Ireland and Scotland account for all but three of our Six Nations team of the week
Published 14/03/2016 | 15:45
By all accounts it was a lively Six Nations weekend as Ireland found some form, Scotland finally won at home and Eddie Jones' charges in white secured the Championship at the first time of asking.
But which individuals stood out most in the penultimate round?
One of the familiar faces in our weekly selections over the last month. However, against France yesterday at Murrayfield, the Scottish full back outdid himself.
He wonderfully stepped out of harm's way to score his well-taken try, but the piece of improvisational brilliance to create Tim Visser’s pivotal touch down was a thing of beauty. Hogg is now arguably the best 15 in this hemisphere and a likely candidate for player of the tournament.
The Ulster wing gave the type of tour de force we regularly saw from him in the 2014 campaign and showed serious thrust to power over for his try.
Taylor was impressive with and without the ball as Scotland secured a first home win since 2013. Excellent awareness to tap and go for his lung-busting try, even if it was aided by a little bit of brinkmanship from Craig Laidlaw.
The centre that’s not really a centre, or a second five-eighth playmaker for that matter, but a fine performer in Eddie Jones’ Championship winning tilt.
Between Visser, Hogg and Tommy Seymour, the Scots have put together a potent and dynamic back three. Visser, of course, perfectly timed his run onto Hogg’s ridiculous pass to touch down for that memorable try.
Sexton could easily have been forgiven for not being fully invested in Ireland’s rather meaningless clash with Azzurri on Saturday, given the maelstrom that’s surrounded him of late. Yet, like all world class operators, he shelved those distractions and engineered the nine try onslaught. Back to his best.
There is no question that Craig Laidlaw could rightly feel aggrieved for his omission but, in tandem with Sexton, Murray is pivotal in almost everything Ireland do well offensively.
Again a Scot, this time Alasdair Dickinson, certainly warranted selection here, but McGrath's overall endeavour is quite incredible. Not only has he clearly surpassed Cian Healy as Ireland's first choice loose head but the Leinster prop has developed into one of the best in the business.
France have been a mixed bag under Guy Noves thus far but their skipper has rarely wavered. Guirado is super around the park, accurate out of touch and finished off a sumptuous French attack in the first half in Edinburgh.
Nel has been the bedrock of a vastly improved Scottish scrum that simply pulverised their French counterparts on Sunday.
Ryan gave a visceral display of grit in the trenches against Italy and, for the second week running, was Ireland’s top tackler. He was clearly emotional before the game and it bled into his performance. The Munster stalwart was correctly awarded the man of the match.
The new-look England who, incidentally, have rediscovered some very familiar obnoxiousness under Eddie Jones are now Champions. They can secure the Grand Slam against France next week without ever having done anything particularly well in this tournament. However, Maro Itoje, the Saracens prodigy, is a mesmerising talent.
As France came out the traps at a rate of knots, it seemed as if Scotland would be swallowed up by the Gallic slipstream. But they didn’t, and it was down to the likes of Barclay putting the shoulder to the wheel and stemming the tide.
Hardie gave the quintessential number seven performance in his adopted homeland and subsequently vexed France with great regularity. He affected four turnovers, made 13 tackles and on a couple of occasions smashed French scrum half Maxime Machenaud out of his socks.
The number eight scored a brace of tries, the second of which might well go down as the team moment of the campaign. Not only that, but after a fairly sterile showing in Twickenham, he asserted himself from the off at the Aviva Stadium.