With the Six Nations now firmly over and domestic rugby back at the forefront of a lot of rugby fans, Robert Rees looks back with a Natwest Six Nations team of the tournament.
Six Nations team of the tournament
Loosehead prop – Cian Healy
A dominant and instrumental figure in the Ireland Grand Slam set up. A prominent set piece player as well as a hard worker around the park.
Hooker – Stuart McInally
Part of the Calcutta Cup winning team, the first since 2008, McInally has been a key figurehead in the Scotland pack. Solidifying them as an all round team. Having his best Six Nations to date will certainly boost his chances of longevity in the Scotland ‘two’ jersey.
Tighthead prop – Tadhg Furlong
Somehow not on the shortlist for the player of the tournament, Furlong has destroyed opposition props for fun this campaign. Working hard around the field and setting up the strong attacking platform at the set piece, he was a crucial cog in the Ireland Grand Slam machine.
Second row – Alun Wyn Jones
Another outstanding Six Nations campaign from the Ospreys lock. Jones looked beastly at the breakdown, offering an epic workload. One of Wales’ best players in yet another tournament, AWJ continues to be that on field leader that Wales desire.
Second row – Jonny Gray
The first player in Six Nations history to complete 100 tackles, smashing the previous record of 85 (Joe Launchbury, 2017). Carrying hard as well, he is the ultimate player to have in your boiler house in terms of attack and defence.
Blindside flanker – Seb Negri
Perhaps not recognised highly enough due to him being part of an Italian side that conceded over 200 points. He was instrumental in their successes, as minor as they were, carrying hugely throughout the tournament and defending like a warrior.
Openside Flanker – John Barclay
The turnover king. Seven turnovers across the campaign, a sack full of tackles and carries galore, Barclay really dominated opposition back-rows. Menacing around the breakdown, you couldn’t give him an inch as well as adding to Scotland’s set piece prowess.
Well that's impressive…. 💪
The top carries from this year's Championship!! 👇 pic.twitter.com/20dfbpQH7H
— NatWest 6 Nations (@SixNationsRugby) March 21, 2018
Number eight – CJ Stander
His 96 carries was the second largest amount ever completed in the Six Nations; second only to his own 104 set in 2017. Having the ability to carry so strongly off the back of a set piece or from the breakdown gave Ireland the heavy runners they required to power over the gain line, Stander being the most influential.
Scrum half – Conor Murray
A quick scrum half. Not only in pace, but in mentality. Knowing when to miss the man or loop the pass over the top was clear to see from Murray throughout the Six Nations. His partnership with Jonny Sexton just adding to the spice.
Fly half – Jonny Sexton
That drop goal in France saving the Grand Slam hopes. His kicking game was the best the Six Nations has seen for years, setting up a handful of tries directly, even to open the scoring in the Grand Slam decider at Twickenham. A cool head in the ranks that can control the game against any team.
Left wing – Jacob Stockdale
Deadly with ball in hand, setting a new Six Nations record of seven tries. Interceptions and tight tackling proving what he can do whilst defending, something that a lot of wingers fall short on. Blitzing the record books, he is one to look out for in future years as he looks to set the world stage alight with his try scoring.
VOTING CLOSES AT MIDNIGHT!
— NatWest 6 Nations (@SixNationsRugby) March 20, 2018
Inside centre – Bundee Aki
Working off Jonny Sexton makes any man’s job easier, but when your outside centre partnerships are being decimated by injury it takes an excellent player to keep his form going. Aki did just that, with his trademark barnstorming running and high line speed defence, he proved to be a key figure on both sides of the ball.
Outside centre – Mathieu Bastareaud
Initially left out of the squad to due on field occurrences before the Six Nations, Bastareaud entered the tournament with a point to prove. France have looked misshaped in the half back positions, but they could rely on their big man to run the hard metres. Such a powerful runner, hard to take down, but also very good around the breakdown and tackle area.
Right wing – Keith Earls
One of the shortlisted nominee’s for the player of the tournament, Earls has looked superb on the wing. Making stacks of metres, but carrying hard and pinching the opposition during defence. An all-round player, he made an awesome impact out wide for Ireland, being part two of the weapon for Sexton to aim his kicks at, Stockdale being the other.
Full back – Matteo Minozzi
Not often you get an Italian contending for player of the tournament, but that’s just what Minozzi is doing. The first Italian to score in four consecutive Six Nations games, the agile full back has such a gifted nature about his game. Running from deep he possess a threat with his boot or ball in hand.
It’s never easy to pick a Six Nations team of the tournament so here are some of the shortlisted players that nearly made it into the team.
Rory Best (hooker/Ireland) Has controlled the Irish set piece all tournament and been excellent around the park,
Guilhem Guirado (hooker/France) is the main stay and go to guy in the French pack, who really missed him vs. Wales,
James Ryan (lock/Ireland) the young lock has certainly made a name for himself amongst an extremely wealthy Irish second row department ,
Aaron Shingler (flanker/Wales) Wales’ outstanding player has really been an all-rounder carrying hard in attack and racking up the tackles in defence,
Rob Kearney (full back/Ireland) Looked so promising in attack both running the ball and playing the territorial game. A lot of tries came from Kearney being the first receiver of the ball.
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