As the campaign draws to a close, Wasps dominate the RUCK team of the 2016-17 Premiership season.
Fullback: Kurtley Beale (Wasps)
A serious knee injury had threatened to wreck the Australian’s big-money move to England but, once fully fit again, he displayed fizzing class virtually every time he touched the ball. His versatility has been an important asset to Dai Young’s side, and he’ll have a big hole to fill when Beale moves back to Australia this summer.
Honourable mentions: Jason Woodford (Bristol), Telusa Veainu (Leicester Tigers)
Wing: Semesa Rokoduguni (Bath Rugby)
It has been a vintage Premiership year for wings with Sale’s Denny Solomona, Saracen’s Chris Ashton and the Exeter pair of Olly Woodburn and James Short all contenders. Rokoduguni, though, has had to show great resilience to recover from his international disappointments and has been exceptional all year. His performance for the Army against the Navy wasn’t too bad either.
Honourable mentions: Denny Solomona (Sale Sharks), Chris Ashton (Saracens), Olly Woodburn (Exeter Chiefs)
Centre: Joe Marchant (Harlequins)
A place on this summer’s England tour to Argentina should yield a Test cap for the 20-year-old as he looks to transform from a good Premiership player to an international superstar. Sale’s Will Addison would have pushed him close if not for an injury late in the season.
Honourable mentions: Elliot Daly (Wasps), Will Hurrell (Bristol), Will Addison (Sale Sharks)
Centre: Juan Pablo Socino (Newcastle Falcons)
The small centre is deceiving destructive and is so aggressive in the tackle. A little pocket rocket, his breaks have added real width to the Falcons game, bring out the best of powerhouse Vereniki Goneva. Brad Barritt ran him close but it was an easy decision in the end.
Honourable mentions: Brad Barritt (Saracens), Harry Mallinder (Northampton)
Wing: Christian Wade (Wasps)
The only side Wade cannot get into is the one coached by Eddie Jones. With 16 tries in 20 league games he is miles ahead of everyone else in this season’s try-scoring charts. Surely Jones will have to ackowledge him at some stage…
Honourable mentions: James Short (Exeter Chiefs), Vereniki Goneva (Newcastle Falcons)
Fly-half: Jimmy Gopperth (Wasps)
The talented playmaker will probably win the player of the year award. The New Zealander, 34 next month, has been integral for Wasps on multiple fronts; a double-digit amount of tries, plenty points from the tee and making the odd try-saving tackle.
Honourable mentions: Freddie Burns (Leicester Tigers), Nick Evans (Harlequins, Alex Lozowski (Saracens)
Scrum-half: Kahn Fotuali’i (Bath)
The Dan Robson and Joe Simpson double act at Wasps has been mesmerising at times but the Bath scrum-half edges into our XV based on his slick distribution. Why Northampton let him leave is a real mystery.
Honourable mentions: Dan Robson (Wasps), Joe Simpson (Wasps), Sonatane Takulua (Newcastle Falcons), Francois Hougaard (Worcester)
Prop: Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers)
The loosehead prop has successfully transitioned from a rebel outcast at Bristol to cult hero and consistent performer at Leicester Tigers. The prop, who has already made a good impression on Eddie Jones, will be key for England on their two-Test tour of Argentina this summer.
Honourable mentions: Ben Moon (Exeter Chiefs), Alex Waller (Northampton), Mako Vunipola (Saracens)
Hooker: Richard Hibbard (Gloucester)
The Welshman has basically stolen the shirt from Tommy Taylor thanks to his exceptional form towards the end of the season. His destructive tackling, solid scrummaging and incredible ball carrying has made him a cornerstone of the Cherry & Whites team this season.
Honourable mentions: Tommy Taylor (Wasps), Dave Ward (Harlequins), Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs)
Prop: Nick Schonert (Worcester)
Worcester have spent the season at the wrong end of the table but few would dispute the strength of their rock-like South African-born tighthead. He’ll be a key figure if the Warriors are to push on next season.
Honourable mentions: Harry Williams (Exeter), Vincent Koch (Saracens), Jake Cooper-Wooley (Wasps)
Lock: Calum Green (Newcastle Falcons)
The Falcons second-row is the key to Dean Richards quickly improving pack. Confident in the lineout, he’s also got an incredible engine to get him around the field from the first whistle to the last.
Honourable mentions: Bryn Evans (Sale Sharks), Jim Hamilton (Saracens), Matt Symons (Wasps), Mitch Lees (Exeter Chiefs)
Lock: Maro Itoje (Saracens)
Maro Itoje may still be a young man but he doesn’t play or act like someone that’s relatively fresh onto the professional scene. He has been truly outstanding this season! The lock’s physicality and rugby brain command respect and he propel his team forwards with confidence and prowess.
Honourable mentions: Courtney Lawes (Northampton), Tom Savage (Gloucester), Dom Barrow (Leicester Tigers),
Flanker: Don Armand (Exeter Chiefs)
The relentless Zimbabwe-born back-row simply cannot be ignored. Catching lineout balls and restarts, carrying hard, staunch defending, galloping the length of the field all seems to come natural to him. It’s hard to understand why Armand isn’t in the England squad touring Argentina.
Honourable Mentions: Michael Rhodes (Saracens), Jackson Wray (Saracens), Ross Moriarty (Gloucester), Chris Vui (Worcester), Mark Wilson (Newcastle Falcons)
Flanker: Thomas Young (Wasps)
Son of Dai Young, Thomas made his impact in a big way this season, With James Haskell out injured, he’s made the seven shirt his own and, as a result of his fantastic form, was involved with the Wales squad during the Six Nations. He covers an enormous amount of ground and has the second-highest tackle count in the league after Newcastle’s Mark Wilson.
Honourable mentions: Ollie Robinson (Bristol), Brendan O’Connor (Leicester Tigers)
Number 8: Louis Picamoles (Northampton Saints)
The Frenchman always delivers, never seems to have a bad game. He may be rumoured to be heading back to France in the summer but nobody can now ever question the abrasive back-rowers ability to deliver at the highest level.
Honourable mentions: Thomas Waldrom (Exeter Chiefs), Billy Vunipola (Saracens), Josh Beaumont (Sale Sharks), Nathan Hughes (Wasps)