Leicester get most picks in Greenwood's Premiership XV of the year
Leicester, Saracens and Harlequins were the dominant contributors in the Gallagher Premiership team of the season named by retired England and Lions midfielder Will Greenwood. Those three clubs, who are all set to contest the semi-finals on June 11, made up ten of the players in the Greenwood XV published in the UK Telegraph ahead of this weekend’s final round of the regular season.
Reflective of how they are topping the Premiership table and will enter the playoffs as the No1 ranked side, Leicester garnered the biggest representation as their four picks – Ellis Genge, Hanro Liebenberg, George Ford and Nemani Nadolo – trumped the three-strong contingent provided by Saracens and Harlequins.
Whereas the Leicester representation was evenly split between forwards and backs, the Greenwood Premiership XV reflected the renewed power of the Saracens pack – Vincent Koch, Ben Earl and Billy Vunipola were named – and the continued poise of the champion Harlequins backs, as Danny Care, Andre Esterhuizen and Tyrone Green all made the cut.
The selections of Vunipola and Earl particularly caught the eye as both players were excluded by England boss Eddie Jones from his Test squads throughout the course of the 2021/22 season, but they have each shown their quality by getting stuck in for the Saracens cause despite their respective disappointments.
About Vunipola, Greenwood wrote: “Some serious firepower didn’t make this team. Alex Dombrandt, Dan du Preez, Jasper Wiese, Sam Simmonds, Fitz Harding. But Billy has rolled back the clock. George Ford and Billy have hardly ever made my team of the season, always away on England duty, never done the week in week out club grind.
“Billy has been magnificent for Saracens, every week. I was staggered not to see him get a look in for the Australia tour. Huge on restarts, massive from the base, gain line denting around the fringes, not afraid of a jackal or an offload. And the league table doesn’t lie. (Max) Malins, (Nick) Tompkins, (Alex) Lozowski all went close. Saracens had to have lads in this team finishing right up there and top of the contribution list is Billy. Huge admiration for players who handle disappointment and get right back in the saddle.”
On scrum-half Care, another player overlooked by England despite his excellent Premiership form this season, Greenwood added: “Alex Mitchell fans may think I have lost my marbles. Part of me is thinking the same thing. Alex has been fabulous for Northampton again this season. I just think he has come up against a lad in Care who has been totally knockout from start to finish.
“I also felt I couldn’t have a team of the season without one of Quins’ Holy Trinity of Dombrandt, Care and (Marcus) Smith. Care has been razor-sharp, has the endurance to run all-day, top-notch skill set, supremely aware of the state of play or opportunities available. Mitchell is so unlucky to miss out.
“Mitchell has been simply brilliant all season. He has played 23 times for Saints and on 16 of those occasions, I had him in the top three scrum-halves of the week. I know this is all very subjective. But I trust my charts. Danny Care has won games on his own and been able to dig Quins out of any hole they found themselves in.”
The other five places in the Greenwood XV of the Premiership season are taken up by two players from Gloucester, winger Louis Rees-Zammit and lock Freddie Clarke, while Newcastle (George McGuigan), Wasps (Elliot Stooke) and Northampton (Fraser Dingwall) each got one representative.
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