Jacob Whitehead turns selector to pick his best XV from the new competition

Autumn Nations Cup Team of the Tournament 2020

The first (and most likely last) Autumn Nations Cup is over. Although the rugby hasn’t always been vintage, the matches will still play a part in British & Irish Lions selection next year.

But who were the stars of the tournament? It’s a shame that we didn’t see more of Fiji – the fact they played only a single match means that none of their players were selected in this team.

France and Wales also shuffled their team massively between games, with most of their players appearing no more than twice in the competition, so it was hard to include too many from either nation.

Yet this is still a team filled with top-quality players, with breakout moments and tried and tested class.

Autumn Nations Cup Team of the Tournament 2020

15. Hugo Keenan (Ireland)

Asked to play all across the back three by Andy Farrell, Keenan seemed instantly at home in the Irish back-line and looks as if he could be the long-term replacement for Keith Earls, who still had an impressive tournament himself. Keenan gets bonus marks for his willingness to run the ball from deep in a tournament dominated by kicking.

14. Jonny May (England)

It’s impossible to leave May out of the side after his special try against Ireland. Pace, panache… the only thing it lacked was a stadium full of fans. It’s also worth remembering his impressive aerial score earlier in the match.

13. Marco Zanon (Italy)

Italy seem to have found their 10-12-13 combination of the future, with outside-centre Zanon the key for locksmiths Paolo Garbisi and Carlo Canna. His best moment was creating Italy’s first score against Scotland, one of the tries of the tournament.

12. Jonathan Danty (France)

Only appeared in two matches for France but was key in both. Improbably powered over when France were struggling to break down Italy and returned from the physio’s table to anchor an inexperienced back-line against England. Proved himself an excellent replacement when needed for Virimi Vakatawa.

11. Duhan van der Merwe (Scotland)

Yes, Nemani Nadolo did score a hat-trick in his only appearance, but van der Merwe picked up two tries and a Man of a Match award in his debut campaign. Can pick a finer line than Leonardo da Vinci and looks a cornerstone of the Scottish back-line for the foreseeable future.

10. Matthieu Jalibert (France)

Paolo Garbisi enjoyed a memorable debut campaign for Italy, but one of the biggest winners of the Autumn Nations Cup was Jalibert. He made amends for a poor display at Murrayfield in March by leading France to a 22-15 victory this time around, before outshining George Ford and Owen Farrell in the showpiece final.

9. Ali Price (Scotland)

It was hard to pick a scrum-half who really stood out, but Price brought a nice tempo to Scotland’s play. Asked to lead the attack more than usual due to the absence of Finn Russell and Adam Hastings, it’s nice to see a nine who is still a fan of the quick tap penalty.

1. Danilo Fischetti (Italy)

Wyn Jones could easily have been selected, but Fischetti was one of the finds of the tournament. Incredibly solid in the scrum at only 22, he particularly shone in the loose against Scotland and could be Andrea Lo Cicero’s heir apparent.

2. Jamie George (England)

In an autumn filled with poor throwing, George never let his standards drop as part of the best lineout in the competition. The first-ever Test hat-trick from an England men’s hooker was a nice cherry on the cake.

3. Zander Fagerson (Scotland)

Carried more conspicuously than usual, heading off the challenge of Giosuè Zilocchi by virtue of his superior scrummaging. Tadhg Furlong’s current injury issues make Fagerson a real contender for the Lions Test-match 23.

4. Maro Itoje (England)

Could conceivably have been Man of the Match in any match he played. Only negative about his game right now is that he gets a little too over-excited about opposition knock-ons.

5. James Ryan (Ireland)

I was very impressed by both Kilian Geraci and Baptiste Pesenti against England, but James Ryan led Ireland well despite challenging circumstances. After a quiet game against England, he was back to his best against Scotland in a game the engine room won.

Autumn Nations Cup Team of the Tournament

Tall order: James Ryan wins a lineout against Scotland (Getty Images)

6. Tom Curry (England)

Nominated for Player of the Tournament alongside Itoje, Curry’s carrying has improved more rapidly than Eddie Jones could have hoped for. It’s affected how England play, with Billy Vunipola now far freer to drop back for kick receipt, and giving the side a nasty one-two punch.

7. Sam Underhill (England)

I was very tempted to pick Italy’s Braam Steyn, but Underhill’s display against Ireland was one of the performances of the championship. Curry and Underhill feels like the combination other back-row Lions contenders will have to overcome.

8. Caelan Doris (Ireland)

Taulupe Faletau’s performance against Italy was the best single game played by a No 8 all autumn, but Doris’s campaign was a model of consistency. Probably now the first name in the Irish back row, it was nice to see him prosper after a difficult debut Six Nations.

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