It was perhaps the lowest quality Six Nations to date, yet the Championship still mustered up a barnstorming finish with Wales ransacking any hopes of an English Grand Slam. The English will look back at a tournament of ‘could have beens’, with perhaps the most unnerving statistic being the fact they were out-scored over five matches by the possession starved Scots.
With Scotland and Italy taking fourth and fifth, it was Ireland and France that made up the numbers; a tournament to forget for lots of big name players. Amidst the dross there were some outstanding performers – here are the XV who stood out:
1. Gethin Jenkins (Wales): Showed you can’t buy experience with several dominant performances at scrum time.
2. Tom Youngs (England): He may be a recent front-row convert, but he has dynamism that most forwards dream of.
Next best: Richard Hibbard (Wales).
3. Adam Jones (Wales): Like Jenkins, Jones showed the value of experience dominating scrums and being in the right place at the right time in the loose.
4. Ian Evans (Wales): Formed strong partnerships with Andrew Coombs and Alun-Wyn Jones – the 6ft 8in lock had an outstanding campaign.
5. Geoff Parling (England): One of Lancaster’s go to men in the England pack, his work in the lineout is second to none.
Next best: Jim Hamilton (Scotland).
6. Alessandro Zanni (Italy): The Treviso flanker was a tackling machine for his side – he did some great work in defence.
Next best: Ryan Jones (Wales).
7. Justin Tipuric (Wales): Aged only 23, Tipuric will do well to perform better than he did in Cardiff on Saturday; showed two very different skill sets in setting up Alex Cuthbert’s scores.
Next best: Chris Robshaw (England)/Sam Warburton (Wales).
8. Sergio Parisse (Italy): Italy are no longer a one man team – but he is still the star player. He shows touches of class that transcend all but the greatest of players.
Next best: Louis Picamoles (France).
9. Greg Laidlaw (Scotland): Laidlaw was on the back foot for much of the campaign but managed to kick well to keep Scotland in matches – without him they would have struggled.
Next best: Mike Phillips (Wales).
10. Dan Biggar (Wales): The Welsh saw the best from the young Osprey as he finally took to the international stage. Another young Welshman who has more Championships to come his way.
Next best: Owen Farrell (England).
11. George North (Wales): Where some wingers drift in and out of matches, North does not. He can score tries as well as running his side out of trouble; a real asset.
12. Wesley Fofana (France): Showed his class when finally moved to the centre by boss Phillipe Saint-Andre. A deadly finisher from any distance.
Next best: Jamie Roberts (Wales).
13. Brian O’Driscoll (Ireland): Not a Championship blessed by outside-centre wizardry – apart from one moment of madness however B’OD showed his warrior class.
14. Alex Cuthbert (Wales): He may not have performed to his best in every match, but when his country needed him he produced. The best wingers score in the big matches – something of a habit for Cuthbert.
15. Leigh Halfpenny (Wales): The best player in the tournament. No full-back came near his all-round excellence throughout.
Next best: Yoann Huget (France).
Player of the tournament: Leigh Halfpenny.
Try of the tournament: Cuthbert’s second against England. Fofana’s mesmeric score against England is a close second.
Unsung hero: Scotland captain Kelly Brown gave everything he had and more in helping his side to third place in the table.
Moment of the tournament: Outside of the drama of Cardiff, it has to be when giant French prop Vincent Debaty bulldozed two Scottish defenders, only to get greedy for a third – he ignored a simple pass to Vincent Clerc that would have led to an easy score. A flash of brilliance followed by calamity – not too unlike the entire French campaign.
Next season’s winners: France historically do well the year after a Lions tour. With young Gail Fickou the next big thing in world rugby to come – it could be a case of zeros to heroes for the French.Tweet