Updated:Mar 23, 2023 10:53 am
After another thrilling Six Nations that saw Ireland achieve a much-deserved Grand Slam, I have selected my team of the tournament. Unsurprisingly, it has a distinctly Irish and French favour!
- 1. Andrew Porter: When Ireland won the Grand Slam in 2018, Porter was a tighthead, but under Andy Farrell, he has become an integral part of Ireland’s rise to the top as a loosehead. A pillar of consistency in the scrum, Porter has a huge engine and got through an abundance of work throughout the championship, often proving to be a nuisance at the breakdown. Honourable mentions go to Scotland’s Pierre Schoeman, who was a carrying machine, and France’s Cyril Baille.
- 2. Julien Marchand: At hooker, I’ve gone with France’s Julien Marchand, who made 58 tackles throughout the championship, only missing 4. France had the third-best line-out success, but Marchand was also a menacing presence at the breakdown. Honourable mentions go to Scotland’s perpetual livewire George Turner and Ireland’s Dan Sheehan, who demonstrated his sizeable talent when fit.
- 3. Zander Fergurson: Tighthead was a tricky position, with Ireland and France suffering from injuries in this area. I’ve gone with Scotland’s Zander Fergurson, who put in a destructive scrummaging performance against Italy and got through a mountain of work across his 250 minutes of game time. Honourable mention goes to Kyle Sinckler, with England having the best scrum success rate in the championship.
- 4. James Ryan: Ryan is another player who has ascended to another level in the last year, playing every minute of Ireland’s campaign. Ryan boasts an impressive array of stats: averaging a line-out steal per game, making 66 tackles (only missing 2), and winning 5 turnovers. But Ryan is more than just stats; he’s a goliath in the contact area, especially when clearing out rucks, and a vital leadership figure.
- 5. Thibaud Flament: Like Ryan, Flament didn’t miss a minute for France, and the lock has established himself as an integral part of the Les Blues’ pack. An unbelievable athlete boasting pace and power, Flament showcased some deft hands on more than one occasion, helping set up Damian Penaud’s wonder score against Ireland. But he’s not just flashy, making an incredible 81 tackles across the championship and missing only 3. Honourable mentions go to his teammate Paul Willemse, England’s Ollie Chessum, and Italy’s Frederico Ruzza- a beacon at the lineout and another who didn’t miss a minute.
- 6. Sebastien Negri: On the blindside, I’ve gone for Negri, a bullocking presence for the Azzurri throughout the championship, making 58 carries and gaining 277 metres in the process. Negri’s deft hands in the wide areas and wholehearted approach summed up everything good about Italy’s tournament. Honourable mention goes to Ireland’s wily Peter O’Mahony, whose unseen graft is vital to their success.
- 7. Josh van der Flier: On the openside, I’ve gone for van der Flier; while he may not have been as eye-catching as last year, he was a consistent performer throughout. The Leinster man showed an uncanny knack for being in the right place at the right time, whether quelling opposition attacks or setting up tries in the wide channels. He’s the one player I think Ireland would struggle to replace. Honourable mention goes to France’s Charles Ollivon.
- 8. Caelan Doris: Doris was arguably Ireland’s most influential forward, making an impressive 275 metres from 54 carries and winning 5 turnovers. Doris’s blend of footwork and power allows him to chew through yards, and he provided telling carries in the lead-up to Garry Ringrose’s game-sealing try against France, where he produced a monstrous performance. An all-court back row whose equally instrumental in the tight exchanges and the wider channels. Honourable mentions go to France’s Gregory Alldritt and Italy’s Lorenzo Cannone.
- 9. Antoine Dupont: I mean, who else? In a team brimming with talent, Dupont is France’s glitterball. He’s exhausted all superlatives, a genuine superstar who moves you to the edge of your seat every time he touches the ball. A brilliant two-footed kicker, a constant sniping threat, and with an awesome passing range to boot (seriously, check out his assist for Penaud’s try on Saturday). But it’s not just the flashy stuff where he excels; his support play is outstanding, and he’s freakishly strong in defence and attack while consistently making the right decisions. Honourable mention goes to Scotland’s Ben White, while Jamieson Gibson-Park and Connor Murray job-shared well for Ireland.
- 10. Romain Ntamack: I can hear the Irish howls of derision already, but Ntamack’s partnership with Dupont makes France tick. No one made more try assists than the Frenchman, whose composure in the red zone is excellent and a key reason why France’s conversion rate is so good. A matador-like runner, Ntamack’s kicking game is equally as impressive, whether searching for territory or supplying his wingers. A huge honourable mention goes to Jonny Sexton, who got the Six Nations send-off he deserved, and Finn Russell, who produced some typically audacious, outrageous moments of attacking class.
- 12. Sione Tuipulotu: Tuipulotu has established himself as a destructive presence in Scotland’s midfield, providing a constant source of go-forward, as well as being a more than useful dummy runner. With slick hands to match his immense power, he struck up a telepathic understanding with Huw Jones, providing him with three try assists. Honourable mentions go to Bundee Aki and Jonathan Danty, the latter making a huge impact despite playing just two games.
- 13. Gael Fickou: France’s most experienced player is arguably their most consistent, rarely putting a foot wrong. Remember how he was once wasted on the wing? Defensively there are few better, and he missed just three tackles all tournament, while he’s a similarly classy figure in attack with a neat left boot to match. Perhaps doesn’t get lauded with the same plaudits as some of his teammates, but Fickou is a vital component of this French side. Honourable mention goes to the aforementioned Huw Jones and Ireland’s Garry Ringrose.
- 11. James Lowe: Ireland’s back three all had a wonderful tournament, and Lowe was a beacon of consistency throughout. Only Hugo Keenan made more metres, but Lowe made the most line breaks of anyone in the tournament, averaging two per game. A supreme finisher with an absolute weapon of a left foot, Lowe has established himself as one of World rugby’s premier wingers. An honourable mention goes to Scotland’s Duhan van der Merwe, a pinball in contact who beat a staggering 35 defenders and scored one of the greatest tries Twickenham has ever seen.
- 14. Damian Penaud: Simply electric, few will be able to forget his memorable score in Dublin. Penaud topped the try charts, showing his potent finishing prowess, and he’s a player who constantly makes things happen. He’s as slippery as an eel in contact, with an immense leg drive that propels him through tackles, always eking out yards, while in open spaces, he’s devastating. Honourable mention goes to Ireland’s brilliant Mack Hansen, who I’m convinced must have a doppelganger considering the sheer amount of work he gets through.
- 15. Thomas Ramos: The toughest decision of them all, but Ramos just gets the nod. A metronome with the boot, the full-back was easily the tournament’s top points scorer, as well as scoring three tries, a testament to his excellent support play. Like many of his compatriots, Ramos oozes class, with an impressive ability to glide through the opposition’s defence and some supple hands. My sincerest apologies go to Ireland’s Hugo Keenan, who could well end up winning player of the tournament. Also, an honourable mention goes to England’s Freddie Steward, who shone in a difficult campaign.