There a lot of quality players not selected by the 6 coaches this year, so Sam Tremlett has put together a team of 15 players omitted from international duty
A XV of stars not selected for the 2018 Six Nations
Front Row – Cyril Baille, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Lorenzo Cittadini
Cyril Baille should fit the bill for new France head coach Jacques Brunel, but it’s too much, too soon – he’s only now back from a torn Achilles. Baille played every game in the 2017 Six Nations Championship, and consistently performs for a solid Toulouse side. He should work his way back.
Luke Cowan-Dickie has always had to contend with Dylan Hartley and Jamie George for time with England. And now tackling machine Tom Dunn of Bath is in ahead of him. Some critics say he still need to improve his throwing, but he is certainly a dynamic force with ball in hand.
The final front row position in our XV goes to Lorenzo Cittadini. He has huge experience, which can be no bad thing for the Italians. Yes he is 35, but front row players never play 80 minutes any more, do they? Simone Ferrari, 23, is seen as the future at tighthead, but we’ve opted for an old head here.
Second Row – Donnacha Ryan, Scott Cummings
The ever-menacing Ryan has not been selected due to the IRFU’s policy of prioritising home-based players, so the Racing 92 man missed out. Unfortunately for them, Ryan is playing exception rugby at the moment. He even set up a try at the weekend with a kick ahead!
Young Scotsman Scott Cummings is another scrapping to pick up experience. Gregor Townsend selected him into the 2017 autumn International squad, and despite not playing, you can forgive Cummings for thinking he was going to continue to be part of the Scotland set up. He has been playing well for Pro14 deivision leaders Glasgow Warriors, with his lineout work being of particular note. Cummings is tied 4th for the most lineouts won in the Pro14 this season with 37, so his skills in the air are clear to see.
Back Row – Olly Cracknell, Don Armand, Louis Picamoles
Injuries to Sam Warburton and Taulupe Faletau open up spots in the back row but Olly Cracknell has not been called up to fill one of them – West Walians and neutrals alike are thrilled that James Davies joins that unit, while Cracknell misses out. He was part of the Welsh set up last Six Nations, and has shone for the U20 side. Additionally, whilst playing for Ospreys, it is clear he is no stranger to a heavy workload as he leads the Pro14 in carries, and tackles.
Don Armand is the player most fans are shocked not to see in Eddie Jones’ squad. He has been a star for Exeter for the majority of the season, with man of the match awards piling up. It seems Jones questions whether Armand can carry through traffic but he has proven on countless occasions how strong he is in that area. He gets over the gain-line and does the dirty work all back-rowers are supposed to do.
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Rounding out the forwards is Louis Picamoles. Youth and speed have been the hallmarks of Brunel’s back-row selection, but some still wonder if the older face could still fit. He gives go forward ball at the back of the scrum and his experience is undeniable. Despite his indifferent personal form, he is captain of a Montpellier side leading the Top 14 at the moment.
Scrum Half – Dan Robson
In a Wasps side that has so much potency on attack, Robson does a fantastic job getting the offence on the front foot. Ben Youngs and Danny Care are the two scrum-halves Jones trusts but there will come a point where he has to pay attention to the play of Robson.
Fly Half – Francois Trinh-Duc
The Frenchman has not been on top form for Toulon this year and young Anthony Belleau has been seen as a true leading fly-half. With youngster Matthieu Jalibert being thrown in at the deep end, and Belleau is also lurking. Does it make sense for us to big up this struggling veteran? No, but then French Test sides have never been logical places…
Centres – Jamie Roberts, Tom Farrell
With a midfield that no longer can rely on Jonathan Davies, Jamie Roberts steadiness at the heart of the Harlequins backline might have seen him come in as a mentor of sorts for the more inexperienced player. However Gatland had other ideas and the 94-cap giant may never bring up the century of caps now. Hadleigh Parkes, Owen and Scott Williams may have more subtlety and gas but we’ve gone for the sentimental choice here.
Lesser-known Tom Farrell takes the other centre spot in our XV. The injury to Garry Ringrose opened up a hole to be filled in the Ireland squad, and the Connacht centre has been outstanding. Sure there are a lot of options for Ireland to experiment with and there have been other players blooded as recently as November… but we’re saying keep an eye on him. He leads the Pro14 in offloads, is second in carries, and third in defenders beaten this year.
Back Three – Olly Woodburn, Simon Zebo, Alex Goode
Woodburn has been one of the standout players for the Premiership-leading Exeter Chiefs. He is at the vanguard for them in terms of metres gained, a category he is second in for the entire Premiership. He is also in the top three for carries, defenders beaten and finally he leads the league in clean breaks. This year he is deadly and can play on the wing or in the centre. Working against him would be his lack of experience, but there is only one way to get that… by playing.
Simon Zebo, owned an Irish wing position during the last two editions of the Six Nations, however he has recently signed with Racing 92 for next season, which will see him join his countryman Ryan. As indicated above, the IRFU has put more emphasis on selecting home-based players so this is the main factor for Zebo’s omission (although he has been vocal about the way Ireland deploy wings, too).
Full-back Alex Goode is the final man to make it into our XV. He has been brilliant this year for Saracens and he must (still) be thinking: “What do I have to do to make the squad?” He leads the Premiership in most metres gained, most carries and has often been the most creative aspect of the Saracens backline. It is no secret Eddie Jones is not a fan, so he will have to make do with being the full-back in our XV.