Six Nations: Six Irish in team of the tournament, no English
Understandably, the City A.M. Six Nations team of the tournament is made up of a large chunk of the Grand Slam winning Ireland side.
Four French players, three Scots and two Italian forwards also make the grade, but chronic underperformance, despite ongoing rebuilds, means there are no Welsh or English representation in the XV.
1 – Cyril Baille
While the other side of his scrum saw chopping and changing throughout the Championship, Baille was a constant for Les Bleus this year. He is, quite simply, a beast and key for France getting a solid platform to launch off of.
2 – Dan Sheehan
Since the days of Rory Best, Ireland have been looking for a talismanic hooker and in Dan Sheehan they may have found it. He is abrasive, dogged and a try-scorer – and was player of the match in their Grand Slam-clinching game against England. He has all the hallmarks of a world class hooker.
3 – Zander Fagerson
Scotland’s resurgence this year has been astonishing, and a large part of that is down to the improvement of their set piece. Fagerson has been a brilliant part of a solid front row for the Scots and, alongside Pierre Schoeman at loosehead, has seen Scotland turn the scrum into a real weapon.
4 – Thibaud Flament
Arguably the player of the tournament, Flament is one of the select few who are redefining what locks can do – much like Maro Itoje has been known to. His offloading game was outstanding but he also made the top 10 for tries scored, points scored, successful tackles (81) and lineouts won.
5 – Federico Ruzza
James Ryan was so close to being in this spot but Federico Ruzza got the nod for his brilliant work at the lineout. He won 39 of them, 21 more than second place Ollie Chessum, and was paramount in allowing Italy to have opportunities from which to attack from.
6 – Michele Lamaro
The back-row is a selection dilemma but Italian captain Michele Lamaro was monstrous in this year’s Championship. Nobody is looking down on former leader Sergio Parisse but Lamaro has developed the ability to galvanise his side into one that nearly beat France and looked so much more like a winning side.
7 – Josh van der Flier
The current world player of the year lived up to the hype yet again this year. The No7 made it into the top five tacklers of the tournament but it’s his aggression around the park that was unmatched. Both in attack and defence, he gave everything.
8 – Caelan Doris
Caelan Doris looks to be the latest in a line of Irish No8s who can both carry hard off the base but also be omnipresent in a Test match. Doris won a joint-top number of turnovers and was in the top 10 carriers of the tournament.
9 – Antoine Dupont
The Petit General was at it again, running the French show and creating so much from so little. His incredible tackle against Ireland will live long in the memory but his accuracy from the base and eyes-up rugby is still world-leading.
10 – Johnny Sexton
The Irish fly-half was orchestrator extraordinaire across the 2023 Championship and was masterful as ever in taking the ball to the gainline before shipping it for his backs to cause damage outside. His point haul against England took him to the summit of all-time Six Nations points scorers with 566, nine clear of Ronan O’Gara.
11 – Thomas Ramos
Sticking with points scored, Ramos tallied 84 of his own – a whole 49 clear of second place Sexton. Matches, titles and World Cups are won on having a player who can kick their kicks. Ramos has cemented himself into the French 15 shirt and he makes it into our XV.
12 – Sione Tuipulotu
It was hard to look past the Scottish 12-13 partnership in the team of the tournament. Tuipulotu and Jones combined so well together to cause maximum destruction for the Scots. The inside centre assisted three tries in the tournament – just one off top spot – and was a solid distributor.
13 – Huw Jones
Tuipulotu’s partner, Huw Jones, was by far the best outside centre in the tournament. He scored four tries and made over 400m with the ball – the most of any non-back-three player.
14 – Mack Hansen
In his year as an international, Hansen has already had a brilliant career. In this Six Nations he crossed the whitewash three times and was in the top 10 for carries, turnovers won and offloads. He was everywhere.
15 – Hugo Keenan
Keenan completes the XV following a stellar tournament at full-back. He topped the metres made statistics with 562 and was in the top 10 for carries, too. The 26-year-old has forced Ramos out on to the wing and has made the full-back shirt one any Irish challenger will struggle to remove from him.