pick our team of the tournament.
13 Regan King (Clermont): A tough choice between the one-cap All Black and his opposite number Casey Laulala, but King’s brilliant offloading after one of a couple of clean breaks was instrumental in setting up Clermont’s try.
12 Matt Giteau (Toulon): Wilkinson may have stolen the headlines but Giteau was excellent. Inventive as ever, his cross-field kick to Fernández-Lobbe was exquisite. Of all of Toulon’s big signings, Giteau seems already destined to be remembered as one of the greatest. Honourable mentions to Brad Barritt who looked like a Lion and the ever-brilliant Wesley Fofana.
11 Napolioni Nalaga (Clermont): There were only two tries this weekend, but it shouldn’t be a surprise that the tournament’s number one hitman got on the scorecard. Clermont fans took a deep breath when the Fijian ignored a huge overlap on his outside but he made no mistake in scoring his seventh try in Europe this season. It could be his most important. A mention too for Toulon’s Alexis Palisson.
10 Jonny Wilkinson (Toulon): Judging by our recent poll, Wilko will be popular choice not only in this XV but also the 36 going to Australia. But it took an outstanding display at Twickenham to get the nod ahead of another Lion, Ronan O’Gara, who – in his tenth Heineken Cup semi-final – delivered a wonderful performance in what could have been his last game in a Munster jersey.
9 Conor Murray (Munster): You can’t fault Murray for not getting involved. He made double the tackles of any other scrum-half this weekend and more than double the metres gained with ball in hand. He also kicked well. A mention for Clermont’s little general Morgan Parra who was his usual nuggety sense, bossing everyone around.
8 Chris Masoe (Toulon): The former All Black appeared to be literally made of granite when it came to the contact area, bouncing tacklers and then producing crunching hits of his own. Good work at the breakdown as well. An astute signing from Castres.
7 Kelly Brown (Saracens): The top tackler over the weekend with 16, Brown did his Lions chances no harm whatsoever. The Scot has been one of the form flankers in 2013 and deserves his shot at the tour to Australia. Although Will Fraser was missed in the back-row, Brown’s combined work-rate and leadership made him stand out in defeat. Credit also to Clermont’s workhorse Julien Bardy.
6 Juan Martin Fernández Lobbe (Toulon): One player who never has a bad game. Fernández Lobbe matched the physicality of Masoe and made more tackles than any other Toulon player. The Puma looks destined to add more trophies to his Premiership title with Sale eight years ago. Credit to Munster’s Peter O’Mahony.
5 Nick Kennedy (Toulon): Much like Armitage, Kennedy returned to England as a forgotten son and made an instant impression, rampaging around the park. In the past Kennedy has been criticised for a lack of physicality, but not anymore. He has gone from being a solid squad member to being a must-pick for Toulon, which speaks volumes.
4 Paul O’Connell (Munster): The resurgent Munster skipper was the weekend’s top lock in terms of line-outs won and was second only to Steve Borthwick in tackles made. Nathan Hines was initially pencilled in on the teamsheet but loses out after a review of the stats revealed a few too many penalties conceded.
3 Davit Zirakashvili (Clermont): It was a tough call between the Georgian hardman and ex-Bok prop BJ Botha, who made more tackles than any other front rower in the semi-finals. But Zirakashvili carried the ball an impressive seven times, and was key in Clermont winning a handful of crucial penalties at scrum time.
2 Benjamin Kayser (Clermont):Ticked all the boxes with solid scrummaging and a few powerful runs, including a clean line break. His accurate line-out throwing was missed in the closing ten minutes.
1 Andrew Sheridan (Toulon): The former Sale stalwart appears to be enjoying his stint in France, so much so that many would regard him as a necessity for the Lions. Dominant against former England team-mate Matt Stevens, Big Ted deserves plenty of praise. Credit to Saracens’ prop Mako Vunipola for his power in open play.