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Premiership Rugby

Zurich Premiership XV – October

A Gallagher Premiership Rugby ball

15 Nick Beal (Northampton Saints) The former England fullback has enjoyed something of a renaissance this season and has helped the Saints' to their lofted position in the league. His 65-metre sprint to score against Newcastle was a moment of true brilliance; and the veteran got one over the upstarts by leaving both Dave Walder and Michael Stephenson clutching at thin air. His spectacular 55-metre drop-kick against Leicester added the cherry to the cake.

14 James Simpson-Daniel (Gloucester)Another player who has picked himself up from England omission to set the Zurich Premiership alight. Simpson-Daniel is perhaps the finest balanced runner and best finisher in the league. If you need proof, look no further than his try against the Sale Sharks when he emerged from a tight spot on the blindside to weave past three men on the way to the line.

13 Graeme Bond (Sale Sharks)The former Wallaby centre has been a constant source of irritation to defensives up and down the country. His best moment was his beautifully taken try against Leicester when he set off from the half-way line before coming off his left foot to embarrass flailing former England fullback Tim Stimpson.

12 Olly Barkley (Bath)With doubts being raised over England's midfield combinations, Clive Woodward is sure be interested in what Barkley and Bath have been up to this season. In the absence of Mike Tindall and Mike Catt, the young back has assumed the role of main play-maker and has risen to the challenge. His vision and lethal boot account for Bath's position at the top of the league. Remains in the team from last month.

11 Ugo Monye (NEC Harlequins)Who needs Dan Luger? Monye is undoubtedly the find of the Zurich Premiership season and has been one of the key reasons behind Quins' early season success and is the one of three survivors from last month's pick. The 20-year-old has only scored one more try since then but his power and pace are a constant threat despite Quins' recent wobbles and he picked up the Zurich  Premiership Player of the Month Award for October. 

10 Shane Drahm (Northampton Saints)Discipline aside, the New Zealander has hardly put a foot wrong all season and has galvanised the Saints' attack. His kicking has been practically flawless, and – in this tight Premiership season – has often made all the difference. But there is a lot more to this man than his boots; his shrewd distribution has opened the gaps for his backs and brought the best out of the likes of Nick Beal and Bruce Reihana.   

9 Martyn Wood (Bath)The scrum-half may have made front page news after his 60 hour stay in Australia as cover for England, but back at the Rec 'Airmiles' is letting his rugby do the talking. He has cajoled his forwards out of the shells they have been residing in over the last couple of seasons and is reaping the benefits of some decent possession.

8 Chris Jones (Sale Sharks)Stuart Barnes called him a 'demented giraffe' but that dubious honour doesn't do the versatile forward justice. Yes, he's rangy and determined – but also hugely athletic and the possessor of some of the best hands in the business. Jones is an England star in the making.

7 James Forrester (Gloucester)After England failed to come knocking, the young Gloucester star has been nothing if not determined to get on with domestic matters. He has been his team's outstanding performer so far this season, and has carried the fight almost single-handedly on a number of occasions.

6 Jon Dunbar (Newcastle Falcons)The flanker sneaks ahead of some illustrious competition to claim a spot in October's side thanks to a mammoth performance against Bath. Dunbar harried and harassed all afternoon, and bullied Bath into surrendering their unbeaten run.

5 Ryan Strudwick (London Irish)The Exiles' South African captain has been a constant source of inspiration this season, and has shown his team mates the benefits of knuckling down to the hard graph. His performance in the victory over the Sale Sharks was exemplary, a virtual text-book display of how a modern lock should operate.

4 Simon Shaw (London Wasps)Shaw makes the team of the month for second time in the row as he continues to play some of the best rugby of his life. The towering lock has been a constant threat in the line-out and a massive presence around the fringes. He will be greatly missed now that he has been called up to the England squad as Danny Grewcock's replacement.

3 Craig Dowd (London Wasps)In the absence of a number of big-name stars, the former All Black has taken responsibility up front and has held firm all season. He makes the team of the month for thanks to his ongoing industry and a well-taken try against Saracens.

2 Jonathan Humphreys (Bath)The former Wales international wins his berth on the back of a tremendous month with Bath. Their immovable scrum is probably the makings of props Duncan Bell and David Flatman, but it's that man in the middle who has added the grit and determination to Bath's strong season. Humphreys fights off a stern challenge from Harlequins' hooker Tani Fuga to claim the spot.

1 Mike Shelley (Leeds Tykes)The Leeds skipper was sorely missed in the early season when he succumbed to a broken thumb, but he is now back and leading from the front as usual. The results may be going against them, but Shelley's determination will soon rub off on his charges.

September's Team of the Month: 15 Matt Perry (Bath), 14 Richard Haughton (Saracens), 13 George Harder (NEC Harlequins), 12 Olly Barkley (Bath), 11 Ugo Monye (NEC Harlequins), 10 Paul Burke (NEC Harlequins), 9 Simon Amor (Gloucester), 8 Taine Randell (Saracens), 7 Josh Kronfeld (Leicester Tigers), 6 Andre Vos (NEC Harlequins), 5 Alex Brown (Gloucester), 4 Simon Shaw (London Wasps), 3 Duncan Bell (Bath), 2 Steve Brotherstone (Gloucester), 1 David Flatman (Bath)

By Andy Jackson

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