THE SHORTLIST NOMINEES were announced yesterday for the 2012 Six Nations Championship player of the tournament but what a farce it was.
This is one of those lists that should be afforded little credence, due to the system that it employs.
The shortlist is comprised of all the players who were named as man-of-the-match in all games across the first four (plus one in this case) weekends of the RBS 6 Nations.
Thus, Jonny Sexton and Donncha Ryan are the two Irish men to make the list given their man-of-the-match performances against Italy and Scotland respectively.
Were they even the best Irish players? Certainly, exceedingly strong cases can be made for Rob Kearney and Stephen Ferris as the consistently best Irish performers thus far, both immense to date. Actually, forget strong cases, they have been Ireland’s two best players in this Championship, end of story.
If the shortlist achieved one thing, it has sparked discussion as to who actually have been the top performers to date. So, let us indulge in a meaningless selection of our own – the Six Nations team of the tournament so far..
15. Rob Kearney
Is there a better 15 in world rugby at the moment? The Leinster man is simply unbelievable in the air, consistently snatching balls from the sky when he has absolutely no right to. He is the best I have seen in my lifetime at the skill, no question. This year, he countered and attacked with a venom and potency that perhaps had been absent for a period. Exceptional.
Better Luck Next Time: Stuart Hogg
14. Tommy Bowe
The man from Monaghan has matured into one of the best finishers in the world game and this Championship was no exception. His predatory skills were in full evidence in Paris where he snuffed out two tries for himself. It hasn’t been all plain sailing with George North running over him a couple of times but worthy of the right wing berth nonetheless.
Better Luck Next Time: Julien Malzieu
Tommy Bowe during the training with a GAA football pIC: INPHO/Billy Stickland
13. Jonathan Davies
There is nothing about Davies that stands out as being particularly spectacular. He is certainly not the quickest thirteen about, nor is he the biggest (although not exactly a shrimp). He is, however, incredibly effective. Davies picks outstanding lines, links brilliantly with those around him and gets over that gainline.
Better Luck Next Time:Manu Tuilagi
12. Wesley Fofana
This man can pick a line. The centre rose above the stench of mediocrity in the French camp in this Championship, producing some moments of real brilliance. Now that Fofana is bothered enough to play rugby (he admitted he was fat and lazy four years ago), we are in for a treat.
Better Luck Next Time:Jamie Roberts
France’s Wesley Fofana centre in full flight against England in Paris. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
11. Alex Cuthbert
Cue ‘what are they feeding these lads in Wales?’ joke. Cuthbert like so many of his colleagues is a mountain of man, with pace to boot. Having been operating in the shadows of the illustrious George North to an extent, Cuthbert has emerged as a top player in his own right in this Championship with his sheer power coming to the fore.
Better Luck Next Time:George North
10. Jonny Sexton/Owen Farrell
A new golden boy of English rugby has arrived and he looks the real deal. Farrell has showed maturity beyond his years in guiding a relatively average English side to a relatively decent Championship and will be there for a long time to come. Sexton has looked assured throughout without setting the tournament alight. Let’s let Saturday decide this one.
Better Luck Next Time:Jonny Sexton/Owen Farrell
9. Mike Phillips
In all honesty, it probably wasn’t his best Championship but he was still the best around wasn’t he? Authoritative, dangerous and classy.
Better Luck Next Time:Lee Dickson
8. Ben Morgan
England will have been delighted to retain the services of the Scarlets number eight who could have declared for Wales. Dynamic and brilliant in Paris in a huge victory for England, the twenty-three year old won’t be far off a Lions test if he can retain that type of form.
Better Luck Next Time: David Denton
Ben Morgan in action at the Stade de France. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
7. Sam Warburton
Injury has played a fairly significant part in his Championship but Warbuton was the still the best seven on show in my eyes. His breakdown and defensive work has been unparalleled.
Better Luck Next Time: Thierry Dusatoir
6. Stephen Ferris
The Hit Man. Ferris’s physicality and work at the contact area stands him out as possibly the best six in world rugby at the moment. The Ulsterman is ferocious in defence and Ireland’s most destructive player in this facet of the game. More than capable of smashing through gain line too with his power and pace.
Better Luck Next Time: Tom Croft
5. Paul O’Connell
Although only playing three games in the Championship, O’Connell was immense and the best in show. Injury came at a cruel time as the Irish captain had been playing some of the rugby of his career. A long way off done yet.
4. Richie Gray
What can be said about this ray of beaming light in an otherwise fairly dour Scottish team that hasn’t already been said? Gray has been a phenomenon since he burst on the scene, using his incredible athleticism to supreme effect both in the lineout and in the loose. Lions test team here he comes.
Better Luck Next Time:Alun Wyn Jones
Wales’ Adam Jones reacts during the 6 Nations encounter with Italy at the Millenium Stadium. Pic: David Jones/PA
3. Adam Jones
Jones has once again proved himself to be a world class tight-head, spearheading a very decent Welsh scrum and proving useful around the pitch on occasion.
Better Luck Next Time:Mike Ross
2. Ross Ford
The captain of Scotland played with a passion and hunger that you would expect of him but his work around the pitch and indeed his darts were top quality, although Donncha Ryan did manage to pick off a few last Saturday.
Better Luck Next Time:Rory Best
1. Cian Healy
Valid shouts could be made for Alex Corbisero and J-B Poux but Healy was instrumental in the best Irish scrum in years and his work rate around the pitch is second to none. The Leinster loose-head is potentially the best ball carrying prop in the world on his day and again showed a real hunger to gert on the ball in this Championship.
Better Luck Next Time:Alex Corbisiero