This year we’ve brought in a few extra faces to help out, and in some cases offer something in the way of expertise so without further delay, we present our team of the tournament. We won’t tell you who picked who but please feel free to chew over our selections in the comments section. We even slipped two Scots in, and aside from the odd Frenchman it could be an early helper for Lions selection, if we do say so ourselves.
15. Lee Halfpenny (Wales) – The competition’s top scorer (66pts), can score tries with ease (against Scotland) and a has a barrelload from the boot which have been key in victories over England and Ireland. Rob Kearney has also been excellent for the Irish, while Stuart Hogg has been a breath of fresh air by Scottish standards at least. His time will come in future tournaments but at the moment Halfpenny and Kearney are top dogs.
14. Tommy Bowe (Ireland) – 5 tries and could have had more if Graeme Morrison wasn’t so good at cuddling. The statistics speak for themselves… given quick ball or loose passing he’s positively deadly. Breaks out the defensive line at pace which can be a risk but he does it so well. Generally solid in defence. Simple fact is he would walk into all the other sides in the tournament.
13. Jonathan Davies (Wales) – With no Brian O’Driscoll in the tournament this is often a tricky call. We had high hopes for Ansbro but instead we’ve had De Luca and Sean Lamont in the team. Rougerie has been mostly awful, Earls hit and miss (then fall over) while Manusamoa Tuilagi has come in to the frame forcefully late on. Davies though has been good from the start of the tournament, if not scoring many tries then his support work for Wales chunky wingers and overall workrate has been great.
12. Wesley Fofana (France) – Easy: one of the stars of the tournament. Full of youthful exuberance and intelligent, well timed angles. Stupidly moved to the wing for the final match. Jamie Roberts, now the elder statesmen of the Welsh midfield, showed that he wasn’t going to be shown up by the youth in the rest of his backline and went well also.
11. Alex Cuthbert (Wales) – This was the tough choice because, other than Bowe no other wing has particularly dazzled in the way wee Shane Williams or Vincent Clerc used to. George North was meant to destroy all before him, but Alex Cuthbert has operated exceptionally well on the other wing with half the fanfare. Trimble was the pre tournament pick based on his hot Ulster form, however he’s not quite ignited in the way expected.
10. Jonathan Sexton (Ireland) – Confirmed his place as the most capable and rounded fly-half in the competition. Wales’ success came in spite of Rhys Priestland rather than because of it. He fell apart at Twickenham and he must regain confidence in his goal-kicking. All the languid composure he showed at the World Cup had disappeared and has since been transferred to Owen Farrell. There should be plenty of duels between these two in years to come.
9. Mike Phillips (Wales) – seemed to find the right balance between passing, kicking and utilising his strong running game, a balance that he had lost for a season. His performances have been tidy, understated, and classy. Conor Murray impressed and will hopefully recover soon so he can push his claim for a Lions place. Mike Blair returned to his quicksilver best but his team-mates were too often too slow in thought and deed to respond.
8. David Denton (Scotland) – Great body position at the ruck, made more meters than most of the Scottish back line and only 3 missed tackles in the whole Tournament. Simply sublime at the base of the scrum too and showed great control with the boot in the scrum that destroyed the Italians just before half time. In danger of becoming the Scottish Parisse.
7. Aaron Shingler/ Justin Tipuric (Wales) – Wales do not miss Warburton. Shaun Edwards boasted that Wales now train with two world class scrums and on the evidence it’s hard to disagree. Against Scotland Shingler showed he was more than a novelty selection and Tipuric is a more than adequate replacement for the Welsh captain. Ross Rennie was close, battling tirelessly against the tide.
6. Tom Croft (England) – Typifies the shift in England since the World Cup. Confident and athletic in attack and tireless in defence.
5. Yoann Maestri (France) – Donnacha Ryan was a close second following his performance against Scotland but the 24-year old lock had a great game against Ireland and after a slow start has kept Nallet out of the team enough that he saw fit to retire. The Toulose powerhouse will be a fixture for France in seasons to come if he keeps the temper under control.
4. Richie Gray (Scotland) – It is the Scottish Rugby Blog after all, but once again the (incredibly) big man has had a gutbusting tournament. The lineout wobbled against Ireland late on but otherwise he has been supreme, and capped it all with his first try and that dummy to Rob Kearney.
3. Dan Cole (England) – Adam Jones is another reliable tight-head and a member of the magical 3 club, but Cole gets the top spot because Jones is old hat at this malarky. Cole finally came of age in this tournament and hard-nosed scrummaging against France and particularly against Ireland made him stand out. He has come a long way since the World Cup.
2. Rory Best (Ireland) – OK, so he skippered Ireland to a hiding against England, but he has had a good tournament. Led from the front against Scotland and was the unspectacular, but reliable glue that held Ireland’s pack together. Helped by the fact that France kept playing an out of sorts Szarzewski and Dylan Hartley has not had a stand-out game.
1. Gethin Jenkins (Wales) – Cian Healy was in the running here, but he was monstered by Dan Cole (look up). Jenkins pips him because he has won three Grand Slams and is a huge presence for Wales. How many times do you see him make tackles and try and poach ball? Grafter.