British & Irish Lions
Lions Watch: Team of the Week
ESPN Staff
October 22, 2012
Exeter's Luke Arscott tries to make some yards, Exeter v Clermont Auvergne, Heineken Cup, Sandy Park, Exeter, England, October 20, 2012
Exeter's Luke Arscott shone against Clermont © PA Photos

The start of the Heineken Cup saw the battle for a place on the British & Irish Lions' tour to Australia intensify with the battles between Europe's best set to be a key proving ground in the coming months.

As we all tick off the days until the team depart Down Under, ESPNscrum will cast an eye across the action and pinpoint those players eligible for the elite tourists who are pushing their selection claims with strong performances. Lions coach Warren Gatland has revealed that he is prepared to cast the selection net beyond international rugby so expect competition to be fierce.

There is a lot of rugby to be played until the squad board the plane for Hong Kong and plenty of time for hopes to rise and fall with many international stars yet to return to the domestic fray but the excitement is already building.

15. Luke Arscott (Exeter Chiefs)

Despite Exeter being on the wrong end of a hammering against Clermont, Arscott's performance was up there with the best. His second-half dummy on Sitiveni Sivivatu was class and he also made some good ground.

14. Andy Short (Worcester Warriors)

It was a near-farsical match against Rovigo with Worcester crossing 14 times but Short's hat-trick warrants a place in this week's XV.

13. Manu Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers)

The Tigers centre grabbed two tries against the Ospreys and always made yards will ball in hand. He will probably start for England in the November Tests and could feature for the Lions next summer.

12. David McSharry

It was a confident performance from the 22-year-old centre and he capped an impressive showing with a try after just six minutes. He showed no signs of being fazed by the challenge of Jordan Turner Hall and got the edge over the England centre on a few occasions.

11. Leigh Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues)

We're cheating a bit here, but we had to get both Arscott and the Welsh flyer into the team despite Halfpenny lining up at fullback against Toulon. He missed a couple of kicks against the French side but scored a sensational try and constantly pinned them back with the boot.

10. Toby Flood (Leicester Tigers)

Flood was in inspired form against the Ospreys and contributed 24 points to their total. He scored an intercept try and also booted over a monster penalty from way inside his own half. He appears to be hitting top form at just the right time before the autumn internationals. Saracens' Charlie Hodgson and Leinster's Jonny Sexton pushed Flood close for a spot in the team.

9. Danny Care (Harlequins)

The scrum-half was a constant thorn in Connacht's side and capped his impressive performance with two tries. He looks likely to be England's first-choice No.9 going into the November Tests and if he continues in this vein on the international stage then he is in with a real shout of making the Lions tour. Munster's Conor Murray, Leicester's Ben Youngs and Exeter's Haydn Thomas also deserve honourable mentions.

1. Dave Kilcoyne (Munster)

He was outstanding in the loose and also got the edge on Geoff Cross in the scrum. Munster's pack was one of the primary reasons behind their win over Edinburgh and Kilcoyne was at the forefront of everything they did well.

London Irish's Jamie Gibson crashes over, London Irish v Mont de Marsan, Amlin Challenge Cup, Madejski Stadium, Reading, October 20, 2012
London Irish's Jamie Gibson scores against Mont de Marsan © Getty Images

2. Rory Best (Ulster)

Best excelled against the Warriors in a match where the conditions put paid to any chance of running rugby. The set piece was essential and Best put in a good showing.

3. Mike Ross (Leinster)

Ross got the better of Phil John throughout their match with the Scarlets and reinforced his claim as one of the best props in Ireland.

4. Steve Borthwick (Saracens)

Borthwick scored a try for Sarries and exerted his influence throughout their clash with Racing Metro. He seems to be out of the England mix but he is still one of the most consistent operators in the Premiership.

5. Paul O'Connell (Munster)

Don't bet against O'Connell featuring for the Lions next summer. The 2009 captain is playing some superb rugby and appears to be hitting form at just the right time.

6. Jamie Gibson (London Irish)

The Exiles had it easy against Mont-de-Marsan running in 11 tries but Gibson's performance - which included a score of his own - would have made the England management take note.

7. Steffon Armitage (Toulon)

Despite being out of the Test loop, the openside was hugely influential against Cardiff on Sunday. He collected the Man of the Match award and also crossed the whitewash.

8. Nick Easter (Harlequins)

Easter continues to roll back the years for Harlequins and was one of their go-to men when looking to make a dent in the Connacht defence. Peter O'Mahony shone for Munster but Easter gets the nod.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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