Lockdown: the Premiership’s most defensive XV of 2017/18

7 September 2018  |  Rich M

In our recent blog we celebrated all that is brilliant about the skills and plucky nature of the premiership’s best attackers. But, as we know from the European Champions Cup and the Premiership finals, defence wins titles. We tip our hats to those in the Premiership who have grunted, collided, bashed and wrestled their opponents into submission. Notable how many native South Africans make the list.

1. Mako Vinupola (Saracens) – Hard to ignore the contribution of this chap. Line speed of a border collie, enthusiasm of a spaniel, force of a bison, flexibility of a yoga instructor. For a loosehead to get so many MOTM’s is absurd.

Mention in dispatches – Alec Hepburn

2. Kyle Cooper (Newcastle) – This guy has been hugely impressive over the ball –more jackals than any other hooker this season. It’s like playing with a 4th back rower. His tenacity, technique and timing have meant slower ball for all opponents.

Mention in dispatches –Jack Singleton

3. Vincent Koch (Saracens) – Typical for a South African, Koch is ferocious in the contact area, specifically around the edges of rucks. His mobility also means that he is no slouch about the park and is solid over the ball.

Mention in dispatches – Jon Welsh

4. Callum Green (Newcastle) – An absolute menace for opposition line-out tacticians. Captains will think twice about kicking to the corner to maul a try. Second most line-out steals this season.

Mention in dispatches – George Kruis

5. Ed Slater (Gloucester) – Defences need dogs: people who are hard. Not by gym standards but by their tolerance for discomfort. Ed Slater has got the pure doggedness that forwards coaches love. He is the type of person who would wait till he fell off a treadmill rather than get off by his own free will.

Mention in dispatches – Joe Launchbury

6. Jamie Gibson (Northampton) – Find me someone who doesn’t dread playing against this guy. So disruptive in a maul, so awkward, so pathologically determined. Has the mindset of a terrier and makes turnovers (top 3 this season).

Mention in dispatches – Jack Willis

7. Jackson Wray (Saracens) – Underrated; we know this. Wray makes the cut because he is someone who is, on average, smaller than most back rowers in 2018. But Wow, he punches above his weight. To boot, he is durable. I have literally never seen him stay down after a contact.

Mention in dispatches – Sam Underhill

8. Jono Ross (Sale) – South Africans are just hard. And Jono Ross is hard by South African standards. His enthusiasm for pyrotechnic collisions is incredible. Work rate off the ball is also on another level. Most tackles in the premiership of any player.

Mention in dispatches – Francois Louw

9. Kahn Fotuali’i (Bath) – Has more turnovers than a lot of back rowers. His jackal timing is on par with the best 7s in the league plus his reading of opposition line breaks is brilliant. And all that at 36.

Mention in dispatches – Cobus Reinach

10. Owen Farrell (Saracens) – open and shut case really. Farrell’s missed tackles stats are actually quite high in comparison but that’s because his tackle technique (go high)  usually stops opponent momentum dead and the 2nd tackler finishes it off. His leadership of the line is also imperious.

Mention in dispatches – Jimmy Gopperth

11. Aled Brew (Bath) – Been solid throughout the season but in the last few months of the season he made some astonishing defensive reads. Bath haven’t been great and Brew has been isolated, a lot. His judgement and physicality has stopped numerous (certain) tries. Take a bow, Sir.

Mention in dispatches – Tom Marshall

12. Brad Barritt (Saracens) – Hard. As. Nails.  Most tackles by any back in an all-conquering season. His face looks like it is chiseled out of granite, and it is often the first point of contact when he tackles. Nothing further to add

Mention in dispatches – Sam Hill

13. Alex Lozowski (Saracens) – Let’s just acknowledge that no other back, from a standing start has dump tackled Thomas Waldron at full tilt. Lozowski is insanely physical. His psychology seems to go something like this: “I am willing to die attempting to send you backwards”. And he’s done a job at 10, 12 and 13.

Mention in dispatches – Chris Harris

14. Jack Nowell (Exeter) – Pure cover tackler. Seems to be scrabbling everywhere across the pitch. If Chris Ashton pops up in the right places in attack, Jack Nowell does so in defence. He also has a mongrel spirit that all fans love.

Mention in dispatches – Adam Thompstone

15. Lachie Turner (Exeter) – Tenacious and experienced actor. Reads the game beautifully and as a result seems to be in the right place to marshall kicks, corner flag and stop line breaks turning into 7 pointers.

Mention in dispatches – Mike Brown