Six Nations 2018: A forensic look at the winners and losers of an amazing tournament

The dust has very much settled on this years Six Nations and our rugby experts provide their views on this years tournament.

What was the best moment of this year’s tournament?

Rhys O’Rourke

It would be hard to look past Johnny Sexton’s incredible drop goal against the French to set the men in green on their way to a fine Grand Slam – he might be the only outside-half in Europe capable of doing that under such pressure.

Finn McRedmond

You would be hard pressed to find someone who wouldn’t cite Sexton’s drop goal against France as not only one of the best moments of the tournament, but one of the best moments in 6-Nations History

Anthony Jordan

Sexton’s last minute drop goal to beat France tied with Huw Jones’s storming 45m try against England.

Ed Hoyle

Scotland beating England (great to see David beat Goliath in such emphatic fashion).

Jack Crichton

Scotland beating England (10 years, biggest rivals, making Murrayfield a fortress).

Edward Jones

Johnny Sexton’s last minute drop-goal will live long in the memories of Irish fans.

Josh Raisey

Johnny Sexton’s drop goal against France. Tournament would have looked very different had that not happened.

Calum Scotland

Scotland beating England.

Tim Copeland

THAT drop goal – can not really think of anything that comes close to it.

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Ireland beat Scotland 28-8 en route to the Grand Slam (credit: Finn McRedmond).

Who was the best player during this year’s tournament?

Rhys O’Rourke

Huw Jones and CJ Stander push him close, while Tadhg Furlong also deserves an honourable mention, but ultimately this campaign belongs to Irish scrum-half Conor Murray. Starting every game of the tournament, he finished up with two tries and was involved in many more as he helped his side romp to the title.

Anthony Jordan

CJ Stander. His record carries says it all – 96 carries this year are the second most ever. The best was 107 made in 2017. That record was set by…CJ Stander.

Finn McRedmond

Despite Stockdale’s near Herculean 7 tries out of 5 games, it is ultimately Conor Murray who should earn this title. He’s a likely contender for best scrum-half in the world.

Edward Jones

Conor Murray is the heartbeat of this Ireland side and quite possibly the best scrum-half in the world in this kind of form.

Calum Scotland

Johnny Sexton.

Ed Hoyle

Conor Murray is undoubtedly the world’s best at scrum-half.

Jack Crichton

Johnny Sexton for that drop goal.

Josh Raisey

Conor Murray. The half-back combination with Sexton is ruthlessly efficient. Not the prettiest rugby at times, but helps Ireland drown the opposition out of games.

Tim Coopland

Jacob Stockdale with solid mention to Huw Jones.

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Ireland clinch the Grand Slam against England at Twickenham (credit: Finn McRedmond)

Who struck you as this year’s surprise package?

Rhys O’Rourke

Wales were supposed to struggle in the back row with the absence of Lions captain Sam Warburton, Dan Lydiate and Taulupe Faletau (for the first three games) but blindside flanker Aaron Shingler produced a stormer. He has given boss Warren Gatland a nice selection headache.

Anthony Jordan

Matteo Minozzi stood out as a young attacking prospect for Conor O’Shea to build Italy’s attack around for the future. Sergio Parisse doesn’t have to worry about the passing of the torch anymore.

Finn McRedmond

21-year-old Minozzi turned heads just months after his international debut. He shined throughout and gives Italy the hope they need.

Edward Jones

Jacob Stockdale marked his Six Nations debut with a hatful of tries; full of energy, he always seems to be in the right pace at the right time.

Ed Hoyle:

Matteo Minozzi had a breakout performance – expect a bidding war for the young fullback when his contract with Zebre is up.

Jack Crichton

Huw Jones had a disappointing game when he played at 12 against Wales but was, at times, Scotland’s most dangerous player during other matches.

Tim Coopland

The England team came in as tournament favourites, after coming off a 18 win streak to lose three games in a row. Nobody was expecting them to come fifth in the table, with inquisitions still going on.

Calum Scotland:

Huw Jones.

Josh Raisey

Mathieu Bastareaud. Coming off a ban, really helped the French improve. He was his usual burly self, but showed moments of great elan with deft offloads and was an absolute revelation for France on the ground.

