Western Mail - - FRONT PAGE - Rob Lloyd Rugby writer robert.lloyd@waleson­


FRENCH flyer Teddy Thomas has en­joyed a blis­ter­ing start, fol­low­ing up his stun­ning solo try against Ire­land with a dou­ble strike against Scot­land at Mur­ray­field – although he has been one of the play­ers dropped for this week­end’s clash with Italy fol­low­ing a late-night in­ci­dent in Ed­in­burgh.

Leigh Half­penny’s long-awaited brace on the open­ing week­end puts the Scar­let among six play­ers who are one try be­hind the French­man. Teddy Thomas (France) 3 An­thony Wat­son (Eng­land) 2 Ja­cob Stock­dale (Ire­land) 2 Jonny May (Eng­land) 2 Leigh Half­penny (Wales) 2 Rob­bie Hen­shaw (Ire­land) 2 Sam Sim­monds (Eng­land) 2


HALF­PENNY is de­nied top spot by Ire­land pivot Sex­ton, who landed five out of his con­ver­sion at­tempts in the eight-try rout of Italy.

The Le­in­ster­man de­serves to be out in front just for that in­cred­i­ble drop goal in Paris. Johnny Sex­ton (Ire­land) 25 Leigh Half­penny (Wales) 24 Greig Laid­law (Scot­land) 22 Owen Far­rell (Eng­land) 18 Maxime Machenaud (France) 16 Teddy Thomas (Italy) 14


THE one thing you can rely on from CJ Stander is car­ries, and a lot of them.

The Mun­ster bat­ter­ing ram leads the way from cen­tre Bundee Aki, who is prov­ing a real hand­ful in the Irish mid­field.

The workrate and ap­petite for the ball of St­eff Evans is high­lighted by his po­si­tion in third. Shingler also flies the flag. CJ Stander (Ire­land) 37 Bundee Aki (Ire­land) 30 St­eff Evans (Wales) 29 Jonny May (Eng­land) 28 Se­bas­tian Ne­gri (Italy) 27 Aaron Shingler (Wales) 26 Ja­cob Stock­dale (Ire­land) 26 Stu­art Hogg (Scot­land) 26


SCOT­LAND full-back Stu­art Hogg, player of the tour­na­ment for the last

AARON Shingler’s out­stand­ing start to this sea­son’s NatWest 6 Na­tions is re­flected in the of­fi­cial stats for the open­ing two rounds.

The Scar­lets flanker leads the tour­na­ment charts for off-loads and line-outs won, and also fea­tures two sea­sons, is set­ting the pace again.

Stock­dale’s long-range in­ter­cep­tion against Italy has hoisted him up to sec­ond, while it is Evans who heads the Welsh chal­lenge. Stu­art Hogg (Scot­land) 202 Ja­cob Stock­dale (Ire­land) 161 Mat­teo Mi­nozzi (Italy) 157 St­eff Evans (Wales) 156 Mat­tia Bellini (Italy) 147

Mike Brown (Eng­land) 133


IT’S the English duo of Jonny May and Owen Far­rell in the top six for car­ries and turnovers won.

Back-row part­ner Josh Na­vidi is an­other prom­i­nent Welsh­man, – ar­guably the player of the Cham­pi­onship so far – who head this chart.

Leigh Half­penny and Evans are one adrift. Jonny May (Eng­land) 4 Owen Far­rell (Eng­land) 4 (11 play­ers on three, in­clud­ing Leigh Half­penny and St­eff Evans)


THOMAS has been the shin­ing light in a mis­er­able open­ing fort­night for Les Bleus, while fel­low speed­ster Vir­imi Vakatawa has also proven elu­sive.

Gareth An­scombe beat six de­fend­ers against Eng­land alone. Hadleigh Parkes sits along­side him. Teddy Thomas (France) 9 Bundee Aki (Ire­land) 8 Ja­cob Stock­dale (Ire­land) 8 Vir­imi Vakatawa (France) 8 An­thony Wat­son (Eng­land) 7 Gareth An­scombe (Wales) 7 Hadleigh Parkes (Wales) 7 Mat­teo Mi­nozzi (Italy) 7


THE trans­for­ma­tion of Wales’ at­tack­ing game is high­lighted by the fact that three of War­ren Gat­land’s side make the top six in this cat­e­gory. Shingler leads the way from An­scombe, while it is no sur­prise to see Evans in there with his abil­ity to free the arms and keep the ball alive a ma­jor part of his at­tack­ing ar­moury. Aaron Shingler (Wales) 5 Gareth An­scombe (Wales) 4 Ja­cob Stock­dale (Ire­land) 4 Keith Earls (Ire­land) 4 Owen Far­rell while Gareth An­scombe’s im­pres­sive sec­ond-half show­ing in Satur­day’s con­tro­ver­sial 12-6 de­feat at Twick­en­ham has el­e­vated him among the lead­ing Cham­pi­onship per­form­ers.

The sta­tis­tics for the matches are pro­vided by Opta. (Eng­land) 3 St­eff Evans (Wales) 3


YOU had to feel for French skip­per Guil­hem Guirado as he watched Sex­ton’s match-win­ning drop goal sail over the posts at the Stade de France in round one. In that match France put in a Six Na­tions record of 253 tack­les, with the hooker mak­ing 31 of those, join­ing Luke Char­teris in the record books. The worka­holic Josh Na­vidi is his near­est chal­lenger. Guil­hem Guirado (France) 50 Josh Na­vidi (Wales) 36 Se­bastien Va­haamahina (France) 35 Chris Rob­shaw (Eng­land) 33 Jonny Gray (Scot­land) 29 Sam Sim­monds (Eng­land) 29


NA­VIDI has been a real men­ace at the break­down in the open­ing two rounds and is the Cham­pi­onship’s turnover king with five from the first two matches.

He is fol­lowed by back-row co­hort Shingler. Josh Na­vidi (Wales) 5 Aaron Shingler (Wales) 3 Owen Far­rell (Eng­land) 3 (10 play­ers on two)


SHINGLER has long been viewed as one of the best line-out op­er­a­tors in the Guin­ness PRO14 and he has been a go-to man for team-mate Ken Owens dur­ing this Cham­pi­onship. His 11 takes in­cludes one steal. The Irish duo of Devin Toner and Peter O’Ma­honey are next in line, while the Welsh lock pair­ing of Cory Hill and Alun Wyn Jones also make the top six. Aaron Shingler (Wales) 11 Devin Toner (Ire­land) 9 Peter O’Ma­hony (Ire­land) 9 Cory Hill (Wales) 8 Court­ney Lawes (Eng­land) 7 Alun Wyn Jones (Wales) 6 Grant Gilchrist (Scot­land) 6 Ya­couba Ca­mara (France) 6


THE hook­ers have been de­liv­er­ing some im­pres­sive darts dur­ing the Cham­pi­onship and it is the Eng­land skip­per Dy­lan Hart­ley who is the only starter to have hit his tar­get with ev­ery throw.

Young Dragon El­liot Dee has done the same when he has re­placed Ken Owens, with the Wales No. 2 hav­ing just one black mark to his name, like fel­low Lion Rory Best. Dy­lan Hart­ley (Eng­land) 100% (14 from 14) Leonardo Ghi­ral­dini (Italy) 100% (7 from 7) El­liot Dee (Wales) 100% (3 from 3) Sean Cronin (Ire­land) 100% (3 from 3) Rory Best (Ire­land) 96 (25 from 26) Ken Owens (Wales) 96 (22 from 23)

> Aaron Shingler and, far right, Gareth An­scombe

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