Six Nations 2014: Team of the Tournament
This will always be the Six Nations remembered for being Brian O’Driscoll’s last. The 35 year old deserved to bow out in style as part of an impressive Irish team. Ireland deserved their crown without the gem of a Grand Slam; they were powerful, organised and importantly clinical. Something that England for all their pace and excitement at times lacked. They could have won the Six Nations in Italy, they had the chances, and their hands let them down. The mark of this team is that they learn though, they learnt from Wales last year, they learnt from France at the start of this year.
France’s third place finish is a reflection on the standard of those below them. Italy started well but fell a way badly, by the time they came up against Ireland and England they were in taters unable to hold onto the ball for more than a few phases. The same old story in many ways. As it was with Wales, “Warrenball”, as it has now been coined needs to be put on the shelf and brought back out once Wales has developed a plan B.
Scotland and France are both in a very dark place this close to the World Cup, the sooner Scott Johnson steps down the better for Scotland. The slightly eccentric Scottish coach has done more harm than good; he has undermined his leaders, despite trying to bring creative players like Hogg and Scott into the game more there is no discernible game plan. St Andre looks to have now lost the French dressing room not helped by a damaged relationship with the clubs. Despite the players available, it is one of the worst French teams in memory.
15. Mike Brown
Full back is the most competitive position in the Championship yet Mike Brown put some distance between him and his competition. Brown was feisty in contact and strong under the high ball but it was in attack when he was at his best. The catalyst for England going forwards he finished the Championship with most clean breaks (10), most metres gained (543m) and most defenders beaten (25).
14. Yoann Huget
Huget looked alone in the French side in that he was in some form, quick, powerful and genuine predator. He can at least hold his head high after another disappointing campaign for Les Blues. Huget finished the tournament with three tries that all proved match winning, against England and Scotland.
13. Luther Burrell
Many would have gone for O’Driscoll, as good as he has been and despite two Man of the Match awards I still felt Burrell stood out. Perhaps because of his size. The Northampton giant was a consistent threat for England, finished the tournament with three tries and held firm in defence. He looked at home in the test arena and has given Stuart Lancaster a welcome selection headache now Tuilagi has returned from injury
12. Jamie Roberts
A tough choice but Roberts impact for Wales was just enough for him to pip Billy Twelvetrees. In fairness the underrated Billy Twelvetrees was a lynchpin in defence for England and got the upper hand over Roberts against Wales. However Jamie Roberts proved once again just how important he is to the Welsh game plan, consistently getting over the gain line.
11. Andrew Trimble
Trimble played on the right wing for Ireland, when I looked at the options on the left wing, North, Kearney and May it was difficult to split them. Trimble finished the Championship with three tires but that does not tell the whole story, he held his own in defence and was a real threat in attack. He worked hard to assert himself on the game and often went looking for ball.
10. Jonny Sexton
Credit must go to Owen Farrell who has found a new dimension to his game without losing any of his tactical reliability. Sexton though showed why he is the best fly half in the Six Nations. His game management was outstanding, executing loops and switches all over the place. He is the key to Schmidt’s game plan and deserves all the credit. Combine this with his goal kicking and try scoring exploits and it becomes easy to see why Sexton will be most peoples pick.
9. Danny Care
England scrum half Danny Care was exceptional and really had no competition for this spot. The pace he brought to England with quick tap penalties and feisty service kept the opposition on their toes, his early try against Wales settled English nerves. Care also used his experience and tactical know how with some good exit plans too and formed a fantastic, match winning partnership with Owen Farrell.
1. Cian Healy
Healy was outstanding, his mobility and ball carrying around the park is a real weapon for Ireland, and he acts like an extra back row both in attack and defence. The Irish loosehead has shown he is now a real asset in the scrum more than capable of giving the best in the world a shove. Needs to stay on the pitch to ensure Ireland continue to benefit from his dominance.
2. Dylan Hartley
Another player who has matured off the field and his on field performance has grown to a new level as a result. He stood out at line out time, hitting 53 of his 55 throws giving England a constant supply of ball to attack from. His physical aggressive approach keeps England on the front foot and dominant up front, he needs to lead by example and stay cool to ensure a young and inexperienced pack benefit from his presence as they did in the Championship.
3. Mike Ross
In the modern game with the modern scrum rules a tighthead as good as Ross is worth his weight in gold. In terms of work around the park Ross is still behind a lot of his competitors but he is a long way ahead in the dark arts of the scrum. The importance of the scrum has not diminished; games are won or lost here, Ross more than deserves a place in this side and his Six Nations medal.
4. Joe Launchbury
The young lock forward is not far off being able to walk into any international side in the world. His athleticism and fitness set himself apart from those around him. His tap tackle in the closing moments against Ireland was just one of many match winning interventions the young lock made. He carries well given the opportunity but it was in defence where his impact was most telling, making tackles and turning ball over.
5. Courtney Lawes
The lock was massive for England and saw off the not inconsiderable competition of Paul O’Connell. Lawes has always been capable of massive hits, now they are combined with timing and maturity to great effect breaking up attacks – often leading to turn overs. His tackling and ball carrying make him England’s enforcer but you can’t overlook his work at the line out, he was dominant, securing and stealing line out ball.
6. Peter O’Mahony
Dan Lydiate and Tom Wood both impressed but for me there was no question that O’Mahony stole the show. His work rate at the breakdown led to seven turnovers and disrupted huge amounts of the opposition ball, combined with his mobility around the park to rack up the tackles and he was a constant thorn in any side looking to build momentum. Gave the Irish backrow balance.
7. Chris Robshaw
Robshaw played every minute of every game in the thick of the action. He is growing into a perfect link between forwards and backs, a few nice touches to move the point of attack one out from the ruck or carry well if nothing is on. He is the engine that keeps England going forward. Showed lovely awareness in the lead up to Danny Care’s try against Ireland and more than deserved his last minute try against Italy. The outstanding openside in the Six Nations.
8. Jamie Heaslip
Another player who played every minute of every game, Heaslip takes the eight slot on account of his tireless carrying. Time and time again he had the ball in hand taking the fight to the opposition, he did not always get the reward he deserved for this but carrying into a brick wall does not look like something that would phase the Irish eight. In the absence of Sean O’Brien Heaslip’s influence helped carry Ireland to Six Nations glory.
Do you agree with our selection? Should BOD have been selected? Have your say on our Twitter @RugbyFanCast or in the comments section below!