Which player/team will be the ones to watch in coming tournaments?

Rhys O’Rourke

Italy have precious little talent in their ranks, relative to their Six Nations competitors at least, but new fullback Matteo Minozzi gives them real hope – this kid knows his way to the try line.

Anthony Jordan

Jacob Stockdale. A record breaking haul of tries on his first outing in the 6 Nations validated the pre-tournament hype surrounding him.

Edward Jones

Jacob Stockdale marked his Six Nations debut with a hatful of tries. Full of energy and always seems to be in the right pace a the right time

Finn McRedmond

Stockdale can sometime appear flukey, but his 7 try record tells another story. Either way, he’s always in the right place at the right time.

Calum Scotland:

Jacob Stockdale

Jack Crichton

Jacob Stockdale (Try machine)

Josh Raisey

Matteo Minozzi. With Italy displaying real attacking intent this tournament, he will be crucial to their style in the future.

Tim Coopland

Despite not featuring in the final games, Teddy Thomas showed in glimpses that he can be a great with his explosive power on the pitch.

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Stockdale against England in the final game. (Credit: Sporting News)

Who was the biggest disappointment this year?

Rhys O’Rourke

Even usual underachievers France were usurped in this department by England; confusing selections translated into dire performances on the pitch.

Anthony Jordan

England. So much promise and build up but complete failure at the breakdown and a lack of attacking intent means they finished 5th and didn’t even challenge Ireland like we’d expected they would.

Finn McRedmond

Italy’s close home defeat by Scotland was hard to watch. They impressed with Allan and Minozzi, and it would have been nice to see the perpetual underdogs eek out one victory this tournament.

Ed Hoyle:

Italy (Obvious answer is England but if Italy continue to fail to progress under O’Shea then their long term viability will be under threat)

Jack Crichton

Scotland (Maybe not the obvious choice but at times we’re played totally off the pitch, came from behind to beat Italy and France, with a stolen win really from the Italians)

Edward Jones

England came into this tournament looking to lay down a marker 18 months before the World Cup. They ended it battered and bruised with a whole host of questions to answer

Calum Scotland:

England.

Josh Raisey

England. Defending champions finishing fifth says it all really.

Tim Coopland

After a powerful showing against England, Scotland need to cement themselves as a top three team but they won’t fulfil this potential unless they can win away from home. One good performance isn’t good enough.

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Favourites England finished a disappointing 5th this year despite being favourites. (Credit: The Week UK).

And finally who do you think will be the 2019 winners

Rhys O’Rourke

Wales. Watch this space. With the likes of Warburton and centre Jonathan Davies set to return, the development of decent strength in depth, and the prospect of home games with powerhouses England and Ireland, Gatland’s troops will fancy themselves for the top prize.

Ed Hoyle:

Ireland (Without a glut of star athletes, Ireland manage to bring continued success through excellent fundamental play and clutch last minute performances. With such a robust structure in place it is hard to see them not repeating next year)

Anthony Jordan

Ireland unless Eddie Jones can reset England and rediscover what they’ve lost since last year. Fatigue isn’t an excuse when you’ve got the experience they have. Wales and Ireland had more inexperienced players and more key injuries. The experience England had should have pulled stopped them finishing where they did. The Autumn Internationals will give Jones a chance to prove the last two months we’re just a blip on England’s previously formidable form.

Edward Jones

England have too much talent to have enough tournament like this and will surely come back fighting in a World Cup year.

Jack Crichton

2019 Winners: Ireland (Bring on the World Cup)

Calum Scotland:

England

Finn McRedmond

Ireland.

Josh Raisey

England! With a 35 year-old captain, Rory Best, and a talisman in Sexton that is constantly hampered by head injuries, it’s hard to determine whether Ireland will be the same next year. England had a team littered with Lions and seemed exhausted. With a lot of youth in the team, they’ll learn from this and come back stronger.

Tim Coopland

A wildcard should could be Italy. Only joking Ireland were excellent this year and expect very much the same next year.


Featured image credit: The Rugby Blog

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