Rugby

Six Nations team of the tournament: Ireland players dominate selection

Ireland players took centre-stage as another title was secured.

Ireland won back-to-back Six Nations titles
Ireland Ireland won back-to-back Six Nations titles (Liam McBurney/PA)

Ireland became the first team since England in 2017 to win successive Guinness Six Nations titles as they dominated this season’s competition.

Although back-to-back Grand Slams eluded them following defeat against England at Twickenham, Ireland ended five points clear of a chasing pack led by France.

Here, the PA news agency selects its team of the tournament.

15: Hugo Keenan (Ireland)

Although the Ireland full-back missed two games because of injury, he was still a class apart in that position. A major attacking threat who also never flinched in defence.

14: Duhan van der Merwe (Scotland)

The Scotland wing claimed a stunning try hat-trick in his team’s Calcutta Cup victory over England. His five touchdowns overall left him one behind Scotland’s record Test try-scorer Stuart Hogg.

13: Juan Ignacio Brex (Italy)

Claimed successive player of the match awards in Italy’s victories over Scotland and Wales as he forged an outstanding centre pairing with Tommaso Menoncello for the resurgent Azzurri.

12: Bundee Aki (Ireland)

Another huge shift from one of Ireland’s most consistent players, who brought watertight defence and attacking power in abundance. An inspiration to those around him.

11: James Lowe (Ireland)

James Lowe was in outstanding form for Six Nations champions Ireland
James Lowe James Lowe was in outstanding form for Six Nations champions Ireland (Brian Lawless/PA)

Arguably has the best all-round game as a wing in Britain and Ireland. An outstanding kicking game, brilliant positional work and try-scoring prowess make him the complete package. Topped the lists for most metres carried and metres gained.

10: Jack Crowley (Ireland)

It seemed that replacing retired fly-half Johnny Sexton would be Ireland’s biggest challenge this season, but 24-year-old Crowley stepped up in magnificent fashion, barely putting a foot wrong.

9: Jamison Gibson-Park (Ireland)

There is an effortless ease and quality about everything Ireland’s immaculate scrum-half does. He dictates the tempo, drives the forwards relentlessly and was once again hugely influential.

1: Andrew Porter (Ireland)

The tough-as-teak loosehead prop provided a strong scrummaging foundation, while his work around the pitch was of its usual high standard. Scored a try in title-clinching victory over Scotland.

2: Dan Sheehan (Ireland)

Ireland’s livewire hooker maintained top-end performance levels that have become his trademark. Scored five tries to finish as the tournament’s equal top try-scorer with Van der Merwe.

3: Uini Atonio (France)

It proved to be an erratic Six Nations campaign for France, which included a thrilling victory over England and home draw against Italy, but juggernaut prop Atonio made a consistent impact at scrum-time.

4: Maro Itoje (England)

Maro Itoje excelled for England in the Six Nations
Maro Itoje Maro Itoje excelled for England in the Six Nations (Mike Egerton/PA)

Showcased all the experience gained from more than 80 England caps. The Saracens lock soared to exceptional heights during a memorable win against Ireland, and there are few who can match him when he is on his game.

5: Tadhg Beirne (Ireland)

The beating heart of Ireland’s pack, he was again to the fore in every aspect. A world-class forward with set-piece mastery, his work in disrupting opposition lineouts proved particularly impressive.

6: Caelan Doris (Ireland)

Has a commanding on-pitch presence as a natural leader in everything he does. A model of consistency, he is emerging as a major contender to captain the British and Irish Lions in Australia next year.

7: Tommy Reffell (Wales)

It was a Six Nations to forget for Wales, but their openside flanker provided some rare highlights. He was king of the breakdown, claiming 11 turnovers and equalling the tournament record.

8: Ben Earl (England)

Barely put a foot wrong. His 73 carries saw him top that category by a distance, and his standards never dropped. Made an extremely strong case to be named player of the tournament.