Six Nations 2016: Team of the Tournament
An enjoyable 2016 RBS Six Nations came to an end after England claimed a first Grand Slam since 2003 with a triumph against France in Paris on Saturday.
We have put our heads together in the RUCK.co.uk office and have worked our team of the tournament.
This is the starting XV we came up with…
Fullback: STUART HOGG (Scotland)
The Scottish fullback capped another fine individual Six Nations by weaving his way through the Ireland defence to run home a contender for try off the season at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday.
Wing: GEORGE NORTH (Wales)
Many forget the Wales winger is still only 23 and following what was a poor Rugby World Cup; he showed exactly what he is capable of with four tries in back-to-back games.
Centre: JONATHAN DAVIES (Wales)
His return to the international scene has been a successful one. The Clermont man had some tough moments but overall was one of Wales’ better performers throughout the championship.
Centre: OWEN FARRELL (England)
Nerveless kicking, big tackles and three crucial assists summed up what was a fantastic campaign for the Saracens man.
He adapted well to inside centre and although unable to offer the gain-line threat of a Manu Tuilagi, his hands and vision made him a valuable playmaking option outside George Ford.
His masterful kicking was also key to England’s success with the centre topping England’s tally with 69 points, which also included a try against Italy.
Wing: JACK NOWELL (England)
Try-saving tackles, strong carries and a few moment of individual brilliance meant Cornishmen Jack Nowell was one of England’s unsung hero’s throughtout their Grand Slam success.
Fly-half: DAN BIGGAR (Wales)
The fly-half, who is not noted for his running game, grabbed two tries during the tournament including one at Twickenham while also offering his reliable boot from the tee.
Scrum-half: CONOR MURRAY (Ireland)
The 26-year-old architect’s durability, despite constant targeting, is all the more impressive considering the amount of miles he covers in every game he plays in. Murray also is dangerous with the ball in hand, scoring three tries during the championship.
Prop: JACK MCGRATH (Ireland)
The 26-year-old prop has become a constant in the Ireland front row, scrummaging with power while also offering a serious threat in attack with his strong carries.
Hooker: DYLAN HARTLEY (England)
Dylan Hartley, the England hooker whose appointment as captain for this Six Nations was a symbolic shot at redemption by Jones after a notorious series of suspensions, has been a commanding skipper for the men in white throughout their Grand Slam success.
The Northampton hooker was deadly accurate in the line-out and carried well throughout this years Six Nation while also keeping his questionable temper in check.
Prop: WILLEM NEL (Scotland)
Afrikaner farmer Willem Nel impressed after making his debut for Scotland in RWC warm-up win against Italy and has gone on to become a cornerstone of Vern Cotter’s every improving starting XV. There were many question whether he deserved his place….all have now been answered.
Not only has he put in performances of genuine Test quality, he has brought leadership to a front row that had been struggling for a number of years. A massive step in the rebirth of Scottish rugby, even if their backs are getting more of the plaudits.
Lock: MARO ITOJE (England)
It is hard to recall a player whose emergence has caused so much excitement as Maro Itoje. Still only 21 years old, the supremely athletic Saracen appears to have it all and has adapted to Test rugby like a fish to water.
Against Wales he delivered a near-perfect performance, stealing ball at the lineout, snatching a turnover, delivering shuddering hits and even making a break to set up Anthony Watson’s try.
The 21-year-old followed up this stunning first start with another impactful performance against France in Paris, which saw the second-rower steal a bunch of line-outs while also scavenging to turn the ball over at key times for the men in white.
Lock: GEORGE KRUIS (England)
England’s new line-out guru has gone from World Cup contender to forward lynchpin in the space of a year.
The Saracen tore the French line-out to shreds all evening on Saturday, just like he had all tournament long.
He was unlucky to miss out on the man of the match award in Paris, and was not afraid to do the dirty work when needed all tournament long.
Flanker: CJ STANDER (Ireland)
The 25-year-old’s sheer viciousness has brought a new element to Ireland’s attack while his defence is as solid as a rock. He has been remorseless for the men in green.
Flanker: JAMES HASKELL (England)
With Billy Vunipola and Chris Robshaw receiving plaudits from all quarters, it is time to give James Haskell his credit for his role at Number 7.
Eddie Jones saying he has been ‘colossal’ is backed up by the fact Haskell has been England’s most prolific tackler, smashing 63 hits throughout this year’s Six Nations.
By his own admission, Haskell is not the ‘out-and-out No7’ that everyone seems to hanker after, but he’s a player that does the dirty work as well as any in the Northern Hemisphere, a task for which there is little acknowledgment or praise, simply because of the number of the back of his jersey.
Number 8: BILLY VUNIPOLA (England)
England’s player of the championship, with man-of-the-match displays against Scotland, Ireland and France – a growing force who has flourished under head coach Jones.
Vunipola’s greatest strength has been his ball-carrying, which is effective even from a standing start, and he is being used wisely by taking the ball from positions that are not limited to the half-backs.
Another commanding performance from the No 8 against France in the tournament finale has seen the back-rower start to rapidly emerge into a candidate for player of the year.