Dan Johansson takes us through his Aviva Premiership XV for 2016/17.
As the Premiership season draws to a conclusion, it’s about time we drew up the definitive, objective, totally final, inarguable, absolute, unquestionable team of the year. My word is final and any dissent in the comment sections will be met with swift and violent retribution. Got that? Good.
15: Kurtley Beale (Wasps)
He knackered his leg before the ink was even dry on his Wasps contract, but Beale rebounded to become a major cog in one of the most formidable attacking units in the league. He’ll return down under having majorly rehabbed his career and resume his Wallaby ways.
14: Jack Nowell (Exeter)
That Nowell is Exeter’s only representative on this list is due to their penchant for team-cohesion over big-name stars, but Nowell’s been having a house party down in Devon for ages now and has thoroughly earned his Lions jersey.
13: Elliot Daly (Wasps)
There’s a good chance some of Daly’s monstrous kicks are still orbiting the planet, but a hell of a boot isn’t all he’s got going for him. A string of stellar performances for Wasps landed him a nomination for RPA player of the year.
12: Harry Mallinder (Northampton)
Okay so his defence has resembled a revolving door at times but he’s been at the heart of everything good for Saints’ newfound attacking game and has earned an apprenticeship on the England tour to Argentina. Plus my mum thinks he’s “a lovely lad” so I had to include him.
11: Christian Wade (Wasps)
Another RPA nominee, Wade’s status as the league’s top-try scorer somehow doesn’t seem to be enough to overcome his lack of defensive size in Eddie Jones’ eyes. Still, he’s in my team so up yours Eddie.
10: Jimmy Gopperth (Wasps)
I’m fairly certain Jimmy Gopperth was the name of a background character in an early episode of Only Fools and Horses, but it turns out he’s bloody good at rugby too. Jimmy G spent several years being fine at a few different clubs before rocking up at Wasps and turning into one of the best players in the Northern Hemisphere pretty much overnight at the age of 33.
9: Kahn Fotuali’i (Bath)
Given a new lease of life after his move from Northampton, Fotuali’i was at one stage the turnover king of the Premiership. A mixed season for Bath has prevented him showing off all his talents but for a player once talked about as the best 9 in Europe he’s certainly back on form.
1: Ellis Genge (Leicester)
Having embarrassed Kieran Brookes in the East Midlands derby, Genge can now add scrummaging to his list of proven talents. Previously it was his ball carrying and aggression doing the talking for him – and the fact he once promised to beat up Richard Cockerill has probably won over a few fans as well.
2: Jamie George (Saracens)
He’s usurped the England captain for a Lions berth and captained the champions. Decent lineout stats and aggressive work in the loose have positioned George as The Next Big Thing hooker-wise, though the likes of Harry Thacker and Tommy Taylor might have something to say about that.
3: Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins)
Essentially one of those giant American fridge-freezers with legs, watching Sinckler knocking opponents over is like that round in Takeshi’s Castle where they chucked a giant bowling ball at people dressed as skittles. Graduating from benchwarmer to Lions tourist this season has put Sinckler firmly on peoples’ radar.
4: Courtney Lawes (Northampton)
Reinventing himself as a ball-carrying, turnover-winning lineout specialist in addition to his previous life as a professional fly-half crippler, Lawes has stepped up in the past twelve months from “good athlete” to genuinely world class. Plus he’s still smashing defenceless half-backs.
5: Joe Launchbury (Wasps)
How is he not on the Lions tour? Just…how? I mean… What? Seriously? Get it together Warren.
6: Ross Moriarty (Gloucester)
Some seriously impressive performances in two shades of red have led to Moriarty being talked about as the future of the Welsh back-row, and a nomination for RPA Young Player of the Year means the Cherry & Whites may have a hard time keeping him at Kingsholm if one of the Welsh regions fancy getting the chequebook out.
7: Jackson Wray (Saracens)
With a name like an 80s hair-metal drummer, Wray has slowly established himself as one of the first players on the Saracens team sheet. Somehow, he keeps getting overlooked for international honours but his all-round game has evolved significantly to the point where an England cap is surely just a matter of time.
8: Louis Picamoles (Northampton)
With some truly impressive carrying and sublime offloads, King Louis has been kicking derrière and taking names all season long for the Saints. Quite possibly the premiership signing of the season, and if rumours are to be believed, it’s no surprise the Top 14 are trying to lure him back to France.
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