By Charlie Morgan
15. Liam Williams (Wales)
Mike Brown’s remarkable consistency continued in Rome, but the Scarlets’ bomb-diffuser supreme was brilliant against Scotland and demonstrated that Wales have more than one rapier full-back. In the right place at the right time to start the landslide with a simple try in the left-hand corner, Williams’ jaw-dropping offloading helped create two more of his team’s seven scores. He was so effective hitting the line outside the 13 channel that he may have persuaded Warren Gatland to think about deploying Leigh Halfpenny on the wing.
14. Andrew Trimble (Ireland)
One blemish, butchering a two-on-one that would have seen Brian O’Driscoll in for a fairytale score, did not stop this from being a very special outing from Trimble. In fact, it was the fantastic finale his assured Six Nations deserved. Dogged enough to stay strong under restarts, his intelligent support lines ensured he was also dangerous with ball in hand on the front foot – as his try showed. A wonderful night for the Ulsterman.
13. Mathieu Bastareaud (France)
Nobody should begrudge O’Driscoll’s a sentimental man-of-the-match award in Paris, but his opposite number defied a largely poor tournament to turn out a bullocking display. Destructive carrying complemented rock-like breakdown work as Bastareaud finally matched size with desire. There is a reason why Philipe Saint-Andre kept faith in the Toulon behemoth.
12. Jamie Roberts (Wales)
Luther Burrell deserves a mention for an excellent first half at the Stadio Olimpico. However, Roberts oozed class in the rout of Scotland. Stuart Hogg’s sending off meant the gameplan shifted wider and Warren Gatland’s number 12 adapted, spreading play with slick distribution before linking up nicely in support play. His brace of tries was well deserved.
11. George North (Wales)
The second Welshman to snare a double, North was close to his frightening best for a fantastic first score – making poor David Denton look like a boozed-up Bambi on ice with some bamboozling footwork at break-neck speed. Wing rival Dougie Fife will enjoy far easier afternoons than his chastening debut opposite George the juggernaut.
10. Owen Farrell (England)
Italy don’t fold in Rome without being put under immense pressure, and England delivered a fast-paced attacking performance that was good enough to inflict a joint-seventh heaviest ever home defeat on the Azzurri. Scoring one try, notching two more assists and conducting phase-play calmly, Farrell was the conductor. He also nailed all eight kicks at goal and has come of age as a Test fly-half. Lucky not to be shown yellow for an ‘overly exuberant’ challenge at the death, he needs to keep his frustrations in check.
9. Conor Murray (Ireland)
Johnny Sexton is obviously Ireland’s chief playmaker, but Murray took the heat off his half-back partner with whippy, accurate service, well-aimed box-kicking and a few slicing snipes – most prominently in the lead-up to Trimble’s try. When Joe Schmidt needed it most, his scrum-half produced something extremely close to the complete performance.
1. Cian Healy (Ireland)
He got away with what looked like a diving head-butt – Steve Walsh ruling that a pretty sickening challenge merited just a penalty – but there were plenty of positives beforehand. Healy has shored up his scrummaging while losing none of his verve around the park. Even the great Nicolas Mas could not make the Church creak.
2. Dimitri Szarzewski (France)
Another beneficiary of an odd Walsh decision, Szarzewski’s try showed opportunism and a smart grasp of the laws, if not the ability to ground the ball against the base of the post without spilling it. Aside from that, he was a prominent figure in some frankly brutal forward exchanges, making eight carries, and only erred once at the lineout. Also gets credit for checking on injured clubmate Sexton – an admirable act of sportsmanship in an hugely intense environment.
3. Mike Ross (Ireland)
Reliable throughout the competition, Ross turned it up another level as the stakes shot sky high. He forced Thomas Domingo into conceding two penalties, causing coach Saint-Andre to withdraw his loosehead. Replacement tighthead Martin Moore has a big international future ahead of him, but Ross was badly missed at the end of Ireland’s triumph.
4. Devin Toner (Ireland)
Irish dominance of the front five continues with Toner’s inclusion, the lanky Leinsterman earning a spot here on the back of an 80-minute shift that made life very awkward for France’s forwards. He stole a lineout and made eight tackles, offloading twice out of contact too.
5. Paul O’Connell (Ireland)
It’s no coincidence that this phenomenal leader turns out game-turning plays at pivotal points in massive matches. A ruck turnover on 43 minutes as France were battering down the door and the last-gasp choke-tackle that brought the sweetest final whistle were two more to add to the collection. Ten carries, 15 tackles and five lineout takes must be factored in as well – an awesome outing.
6. Tom Wood (England)
Wood has a huge engine and was crucial to England’s rapid ruck-speed as Italy were stretched. As one of Chris Robshaw’s trusted lieutenants, he would also have been a calming influence after the visitors steamed out of the blocks recklessly in Rome. Such an important figure for Stuart Lancaster.
7. Chris Henry (Ireland)
A back-handed flick-pass for Sexton’s first try was a rare moment of extravagance from Henry, whose unfussy industry at the breakdown and in defence laid the foundations for Ireland’s win. Racking up 16 tackles, he stunted French attacks courageously and topped off a sublime Six Nations from an individual standpoint.
8. Taulupe Faletau (Wales)
Hogg’s red card brought space and pace to Wales’ non-contest with Scotland, so Faletau’s stunning skills and relentless support play came into their own. His role in Roberts’ second, for instance, was spectacular. A walk-in of his own also came, but the most impressive facet of Faletau’s day was his work-rate. Racking up 15 tackles in a thrashing takes a certain degree of selflessness.