Tuesday 6 December 2016

Irish players among Six Nations top performers statistically despite shaky start to campaign

Published 16/02/2016 | 10:17

The players above have been topping the list for certain statistics in the opening two rounds of the Six Nations
The players above have been topping the list for certain statistics in the opening two rounds of the Six Nations

With two rounds played, we are already beginning to see players stand out from the crowd. Who do you think the star turns are?

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Most line-out throws won: Dylan Hartley

Italian hooker Davide Giazzon may lead the way when it comes to success rate (94 per cent) having only lost one of his 18 throws, but it's Hartley who has won the most - 19 - and he has thrown the most - 23. Second is France skipper Guilhem Guirado (18 successful throws), with Giazzon and Rory Best (15 throws won) third and fourth. Scotland's Ross Ford is failing to hit the mark, however. He's lost six of his 20 attempts thus far for a below-par 70 per cent success rate.

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Most carries: CJ Stander

The South African Irishman has been Ireland's stand-out performer in the competition so far thanks to his hard-yard carries. He has made 42 and consistently gets the Irish over the gain-line. England No 8 Billy Vunipola is only one behind, proving how far he has come on, with Sergio Parisse (36) leading the Italian charge. The rest of the top five is made up of backs - French backs - with Maxime Medard (33) and Virimi Vakatawa (30) showcasing their ability to run with the ball.

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Most metres gained: George North

The Wales giant looked back to his best against Scotland, constantly surging down the flank and totting up the metres. The Northampton juggernaut has made 177 metres all told but, unsurprisingly, France full-back Medard is not far behind on 169. Two more No 15s come in at three and four - Liam Williams (158) and Stuart Hogg (151) - with Italian talisman Parisse (142) the only forward to make the top five.

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Most clean breaks: Michele Campagnaro

The ability to spot a gap and make a clean dart through it is priceless and nobody has been better than the Italian centre. Campagnaro has made five clean breaks in total and proved a handful for France and England in the opening two rounds. North and Vakatawa, both massive units able to break a tackle with ease, come in joint second on three.

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Most defenders beaten: Virimi Vakatawa

This is the tightest category of the lot, but it's France's Fijian flyer who leads the way on six, proving that Les Bleus coach Guy Noves was correct in taking a punt on him. The rest of the top five are level-pegging, with North, Hogg, Medard and Billy Vunipola all beating five defenders.

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Most offloads: George North

New Zealand star Sonny Bill Williams has turned this skill into an artform which everyone is now trying to replicate - take the ball into contact, free up space and get the ball to a man to run into said space. It's harder than it sounds, but North is doing a passable impression of SBW with 14 offloads so far in the tournament, five ahead of his nearest challenger Medard (nine). Vakatawa, being Fijian, is also high on the list with eight. Hogg, Anthony Watson, Billy Vunipola and Mattia Bellini have six.

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Most tackles: Taulupe Faletau

He's one of the first names on Warren Gatland's team sheet for this very reason - Faletau is a tackling machine! So far the Welsh No 8 has made 33 tackles and missed none. None! The rest of the top five is made up of Irishmen with Jack McGrath (33 tackles, two missed), Jared Payne (31 tackles, one missed), Jamie Heaslip (31 tackles, one missed) and Tommy O'Donnell (30 tackles, two missed) all putting in mammoth shifts against Wales and France.

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Most kicks in play: George Ford

It is no surprise to see that half-backs dominate this category. England No 10 Ford is top when it comes to putting boot to ball with 19, emphasising Eddie Jones's tactic of playing the game in the opposition's half. Wales scrum-half Gareth Davies is just one behind on 18, along with Scotland's Finn Russell, and they are followed by Jules Plisson and Dan Biggar (both 17).

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Most turnovers won: Michele Campagnaro and George Kruis

Ireland legend Brian O'Driscoll used to be the king of the turnover, his ability to get his body over the ball and cling on an absolute nightmare for opponents. Campagnaro looks to be born of the same stock. He's quick to the ball and almost impossible to shift off it. The Italian is joint top with England lock Kruis on four, with another Englishman - Jack Nowell - one behind on three with Wales second row Alun Wyn Jones.

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Most line-outs won: George Kruis

The Saracens and England lock has jumped to the head of the queue in the highly-competitive race for a place in Eddie Jones's second row thanks to his dependabilty in the line-out. Kruis has won 15 so far, five ahead of his nearest rivals - Devin Toner and Richie Gray. Alun Wyn Jones (eight), George Biagi (seven) and Parisse (seven, impressive for a non-lock) make up the rest.

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Most accurate kicker: Jonathan Sexton

The Ireland fly-half is the premier No 10 in the northern hemisphere and it is no wonder he tops the charts. Seven kicks at goal, seven successes. Rhys Priestland also has a 100 per cent conversion rate, but he's only had four pops at the sticks. Scotland's Greig Laidlaw (88 per cent) is not too far behind, with Biggar and Plisson (both 83 per cent) showing good reliability. Owen Farrell (seven successes, four misses) and Italy's Carlo Canna (five successes, three misses) bring up the rear.

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