No fewer than seven Irish players in one English paper's ultimate Six Nations team
Ireland will go into this year's Six Nation competition as favourites. And if you use the Telegraph in England as a barometer, Joe Schmidt's men are raging hot favourites.
The newspaper has chosen no fewer than seven Ireland players in their ultimate team ahead of this season's competition. Rob Kearney, Tommy Bowe, Robbie Henshaw, Jonathon Sexton, Conor Murray, Paul O'Connell and Peter O'Mahony all make the cut with Wales getting three on the team, two-a-piece for England and France while Italy's Serrgio Parisse also makes the grade.
15 Rob Kearney (Ireland)
Not always been at his best for Leinster this season, but magnificently reliable for Ireland last autumn. South African Scott Spedding is a real find for France, while Leigh Halfpenny and Mike Brown are still searching for past form.
14 Tommy Bowe (Ireland)
Were you picking a British and Irish Lions side now he would be a shoo-in, and outside that only Yoann Huget pushes him close.
13 Robbie Henshaw (Ireland)
Brian O’Driscoll? Who? Well, it’s not quite like that, but Henshaw did exceptionally well last autumn. Jonathan Davies’ move to France has hampered his form, and Manu Tuilagi is just not fit yet.
12 Wesley Fofana (France)
Wales’ powerhouse Jamie Roberts (who is a more astute footballer than often given credit for) pushes him close after a fine autumn, but Fofana is the classier option.
11 Teddy Thomas (France)
A hat-trick on debut against Fiji and then another try against Australia. George North has been quiet internationally recently, and Jonny May’s wonder try against New Zealand was one try only.
10 Jonathan Sexton (Ireland)
Now the real deal as Ireland’s orchestrator, with all that anger channelled in the right directions.
9 Conor Murray (Ireland)
So improved. ‘Baby Mike Phillips’ they used to call him. He’s grown up a little since then.
1 Joe Marler (England)
He might only be keeping the seat warm for Alex Corbisiero, but he has done a superb job as a stand-in.
2 Richard Hibbard (Wales)
Hardest choice of all the positions. France never seem sure of their best hooker. Dylan Hartley’s disciplinary indiscretions cost him. Rory Best and Ross Ford can count themselves unlucky.
3 David Wilson (England)
If Dan Cole were fit, you might pick him instead, just going to show again England’s strength in the front row.
4 Alun Wyn Jones (Wales)
Courtney Lawes is unfortunate, but the indefatigable and inspirational Jones is difficult to leave out.
5 Paul O’Connell (Ireland)
Was a mountainous presence in Ireland’s autumn victories over South And Australia. Might be his last Six Nations. Savour him.
6 Peter O’Mahony (Ireland)
Wonderfully abrasive and combative blindside flanker whose contributions have steadily increased in the last year.
7 Sam Warburton (Wales)
A genuine big-game player. Often quiet for Cardiff Blues, but was outstanding in three Tests against Australia, New Zealand and South Africa last autumn.
8 Sergio Parisse (Italy)
Not some token Italian, but rather a world-class performer in fine current form for Stade Francais. Oh, to have seen him in a quality Test side.