Six Nations Team of the Season
There were many tough calls, but here is our team of the campaign which features eight Irishmen, four Englishmen and three Les Bleus.
It was difficult to omit any boys in green from what we have seen over the past seven weeks, but such selections are usually characterised by some tight calls.
Brian O’Driscoll takes the number 13 jersey in his final campaign and here are the 14 men who join him.
15. Mike Brown (England)
A very hard call on Rob Kearney who was yet again in top form in Paris, but Brown has been at the heart of everything for England this season. A real attacking threat and dependable under the high ball, has perhaps been the Player of the Tournament. Notable mention for Brice Dulin.
14. Andrew Trimble (Ireland)
Doesn’t always get the plaudits he deserves but sealed an excellent tournament with his finest performance to date against the French. Shipped a lot of knocks, but ran excellent lines, offered support throughout and was rock solid in defence.
13. Brian O'Driscoll (Ireland)
Finished with two man-of-the-match awards, which even he admitted may have been based partly on emotional than performance. Nevertheless, the finest centre to ever grace the game was at his battling best when up against the man-beast Bastareaud and played his part for Trimble's try with a darting run. A glittering end to a stellar international career.
12. Luther Burrell (England)
While he played 13, it would be impossible to leave him off the team for his level of performances in his first Six Nations. A passer as well as a finisher, a real find for Stuart Lancaster. Gordon D'Arcy the unlucky fall guy.
11. Youann Huget (France)
Yes he was stationed on the right wing, but we think he’ll forgive us switching his favoured wing to accommodate Trimble. France’s finest back finished with three tries and showed incredible skill and awareness to set up Dulin for his five-pointer yesterday.
10. Jonathan Sexton (Ireland)
A little jittery off the tee in Paris, but yet again another top drawer performance from the Irish number 10. Were it not for O’Driscoll’s send off, he could have claimed the last two man-of-the-match awards. His decision making and ability to unleash the backs, plus his resolute defence – Bastareaud finally put paid to his afternoon – has him right at the top of his game.
9. Danny Care (England)
A tremendous campaign for the Harlequins man who has really grasped his international recall. Scored the crucial try against Ireland but was a general for Lancaster with sniping runs and quick passing.
8. Louis Picamoles (France)
He missed one game and played yesterday at 6, but he is an eight and the only blot on his copybook was the yellow card against the Welsh. Few carry with as much power as Picamoles and so much of the French game plan hinges on his go-forward play.
7. Chris Henry (Ireland)
With Sean O’Brien’s absence has taken his opportunity with both hands. Not as powerful with ball in hand as O’Brien – who is? – but his work at the breakdown is exemplary. It has taken a while to get a run of games in a green jersey but looked like a seasoned campaigner.
6. Peter O’Mahony (Ireland)
Missed the Italian match but was a colossus throughout and probably Ireland’s stand-out performer. Assuming the leadership role with the older guard departing. A turnover merchant, he is now a key cog in the Irish machine.
5. Paul O’Connell (Ireland)
Joe Launchbury was excellent and Devin Toner confounded the critics to turn in some big performances, but you can’t look past the Irish skipper. Has such an influence on those around him and operates like a back-row forward with the ball on the deck. His support play for Sexton’s second try yesterday, running the length of the pitch to hit a ruck summed up his attitude.
4. Courtney Lawes (England)
His manner on the pitch isn’t to everyone’s liking, but he is moving towards the world-class category. Athletic, abrasive and an excellent ball carrier, he is the epitome of a modern-day second row. Excellent from the outset, would be a Lions starter on current form.
3. Nicolas Mas (France)
He stormed off during the midweek press conference and can rightly feel that his own personal performances didn’t warrant the level of criticism as some of his teammates. Left the field of play injured, but can reflect on another consistent campaign in a blue jersey.
2. Rory Best (Ireland)
A toss of the coin between the Ulster hooker and Dylan Hartley, who has been a revelation in the English pack and avoided any discipline problems that have dogged him in the past. We’ll give Best the vote for his excellent darts and his work in the loose. Tireless around the field and a great man for go-forward ball, another who excels at the breakdown.
1. Cian Healy (Ireland)
A welcome return from injury and if there is a better loose forward in the game right now, we’d like to see him. A destructive carrier, Healy himself has admitted that the law changes in the scrum have benefitted him greatly.