Team of the Tournament- RBS Six Nations 2016 Dream Team

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My Six Nations 2016 Dream Team/ Team of the Tournament

This is my team of the tournament for 2016. Largely based on performance, but also on strength moving forward, this is a combination of experience and new guys with real potential. I will pre-empt the comments about a lack of Italians- there were some contenders, but it’s hard to select them when they recorded their worst ever Six Nations points margin. When the players genuinely stand out, they will be selected (Other than, Sergio Parisse). I refuse to oblige to this ‘one player from each nation’ attitude. Hopefully Italy will learn from the experiences of this season and have a better championship in their first season under Conor O’Shea in 2017.

 

  1. A few players to mention here. Scotland’s Ali Dickinson has been outstanding in the scrum. Jack McGrath has, in Cian Healy’s absence, more than stepped up to the mark in the set piece and has also improved his work in the loose. However, the shirt goes to young Wales prop, Rob Evans. He seems to have eased into International rugby and secured his shirt in a competitive Welsh scrum.

  2. For me this was a straight choice between two. France’s most consistent player, their Captain Guillem Guirado against England’s new captain Dylan Hartley. Hartley has impressed at scrum time and has been a great captain (not to mention his clean discipline record so far) However, it’s harder to impress when your side aren’t on form and that’s exactly what Guirado has done and for that reason, gets the nod at Hooker. He even managed a couple of tries along the way.

  3. Dan Cole made a good claim for this shirt- being a constant nuisance at scrum time. However, a late yellow for him nearly let the Wales game slip. Up north, WP Nel has transformed the Scottish scrum, giving the backs the platform they need to play from. For this reason, he’s my tight-head.

  4. The second row has tough competition. Jonny Gray has been excellent, going into the France game having made one hundred consecutive tackles (no misses) which seems to have pushed elder brother Richie into some better form. Alun Wyn-Jones and Luke Charteris have been their ususal excellent selves. However, one very hyped player, has in my opinion, lived up to that hype. That is, of course, Maro Itoje. Big runs, great offloads and a strong set piece. What more can you ask?

  5. Paternering him could easily have been George Kruis, who has had a great tournament. However, in the end I have gone for Ultan Dillane. As such a young guy, he has really made an impression this tournament, with many Irish fans wanting him to become a starter. A key man at the revitalised Connacht, Dillane is being tipped for a big future in the green jersey.

  6. A few names to mention here, too. CJ Stander made his debut for Ireland after an excellent few years at Munster. John Barclay has also made a brilliant return from the wilderness, being a key man in Scotland’s dynamic back-row. However, I give the six jersey to Chris Robshaw. After a disasterous World Cup, with him at the helm, he’s gone back to Quins, earned his spot again in the England side and been solid throughout the tournament. That takes a lot of mental resilience and the guy deserves credit for that.

  7. Josh Van der Flier was making good inroads to the Ireland squad after the injury of impressive Sean O’Brien. Sam Warburton has been tenacious as ever. However, John Hardie takes the seven shirt for me. Since joining the scotland side pre-world cup, Hardie has been ever present, making hard hits (and lots of them) whilst also showing he has the abillity to get over the line.

  8. This was one of the harder decisions, with plenty of candidates putting their hands up. Sergio Parisse has been excellent at times for Italy- but without support, his presence going forward often ends in a negative net result with turnover. At times, there is an over dependence on him. Billy Vunipola is in the form of his life for England and really looks to be flourishing under Eddie Jones. Depsite this, his cousin Taulupe Faletau has impressed me for Wales- he always seems to be central to Wales attacks, carries the ball well from eight and is a consistent player and is my number eight.

  9. Again, this position has a number of candidates. Danny Care seems to be back on form and managed a couple of tries and was used well to up England’s intensity. Despite criticism, Connor Murray managed a couple of tries and played well. Greig Laidlaw was sctrong, but needs to learn to get the referee on side. Gareth Davies has been magnificent in Rhy’s Webb’s absence, but Webb managed to recover from injury and reclaim the scrum-half shirt within a few weeks. A constant threat to the line with a good pass, Webb is my nine.

  10. This is a position for me that was the hardest to choose as no single player appeared to be outstanding this season. George Ford struggled for form, but improved as the championship went on. Dan Biggar was consistent and Rhys Priestland impressed me in his short cameos from the bench and for the Ireland game where he replaced an injured Dan Biggar. Carlo Canna also looked impressive for Italy, before injury stopped his championship. This leaves Johnny Sexton as the best option for me. Yes, his play acting was shameful against Scotland, but he really controls a game and is a constant threat, Ireland are an entirely different side without him, such is his impact.

  11. Virimi Vakatawa was one of few impressive French men. However, despite not being back to his best, George North gets the nod for me. He scored more tries than anyone in the competition and looked threatening on the ball.

  12. This may cause some debate, but personally for me, Owen Farrell was the best inside-centre. Jamie Roberts was a wrecking ball as ever and Italy’s Gonzalo Garcia was one of their more noticeable players, but for me, Farrell’s defence was strong, he attacks the line and his distribution helped England’s men out wide. Not England’s long term answer at twelve, but a great championship from him (even if I often think he’s like a petulant child)

  13. Another Italian centre caught the eye (as he always seems to) which was of course the impressive Michele Campagnaro. He always looks strong on the ball and was often a light in a poor Italian outfit. Jonathan Joseph was good for England, but not outstanding- he was far more impressive last year and for that reason is overlooked in place of Scotland’s Duncan Taylor. He played at twelve, thirteen and can cover wing too. Great tries against France and Wales, a great try saver against Wales and he stole the shirt from one of the northern Scotland’s brightest prospects, Mark Bennett.

  14. Anthony Watson, in my eyes, is one of the most exciting Wingers in Northern Hemisphere rugby at the moment, so was easily pencilled into this side. He has a killer sidestep, pace and a great eye for space, not to mention a knack for finding the try-line.

  15. Mr Angry grew into the competition (Mike Brown) and certainly played well. However, Stuart Hogg, voted player of the tournament, was either scoring or setting up Scotland’s tries. Without Hogg, the two tries that closed out the Italy and France games might not have been scored, had he not been there to add his magic touch to release the final man. He’s in for a good shout on the Lions tour.

Representation- England 4, Wales 4, Scotland 4, Ireland 2, France 1, Italy 0.
Had lots of discussion, particularly around the half-backs and centres. Namely Taylor to 12 and Campagnaro to 13 and Biggar in at 10, which I also agree with. Let me know your thoughts and ideas, by commenting or tweeting me on Twitter!
The Scribbler, March 26th, 2016
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