Home Rugby Ranking The Number Eights In The Six Nations Championship

Ranking The Number Eights In The Six Nations Championship

There was much debate today when a Welsh media outlet declared Toby Faletau to be a better number eight than Billy Vunipola. Of course, this is simply stirring things in the run-up to the mammoth Six Nations clash in Twickenham in two weeks’ time.

However, there is some merit to this. Despite Vunipola’s amazing performance against Ireland last week, there is a schism here in Pundit Arena HQ on the issue.

This debate got so heated that we’ve decided to get ranking the number eights of the Six Nations.

For the purposes of this list, we’re counting the players who came into this championship as their country’s top number eight, so Louis Picamoles and David Denton are representing France and Scotland respectively, despite injury.

When lined up, the standard of these six men is staggering, but there had to be winners and losers.

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6. David Denton

Scotland’s Denton is a strong ball carrier, and gets through an impressive amount of work around the field. The Zimbabwean-born 26 year-old is the engine of this Scotland team at times, and in two week’s time, he will be looking to replicate his man of the match performance against France the last time the two sides met at Murrayfield in 2014.

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - FEBRUARY 08: David Denton of Scotland is tackled by Owen Farrell and Billy Vunipola of England during the RBS Six Nations match between Scotland and England on March 8, 2014 in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

5. Jamie Heaslip

The Leinster and Ireland number eight is now 32, and this could be his last season in green. He has many virtues as a back-row player, not least his protection of the ball when going into contact. However, he is not the player he was a few seasons back, and with a young back-row emerging in Ireland, he might be under pressure to hold onto the position in a year’s time.

CARDIFF, WALES - AUGUST 08: Jamie Heaslip of Ireland scores the first try during the International match between Wales and Ireland at the Millennium Stadium on August 8, 2015 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

4. Louis Picamoles

It speaks volumes about the standard of the Six Nations Championship that a player as good as Picamoles is not in the best three number eights. The Northampton Saints-bound Toulouse colossus carries with huge impact, and his injury on the opening day against Italy significantly weakened Guy Noves’ hand.

PARIS, FRANCE - AUGUST 22: Louis Picamoles of France looks on during the International match between France and England at Stade de France on August 22, 2015 in Paris, France. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

3. Taulupe Faletau

OK, we have got off the fence on the main issue of the day. Faletau is a quality number eight, and everybody reading this knows how good he is. However, up against Billy Vunipola, we think the English international has that bit more impact, and that’s what swung it.

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 26: Taulupe Faletau of Wales breaks with the ball during the 2015 Rugby World Cup Pool A match between England and Wales at Twickenham Stadium on September 26, 2015 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

2. Billy Vunipola

The Englishman singe-handedly battered Ireland on Saturday evening, leading an ultra-physical back row of James Haskell and Chris Robshaw. Impact is the name of the game, and Vunipola has it is spades.

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 26: Billy Vunipola of England is tackled by Tom Francis of Wales during the 2015 Rugby World Cup Pool A match between England and Wales at Twickenham Stadium on September 26, 2015 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

 

1. Sergio Parisse

In truth, the other five are simply fighting for the scraps of Parisse’s table when it comes to these rankings. The Italian number eight is the complete footballer, and is probably the world’s best in the position. OK, he may have been docked a few marks for a wayward dropgoal against France, but nobody’s perfect, right?

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - FEBRUARY 28: Sergio Parisse of Italy celebtates after beating Scotland during the RBS Six Nations match between Scotland and Italy at Murrayfield stadium on February 28, 2015 in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

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