The 2017 Six Nations is now but a memory. Lee Calvert relives the good times and honours the classiest of class acts with his Team of the Tournament.
1: Rob Evans (Wales)
The young Wales loosie had a good tournament in the tight and gave his side some much-needed go-forward in the loose. Also gets extra points for propping for 100 minutes in the final game against France before he was finally shown some mercy and taken off. Close between him and Joe Marler of England for this spot.
2: Ken Owens (Wales)
Pinpoint accurate throwing in and indefatigable in the open, the all-action Scarlets man was the personification of his nation’s determination to win. It’s a real shame his team’s management don’t have in savvy what he has in heart. Definite Lions tourer.
3: Tadhg Furlong (Ireland)
The man with the unpronounceable first name (it’s like the “tig” in “tiger”, by the way) and the face of a 1920s gangster massacre continued the impressive form he has shown since the beginning of the season. Just edges out England’s impressive Dan Cole.
4: Courtney Lawes (England)
The Northampton lock’s international career began very brightly and then faded behind a miasma of injuries, poor form and questionable discipline. He is now emerging from the fog to realise his classy, powerful potential.
5: Joe Launchbury (England)
It was a very good tournament for second rows so it says something for how the England boilerhouse played that both members make the team. Launchbury was his usual mobile and destructive best and just edged out the likes of Jonny Gray, Donncha Ryan, and Alun Wyn Jones who were all in with a very good shout at selection.
6: Sam Warburton (Wales)
Moving permanently from the 7 jersey and the loss of the captaincy has seen the Wales flanker reborn as a hard carrying, ball-snaffling, defensive clamp of a blindside. Like Ken Owens, a standout performer in every outing, no matter how the rest of his team played.
7: Kevin Gourdon (France)
The Frenchman with the first name of a Coronation Street mechanic was a livewire of class, running lovely support lines off his team-mates, hitting space regularly, scoring and generally being a bloody handful.
8: Louis Picamoles (France)
Speaking of handfuls, every defence against France had to get plenty of those around the big number 8 as he ran at the opposition again and again and again. Then did it again. Ludicrous 300 metre plus carrying stats for the tournament edges him ahead of Ireland’s CJ Stander.
9: Rhys Webb (Wales)
Everything a scrum half should be: tanned, brilliant white teeth, overly coiffured hair and a complete gobshite. But also had an outstanding tournament in defence, where his work is much unheralded, and in attack where his contribution was obvious. Often found himself and the sole creator in the entire Wales backline.
10: Jonny Sexton (Ireland)
The only true class act 10 in the tournament. Took plenty of beatings, particularly in the England game, but continued to be a one-man creative tour de force when required, and a very astute game manager in the rain vs France.
11: Elliott Daly (England)
An amazing and consistent tournament from the young Wasp who, lest we forget, was playing out of position at the highest level and yet still looked a different league entirely to most others he took on. Incredible pace alloyed with outstanding rugby brain makes him a very large part of England’s present and future.
12: Owen Farrell (England)
His pinpoint 30-metre pass at full sprint to Daly for the try that sealed the victory and ultimately the championship for his side demonstrated in one moment everything that is good about him. The Saracens playmaker oozed composure, creativity and wrecking ball defensive power in the second five-eighth channel. Likely to win the official player of the tournament title.
13: Remi Lamerat (France)
Jonathan Joseph caught the eye against a poor Scotland defence, but it was the French outside centre who lived longer in the memory across the whole tournament. Was lively, tricky and full of energy and support running. Loses points for his defence, but given this was not exactly a vintage tournament for outside backs he did enough to get in here ahead of others. Garry Ringrose was close also.
14: George North (Wales)
Was utterly terrible against Scotland where his defence was so bad even the human motorised scarecrow Tim Visser made him look daft, but then showed against Ireland just how very good he can be, and was decent against France. Much is made of his size, but the true mark of what a player he is was his gorgeous, gossamer inside step at full speed between two Ireland defenders to finish Wales’ try of the tournament.
15: Stuart Hogg (Scotland)
A fullback whose play makes you love rugby again. Hits the line, takes people on, chips and chases, scores tries and causes a hush of anticipation every time he has the ball. If only he would keep his yapping mouth shut a bit more often then he would be impossible not to love.