Our team of the tournament for the 2015 Six Nations
The convulsions have stopped. For those of us who sat through the three enthralling games that brought the 2015 6 Nations championship to an end, it may just be possible to breathe in a normal rhythm again.
After 15 fixtures over eight weeks, Ireland have retained their trophy, the Grand Slam may have slipped through the finger tips but the boys in green are back to back champions for the first time since 1948 & 1949. While Joe Schmidt has maintained his incredible record of ending seasons with a trophy, that’s five years in a row now.
The final three games were beyond the realms of possibility. Social media was agog with people declaring it the greatest day of rugby full stop. However, for all the expansion and excitement of one day and three remarkable matches, we shouldn’t forget those who consistently excelled throughout the whole championship. Here is the team of the 2015 tournament.
- Stuart Hogg (Scotland):
The Glasgow Warriors full back brought an endless positivity to Scotland’s approach. The result may have went against his side but it wasn’t for Hogg’s lack of efforts. He was always looking to go forward with the ball rather than kick possession for safety. Topped the meters made charts with 455 and always looked a threat.
Honourable mention: Lee Halfpenny (Wales)
- Yoann Huget (France):
May not have crossed for a try in the tournament, but the Toulouse wing was routinely France’s most threatening player. Les Bleus kept things tight in their first four fixtures and didn’t play to Huget’s strengths, yet he still managed to force his way into every game. France chopped and changed all tournament and Huget was the only back to start all 5 games.
Honourable mentions: Leonardo Sarto (Italy)
- Jonathan Joseph (England):
Joseph’s selection was more luck than judgement from the England coaching team, despite being in splendid form for Bath the 24 year old wouldn’t have got a look in if it wasn’t for injuries to a number of those above him in the national pecking order. More than justified his selection though, with the exception of a quiet game against Ireland, he was a standout attacker throughout.
Honourable mention: Mark Bennett (Scotland)
- Robbie Henshaw (Ireland):
Not exactly the centre position many envisaged Henshaw making his name in, but the Connacht man has had an exceptional tournament on both sides of the ball. He was Ireland top tackler (63) and beat most defenders (14). The 21 year old is also looking to build a promising partnership with Jared Payne which bodes well moving towards the World Cup.
Honourable mention: Jamie Roberts (Wales)
- Jack Nowell (England):
The Exeter Chief made a belated entry to the tournament, only coming in for Johnny May ahead of the Round 3 fixture with Ireland, but he certainly made up for lost time. Granted it wasn’t a vintage campaign for wingers but Nowell made his mark by ending up scoring three tries and topping England’s stats for defenders beaten, meters made and clean breaks. Made a big impression and deserves to retain the left wing berth going forward.
Honourable mention: Liam Williams (Wales)
- George Ford (Bath):
Much like his club teammate Joseph, Ford may not have been able to illuminate the championship had it not been for injury to Owen Farrell. Ford’s deftness and lightness of touch makes him a deadly threat on the gain line and his link up play with the aforementioned Joseph was a delight throughout. He has a wonderful ability to open up gaps for his outside runners by varying the timing and depth of his passing. Kicking improved throughout the competition also.
Honourable mention: Dan Biggar (Wales)
- Conor Murray (Ireland):
Undeniably the best scrum half in the Northern Hemisphere after this tournament. The Munster man came into the Six Nations considered the junior partner in what many consider the world’s best half back pairing, but ended it as the main man. Showed great variation in his game throughout, proving he’s equally effective playing to script and off the cuff.
Honourable mention: Rhys Webb (Wales)
- Billy Vunipola (England):
Hard to believe the Saracen behemoth is only 22. He has curbed the petulant side of his game and is an extremely destructive carrier when he gets up a head of a steam. He was England’s go to man more frequently than anyone else, carrying 64 times. While he managed to cross for two tries. If he can increase his fitness levels there is no telling what the No. 8 can achieve.
Honourable mention: Sergio Parisse (Italy)
- Blair Cowan (Scotland):
The Kiwi has made a big impact in his opening Six Nations campaign with Scotland. Cowan was teak tough at the breakdown, constantly pilfering and slowing down opposition ball. Much like Hogg, he didn’t get the results his performances merited but he is one of a number of players who can improve the Scots fortunes.
Honourable mention: Sam Warburton (Wales)
- Peter O’Mahoney (Ireland):
Ireland’s most consistent forward from word go, may not have the destructive carrying abilities of his back row partner Sean O’Brien but has a phenomenal work rate around the park and is the most complete backrower in the championship. Operates with aplomb in all facets of the game. Future Irish captain in waiting.
Honourable mention: James Haskell (England)
- Paul O’Connell (Ireland):
If this does prove to be the great man’s last championship, he went out in style. Two barnstorming performances in Ireland’s last two fixtures belied the Irish captains 35 years. He really brought the fight to Wales in Ireland’s penultimate fixture, and got the ball rolling with an early try against Scotland on Saturday. Back to back championships is rich reward for a man who has pumped his heart and soul into the Irish jersey over his 101 caps.
Honourable mention: Johnny Gray (Scotland)
- Alun Wyn Jones (Wales):
Much like O’Connell, Wyn Jones is the spiritual leader of the Welsh team. He may not wear the captains armband but he is a massive on field leader for all in red. He is probably the best lock forward in the Northern Hemisphere at the moment and backed up this claim with a string of brilliant performances in the Welsh engine room.
Honourable mention: Josh Furno (Italy)
- Dan Cole (England):
One of the more mobile tight heads in the game, Leicester man Cole is a vital to England around the field. He is almost flanker like at the breakdown and possibly England’s most threatening turnover poacher, defying the number on his back. Also a solid scrummager, Cole is a prop worth building a tight five around.
Honourable mention: Mike Ross (Ireland)
- Guilhem Guirado (France):
The French have struggled for fluency all year but Guirado has been a shining light in a team short on confidence and accuracy. Since the retirement of Rafa Ibanez, France have lacked a genuinely world class hooker to build their pack around. Guirado looks the real deal. His sumptuous offload against England, showed the subtle side to his ballast.
Honourable mention: Leonardo Ghiraldini (Italy)
- Jack McGrath (Ireland)
Johnny Sexton, Sean O’Brien and Jamie Heaslip all waltzed back into Irish the team when they were deemed fit to play, the route back into the first team wasn’t so simple for Cian Healy however. Considered by many as the best loose head in European rugby, Healy couldn’t oust his provincial teammate from the starting 15 until the last round of fixtures. A glowing reflection of McGrath, who has really come of age over the past 12 months.
Honourable mention: Joe Marler (England)