Tuesday 26 February 2019 5:00 pm

Six Nations surprise stars: Who have emerged as the standout performers in the championship so far?

Sport and Business Reporter at City AM. Email: michael.searles@cityam.com

Sport and Business Reporter at City AM. Email: michael.searles@cityam.com

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After just three rounds of action the Six Nations has already thrown up a number of twists and turns, including England's win over favourites Ireland, before then losing to Wales last weekend.

Here, City A.M. looks at five players who have emerged as surprising standout performers for their country.

Liam Williams

The Wales full-back has played exceptionally well in all three games and will be one of the favourites to win the Six Nations Player of the Championship award.

His ability to run from deep has long been one of his strengths but against both France and especially England, in Saturday’s 21-13 win, his performance under the high ball was world class.

The 27-year-old nullified England’s kicking throughout the second half after being stretched from one side to the other during the opening quarter, and was vital to Wales keeping possession.

Any doubts Wales might have had about keeping regular full-back Leigh Halfpenny sidelined were put to bed with a man-of-the-match display and he surely deserves to keep hold of the No15 jersey as they look to wrap up the Grand Slam against Scotland and Ireland.

Mark Wilson

Eddie Jones has been keen for England to improve at the breakdown and Mark Wilson and Tom Curry have helped resolve some of those issues, even if the Wales defeat showed that improvement is still needed.

Wilson was selected at No8 during the autumn internationals with Jones’s first three choices unavailable but he has since established himself as the coach’s go-to man at blindside flanker.

The Newcastle forward has been England’s unsung hero since an upturn in form late last year, with a lot of his work in the ruck going unseen.

Against Ireland the 29-year-old was a standout performer with 27 tackles, which he followed up with another 20 against France, although he was less effective during loss in Cardiff.

Peter O’Mahony

O’Mahony has been a mainstay of the Ireland team since 2012 and his performances during the Six Nations have been a bright spark in the team’s otherwise sub-par campaign.

While captain Rory Best and other key stars like Conor Murray and Jonny Sexton have failed to play to their usual high standards, O’Mahony has been on hand to provide Ireland with momentum as they have been forced to dig in during wins over Scotland and Italy.

The 29-year-old was instrumental in pulling Ireland out of a slump in Rome on Sunday when they trailed 16-12 at half-time. He constantly asked questions at the breakdown, winning turnovers and a lineout. The same intensity of performance was true against Scotland, although the tackle that left Stuart Hogg injured should have been penalised.

Romain Ntamack

The 19-year-old pulled the strings for France on just his third appearance as they comfortably overcame Scotland 27-10 on Saturday.

Ntamack bounced back from the disappointment of making a costly mistake against Wales with a solid performance from the bench against England to help stem the tide before a match-winning display against Scotland.

Usually a centre, Ntamack played at fly-half after Camille Lopez was dropped and linked up with Toulouse team-mate Antoine Dupont at scrum-half in a new pairing that controlled the game.

He scored his country’s first try and kicked excellently, while his 19 tackles also showed his defensive capabilities.

The youngest player in the championship, Ntamack has quickly taken to international rugby.

Jamie Ritchie

Scotland will be disappointed at how their Six Nations campaign is panning out after falling to defeats against Ireland and now France, but Ritchie, another youngster at 22, has been one of the big positives.

The Edinburgh flanker made 19 tackles against France along with 15 carries – more than any other Scottish forward – and his commitment to the cause against Ireland was apparent as he was forced off with blood pouring from his head before returning for the second-half and making a couple of turnovers.

He was the standout performer during that encounter and was also the top tackler with 16 in Scotland’s opener against Italy, in which he also showed his ability to run good lines.