Now the dust has settled on an exciting but not vintage tournament, it’s time for me to put my formidable rugby knowledge to the test and choose my team of the tournament.
15. Full Back: Mike Brown (England)
After a pretty horrible 2013 Six Nations, Brown was possibly the player of the tournament this time around. His support running was a joy to behold and he has the indispensable ability to almost always make the correct decision. Looks so much more at home as a full-back than on the wing. Rock solid in defence and also the joint-leading try-scorer.
14. Right Wing: Andrew Trimble (Ireland)
Yoann Huget was a rare bright spark in an otherwise average French side, but for his consistency, the Ulsterman gets my vote. An unheralded player but someone who does all the basics very well and, like Brown, supports play excellently. Kept his cool in Paris to score a crucial try. Has inherited a great finishers instinct. On this evidence, Tommy Bowe has more chance of replacing Brian O’Driscoll that ousting Trimble.
13. Outside Centre: Brian O’Driscoll (Ireland)
Who else? While Luther Burrell had a superb debut tournament for England, the retiring veteran showed the world what they will be missing with some all-round displays of class, elegance and ingenuity. The beauty of O’Driscoll is that he never seems to be rushed on the rugby field. He has that Henson-like ability to make time stand still and pick a pass no-one else sees, yet the defence hardly lays a finger on him. Again, he was a rock in defence. The great man will be sorely missed
12. Inside Centre: Jamie Roberts (Wales)
As much as I do have a rather large man-crush on Wesley Fofana (you’re lying if you claim you don’t), Dr Roberts had an excellent Championships. As always he broke the gain line and tackled with energy and verve, but he has matured with age into more than just a battering ram. He runs more intelligent line these days and often pops up as a support runner. Two tries against Scotland capped an impressive tournament.
11. Left Wing: George North (Wales)
Despite playing at the unfamiliar position of Outside Centre for a couple of games, the giant Welshman looked much more at home on the wing. Scored three tries and caused general havoc with ball in hand. He still needs to work on his finishing in my opinion but he has the potential to be one of the game’s greats.
10. Fly-Half: Jonathan Sexton (Ireland)
A quite brilliant tournament for the Racing Metro outside-half. He was by far the most effective player in his position because he offers and equally potent kicking and running game, highlighted by his four tries. Kept a cool head in the cauldron-like atmosphere of the Championship decider in Paris. Made Wales’ Rhys Priestland look even more shit that he actually is, which is difficult.
9. Scrum Half: Danny Care (England)
The England number 9 has finally come of age. His darting runs are reminiscent of Rob Howley and Matt Dawson at their best. By far the best scrum-half in the northern-hemisphere, his high-tempo delivery set the foundations for England’s impressive attacking displays. A joy to watch.
1. Loose-Head: Cian Healy (Ireland)
What a player. An animal in the loose but also a formidable scrummager. When he carries the ball he resembles a charging rhino and is (probably) almost as difficult to bring down without tranquiliser. Healy has also curbed his ill-discipline which has blighted his career to date.
2. Hooker: Rory Best (Ireland)
Having originally been overlooked by Warren Gatland for Lions selection supposedly because of his lacklustre throwing, the Ulsterman showed the Welsh coach why he had been wrong to omit him with a brilliant tournament in which he was almost flawless at the line-out. Edges out Dylan Hartley because of his superior tackling ability and energy in the loose.
3. Tight-Head: Nicolas Mas (France)
There was no outstanding candidate for the number 3 shirt so I chose the Frenchman more for his commitment in that brutal final encounter with Ireland in Paris. The French scrum was pretty tidy in that game against an Ireland pack that had dominated up front against Wales, Scotland and Italy and that was in no small part due to Mas. I have no idea what he’s like in the loose but let’s assume he was average-to-good. Basically, he was less bad than all the other tight-heads.
4. Lock: Paul O’Connell (Ireland)
The Ireland captain is like the postman; he keeps delivering top-class performances year after year. His display in Paris was one of the great performances. He seemed to be everywhere: at the breakdown, tackling, ball-carrying, taking line-outs – all in the face of some ferocious French resistance (there’s a first for everything). The Emerald Isle will be hoping that he continues for at least a couple more seasons.
5. Lock: Courtney Lawes (England)
Another coming-of-age tournament for an Englishman, this time the giant Northampton second-row. His all-round brilliance was exemplified by a man-of-the match display against Wales. Rather like O’Connell, he is an all-action player with the addition of impressive pace. Always near the top of the tackle count. Looks a certainty for the World Cup.
6. Blindside Flanker: Peter O’Mahony (Ireland)
This very blog had tipped Ireland to have a disaster tournament precisely because they were without their star flankers in Sean O’Brien and Stephen Ferris. Well I am currently eating mountains of humble pie because the Munsterman was an absolute tour-de-force. He was a permanent fixture at the breakdown and won man-of-the-match in the forward masterclass against Wales. Excellent.
7. Openside Flanker: Chris Robshaw (England)
By far the outstanding open-side in this year’s tournament. Not only was he a tireless in defence and excellent at the breakdown, he also showed an impressive fleet-of-hand to release Mike Brown for Danny Care’s try against Ireland. Deserved his try against Italy and led England flawlessly after much criticism in past years. Looks to have benefited from a summer’s rest.
8. Number 8: Billy Vunipola (England)
A controversial choice. I know he only played three games and Jamie Heaslip excelled throughout the tournament, but Vunipola (like his cousin Taulupe Falateau) is a complete rugby-footballer, in the mould of Sergio Parisse, Nick Easter or Bobby Skinstad. Not only does he always break the gain-line, he has brilliant awareness and is constantly looking to off-load the ball. This results in a far more dynamic attacking platform which defined England’s matches. He is vital if the red-rose are to be successful in the World Cup.
As regular readers (apparently there’s at least one) will know, thealternativesportsblog is based purely on facts and is almost never wrong, so if you disagree with any of my choices, you are severely misinformed.