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Our Team Of The Six Nations Has A Grand Slam Feel To It

The Six Nations is over for another year and Ireland have won the Triple Crown, the competition and of course, the Grand Slam.

Ireland will be brimming with confidence as they now look towards a June summer series against the Wallabies while Wales and Scotland will be relatively content with their three wins apiece, knowing that they showed some great moments in the championship and that they can improve further.

France have shown some serious improvement and they can only get better under the tutelage of Jacques Brunel.

For England, well, the post-mortem is well and truly underway with Eddie Jones saying after their loss on Saturday that some players may be omitted in the future based on their performances over the last few weeks.

Italy saved their best display for last against Scotland but they fell narrowly short. Their attacking game has improved immensely but they have shown a soft underbelly in defence which will have been a huge concern for Conor O’Shea.

Based on what we have seen over the last few weeks, here is our Six Nations team of the tournament and it certainly has a Grand Slam feel to it, inevitably.

15. Rob Kearney (Ireland)

Without a doubt, the standout full-back of the tournament and he saved his best performance for England at Twickenham. An absolute rock at the back, Kearney is enjoying a new lease of life and long may it continue.

14. Keith Earls (Ireland)

Put in three superb performances for the first three games and was still hugely effective in the matches against Scotland and England. The tap-tackle on Elliot Daly during the English onslaught at the beginning of the second-half on Saturday was arguably one of the turning points of the game as the winger was destined to score. A Grand Slam moment.

13. Huw Jones (Scotland)

It’s difficult not put in Chris Farrell, Robbie Henshaw or Garry Ringrose here but due to their relative lack of action throughout the competition, it would be unfair on Huw Jones to put one of them in.

Jones was a revelation for Scotland and his brace of tries against England in Murrayfield will live long in the memory. He wasn’t at his best against Italy and that misplaced pass to Stuart Hogg against Ireland will haunt him but on an overall level, Jones deserves his spot in this team.

12. Bundee Aki (Ireland)

Unheralded and out of the spotlight but incredibly effective. Aki was the bedrock of the Irish midfield throughout the competition and he deserves plenty of plaudits for gelling with three different centres and remaining as effective throughout Ireland’s campaign.

It’s even more impressive when you think he only made his debut for Ireland in November. Now a key player, Ireland won’t go far wrong with this man in midfield for the future.

11. Jacob Stockdale (Ireland)

The most in-form winger in the world at the moment? Stockdale’s try-scoring form is absolutely ridiculous. 11 tries in nine Test matches and he set a Six Nations-era record yesterday as he registered his seventh try of the competition.

After some worrying form for Ulster over the Christmas period, Stockdale has bounced back incredibly.

10. Johnny Sexton (Ireland)

What is there to say about this man? He wasn’t even 100% fit throughout the tournament and he was still the most consistent out-half of the competition. Everyone will reference that drop-goal against France but his leadership, aggression and “insanity” as Joe Schmidt described it yesterday are crucial traits.

One of the best in the world, Sexton truly showed it over the last few weeks.

9. Conor Murray (Ireland)

Like Sexton, Murray’s performances are hard to believe, he is just always at a high level and it’s difficult to fathom sometimes. His fitness is key to Ireland’s chances at the 2019 World Cup and the control he shows in games is an example to any young scrum-half dreaming of making it big.

1. Cian Healy (Ireland)

Dislodged Jack McGrath as Ireland’s first-choice loosehead which is no mean feat, Healy is well and truly back to his barnstorming best. He gave Kyle Sinckler a lesson in the scrum at Twickenham yesterday and he looks back to his devastating-self in the loose. Ireland have incredible depth in this position.

2. Guilhem Guirado (France) 

The France captain led by example throughout the French efforts in this competition with his no-nonsense and industrious displays. His appetite for work is essential to this team and he often clocks double digits in both tackling and carries. He was a huge loss to the French for their final game of the championship which could have seen them finish second.

He will be crucial to the fortunes of this team going forward and Jacques Brunel has certainly found his man to lead this team.

3. Tadhg Furlong (Ireland) 

It might seem unfair to put Furlong in here considering he missed two games but he is just at such a higher level than any of his competitors it would be foolish not to put him in here. Not only is he great in the scrum and in the carry but Furlong is a beautiful passer of the ball and has some of the softest hands for a tighthead in the game. A world-class player.

4. James Ryan (Ireland) 

Ireland’s young gun doesn’t seem one bit out of place on the international stage and he showed it throughout this competition. At just 21, he completely outclassed Maro Itoje at Twickenham yesterday – hard to believe he was one of the game’s greatest achievements under his belt already at such a young age.

Ireland may well and truly have found their replacement for Paul O’Connell.

5. Alun Wyn Jones (Wales) 

Undoubtedly, the standout player for Wales throughout the competition and it’s no surprise that Warren Gatland trusts him so much. Lives and breathes work, the Welsh captain led his team to a second-place finish and is a crucial part of this team’s success. An absolute warrior.

6. Aaron Shingler (Wales) 

Harsh on Peter O’Mahony who was very consistent throughout the tournament but Shingler stood out for his country in this competition. Excellent at the breakdown but it was through his wonderful carrying that really made him stand out. Very dynamic and quick on his feet, Shingler shone throughout the competition when he was needed especially when you consider Wales’ injury problems in the back-row.

7. Dan Leavy (Ireland)

With Sean O’Brien out and Josh van der Flier gone after the first game, Leavy stepped up the plate and delivered. In every game he played, he was excellent and slowing opposition ball down and consistently won crucial turnovers. It will be hard to dislodge him based on his performances.

8. CJ Stander (Ireland) 

Relentless. The only word to describe CJ Stander. He made the most carries in the tournament with 96 to his name, beating his own record he made last year (106). Superb.

Replacements: Rory Best (Ireland), Rob Evans (Wales), Rabah Slimani (France), Jonny Gray (Scotland), Sebastian Negri (Italy), Maxime Machenaud (France), Owen Farrell (England), Matteo Minozzi (Italy). 

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Author: Sean McMahon

Sean is Deputy Editor and head rugby writer. You can contact him by email [email protected] or on Twitter