Or writer reveals his team of the tournament for the 2019 Guinness Six Nations.
BY Ruaraidh Britton.
15 – Thomas Ramos (France)
It’s hard to find a performance that stands out in a French team that’s so inside out at the moment, but Ramos is an good example of a diamond in the rough. The young full back took to the international scene by deciphering Scotland’s defensive lines in Paris and showing what he can do with any given space. He’ll do well if Jacques Brunel gives him the game time he deserves instead of Yoann Huget, but ultimately I believe he excelled in a position where many didn’t this campaign.
14 – Darcy Graham (Scotland)
Shane Williams was told he was too short to play rugby, but his speed and deceitful sidesteps took him to heights we’d never have anticipated. I get that feeling from watching Darcy Graham play, and the Edinburgh man has been electric against Wales and England. If there was an award for breakthrough of the year, I’d give it to Darcy, but in the meantime, I’m going to enjoy his highlight reel and look forward to watching him in the years to come.
13 – Henry Slade (England)
Exeter’s poster boy has been excellent since coming back into the fold at England, and I have to say his offload to Jonny May against Scotland was just the filthiest thing I’ve ever seen. Slade has been a big answer to England’s issues in attack alongside Manu Tuilagi and as much as Jonathan Davies has been his usual outstanding self with Wales, I’m giving Slade the nod for his commitment to work his way back into international rugby. He’ll be heading to Japan and that’s a fact.
12 – Hadleigh Parkes (Wales)
For me, I can easily see Parkes being named the player of the tournament, and I know that’s a big claim but hasn’t he been good to watch. Wales have won the Grand Slam and proven you don’t need bonus points to win it, so the try tally has been low, but the attacking play orchestrated by Parkes and Davies has caused some serious headaches for the other five teams in the Six Nations. Scarlets really did bag themselves a champion in finding the latest kiwi convert.
11 – Josh Adams (Wales)
This might not settle well but I’m going to leave Jonny May out. I struggle to understand the hype around a player who can score three because of his blistering pace one week, and then be invisible the rest of the tournament. Worcester’s Adams has shown consistency and dealt with aerial threats expertly, particularly against England, whereas May has scored in opportunistic situations and shown that he’s a fast runner. I fear these might be my famous last words but there, I said it. He’s a glorified sprinter.
10 – Finn Russell (Scotland)
Scotland underperformed and underachieved and we all know that, but one man who didn’t fit the mould was Russell, who’s performances against Italy, Ireland and England were outstanding. He schooled Owen Farrell at controlling a game, tore Italy to pieces, and showed us that when a team is dominating you can easily flip the game on it’s head. I wanted to give Gareth Anscombe credit, but he didn’t have the best of starts to the tournament, and Biggar did have to bring the ship afloat in some situations.
9 – Gareth Davies (Wales)
This position was the hardest for me to decide on, as there weren’t many names that stood out for me at scrum-half. Antoine Dupont was impressive but absent in some games, and Ali Price’s resurgence was only two and a bit games long. Ben Youngs and Conor Murray weren’t as good as we know then can be, and the French and Italians couldn’t make their mind up on who their star man was. So for me, the one constant who got the job done, was Welshman Gareth Davies.
1 – Allan Dell (Scotland)
Scotland’s forwards didn’t have the most memorable of tournaments, but rugby is built on numbers and data and statistics and all that jazz. Break Dell’s stats down, and you’ll see that man knows how to carry with the ball in hand. He made some serious attacks beyond the gain line, and although it felt like Scotland were struggling to break through at time, he was a secret assassin to an opposition defence. I do need to credit Mako Vunipola here for his early showings, but his injury cut him out the pecking order.
2 – Ken Owens (Wales)
Much like the scrum-half position, the hookers have been fairly quiet this term. Stuart McInally has been outstanding, and Rory Best has grafted hard despite age being against him, but for me, Owens kept the Welsh forwards going when the going got tough. He was consistent at the line out despite that being one of Wales’ weaknesses, and he was just one of those tough old sods you could never write off. Some of the old boys at Gatland’s yard really know how to get the job done.
3 – Kyle Sinckler (England)
If I asked you to run into a fridge freezer, or a moving bus, you wouldn’t because it would really hurt right? Well Sinckler is quite simply monstrous and is the lifelike example of what running into a bus feels like. Ask Sean Maitland after their run in during the Calcutta Cup match. Apart from the questions around his discipline, the Quins prop was in a league of his own, and is one of the mercenaries that this game can look forward to seeing for years to come.
4 – Cory Hill (Wales)
Now I know I’ve discounted people through injury, but even though he missed the Scotland and Ireland clashes, his performance against England was just too good to leave out. Hill is like a fine wine with this Wales team, and with every game he’s just getting better and better, but finishing that try after 34 hard worked phases was champagne rugby to say the least. Adam Beard was an exceptional replacement, but ultimately, Hill was the standout of the two. Except…
5 – Alun Wyn Jones (Wales)
The man who will not be beaten. The man who will not miss a tackle even if it kills him. The man who many would love in their squad. Jones was the best captain of the championship hands down, and his work rate at 33 years of age is astonishing. He refused to leave the field after injuring his knee early on against Ireland, and fought till the final whistle, and that to me spells commitment and courage. Just what you want from the captain who’s leading you to a Grand Slam. Class.
6 – Peter O’Mahony (Ireland)
Two man of the match awards and multiple insults later, O’Mahony ends the tournament as the best blindside flanker in the competition. Ireland haven’t been their usual self, a team that was clinical and punishing, but their characters haven’t lost their ruthless streak. O’Mahony is exhibit A for just that, a man who is just a nuisance at the breakdown to anyone not wearing the green of Ireland. Munster’s finest does need to work on his cuss words though, after all, rugby is a PG product.
7 – Tom Curry (England)
How good was Sale’s MVP? The bloodied warrior gave us an old school feel to England’s back row in the sense that he literally couldn’t care if he was bleeding in pints and he will fight to the end, and that hardened youngster is a rare breed in this competition. It’s onwards and upwards for Curry, and I can see him going to Japan as Eddie continues to find his best setup for the back row, but stick him with Mark Wilson, Brad Shields or Billy Vunipola and he can be ruthless.
8 – Ross Moriarty (Wales)
All the talk of how much Wales would miss Taulupe Faletau, and all the gossip about how Moriarty would struggle following his injury; it was all a load of rubbish really wasn’t it. Moriarty was excellent from the word go, and the horror show in Paris was eased massively by his performance at eight. Billy Vunipola has been good on his return, and Louis Picamoles was his destructive self, but for me Moriarty was much more impressive and showed us that eight is not a position they lack star talent.