Six Nations 2015: Winners and losers from greatest championship

Six of the best: (clockwise from left) Thierry Dusatoir, Paul O’Connell, Jonathan Joseph, Sam Warburton, Finn Russell and Sergio Parisse 

Sir Ian McGeechan
Yes. Ireland, apart from in Cardiff, were the most consistently performing team. I like the variations in approach against Scotland to build a big score, and their accuracy.

Gavin Mairs
Yes. Ireland comprehensively beat England and delivered the most consistently high level of performance through the five games. Showed they are not just a kicking side in rout against Scotland, too.


Ireland kicked England into touch when they visited Dublin

Daniel Schofield
You could make a convincing case for all three teams in contention on the final day. England played the best rugby, Wales improved the most, but it is hard to begrudge Ireland, who did what they had to do.

Brian Moore
Yes, Ireland were marginally better because they were more accurate and disciplined.

 

Mick Cleary
Yes, of course. The margins were tight throughout with one team knocking off the other in seemingly significant fashion, right from the opening night when England downed Wales. Boy, it was close, but Ireland beat England, and there you have it.

Steve James
Well, if England or Wales had won it, neither would have been undeserving of the title. All three of Ireland, England and Wales had one shocking match. There is so little to choose between them at the moment.

Alasdair Reid
Undoubtedly. Wales and England made valiant efforts on the final day, but Ireland are worthy champions. They wobbled a little in Cardiff, but they were consistently the best.

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Who was your player of the tournament?

Sir Ian McGeechan
Paul O’Connell. Ireland are champions because they had clarity and leadership in everything they did. O’Connell gives them on-field focus and direction as well as being their natural talisman. Coach and captain in harmony.

Gavin Mairs
Jonathan Joseph, such was his meteoric rise and overall impact with his breathless attacking flair, although Sean O’Brien pushed him hard, almost for his display against Scotland alone.


George Ford impressed for England

Daniel Schofield
Alun Wyn Jones. The home nations fly-halves all impressed but Jones was immense throughout. The way he summons such outstanding performances so consistently is a marvel.

Brian Moore
Jonathan Sexton, closely followed by George Ford and Dan Biggar.

 

Mick Cleary
George Ford. He was considered too small for the macho, muscular modern era yet the tape measure tells you nothing about the size of a man’s heart. Ford faced down all challenges, and brought vitality and variety to England’s attack.

Steve James
Wales’ Alun Wyn Jones. There were many fine individual performances but nobody matched his unrelenting consistency. Billy Vunipola was England’s best player, Paul O’Connell Ireland’s.

Alasdair Reid
Paul O’Connell. Old as the hills and about as easy to shift, O’Connell was immense against Scotland. If this was his last championship it was a magnificent way to go.

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What was your moment of the tournament?

Sir Ian McGeechan
The 33-phase defensive work of Wales against Ireland. It won them the game and was done with such discipline, accuracy and physicality that it won the psychological battle at a key time in the game.

Gavin Mairs
That the whole seven weeks of drama boiled down to the outcome of one final, manic lineout drive as England attempted to snatch the title from Ireland’s grasp on the greatest day of the Six Nations.


The tournament was decided at Twickenham following a dramatic late line-out

Daniel Schofield
The final five minutes of the final day. This is what sport is all about – pure edge-of-your-seat drama. For once, Six Nations delivered a Super Saturday worthy of the marketing superlative.

Brian Moore
The 95-metre try initiated by Ben Youngs’s quick throw-in on the England line on Saturday.

 

Mick Cleary
The multi-phase goal-line stand by Wales against Ireland at the Millennium Stadium. It was defiance on an epic scale and spoke of a team at one with each other and with their defence coach, Shaun Edwards.

Steve James
Call me conservative but for all the try-scoring of the final round, the moment when Wales realised they had completed the defensive set of their lives against Ireland was the best.

Alasdair Reid
Ireland emerging from the Murrayfield tunnel after England just failed to pip them to the title. The rapturous welcome from their patient supporters was astonishing.

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What was the worst moment?

Sir Ian McGeechan
Unfortunately, Peter Horne missing the penalty kick to touch against Italy with less than two minutes left on the clock. This allowed Italy into Scotland’s 22 and we all know what happened next.

Gavin Mairs
Sickening collision between Mike Brown and Italy centre Andrea Masi which left the England full-back prostrate and unconscious, just a week after the controversy over George North’s concussion against England.


Mike Brown’s collision with Italy centre Andrea Masi was a particularly worrying moment

Daniel Schofield
Italy v France, for the first half at least, gnawed away at the soul and was the type of match that makes you question your allegiance to union as a code.

Brian Moore
As a former England player the disappointment of the final whistle at Twickenham when I knew how bad the players felt despite putting 55 points on France.

 

Mick Cleary
The opening whistle at the Stadio Olimpico to signal the start of the Italy-France game. There was to be no escape after that. The rugby was so awful that you sat rooted to the settee watching with ghoulish fascination.

Steve James
When Wales’s George North was knocked unconscious (having already left the field for one head bang) against England and remained on the field.

Alasdair Reid
Alex Dunbar, the hugely promising Scotland centre suffering the training-ground knee injury that ended his championship and probably ruled him out of the World Cup.

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Who made their case for a World Cup place?

Sir Ian McGeechan
George Ford played with assurance and has a variety of passes which allows his outside backs to challenge defenders. Support play is also good, which allows links to support runners. Kicking still needs work.

Gavin Mairs
George Ford stamped his authority and brought a new attacking edge to England with genuine aplomb. Played with a maturity beyond his 22 years and can only get better.


Nigel Owen is a world-class official and some argue should referee to World Cup final

Daniel Schofield
George Ford. Not particularly original, but, barring injury, he is nailed on to be England’s starting No?10. The question is whether England attempt to shoehorn Owen Farrell in alongside him.

Brian Moore
There was no one – the teams confirmed what we suspected.

 

Mick Cleary
Jonathan Joseph. His first championship. It will not be his last.

Steve James
England’s centre Jonathan Joseph. Was not even supposed to be in the squad at the start of the campaign but injuries opened the door for him and he glided in effortlessly.

Alasdair Reid
Nigel Owens. By a distance, the best referee on earth. Barring the possibility of Wales being involved, he has to be given the World Cup final.

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And who let themselves down?

Sir Ian McGeechan
Jonny May. After the brilliant try against New Zealand in the autumn, he seemed to lose his way in attack and defence. This led to some poor decision making.

Gavin Mairs
Vern Cotter. The former Clermont Auvergne head coach is regarded as one of the finest coaches in the world game but he must be wondering if his decision to leave the Top 14 giants was a wise one after Scotland’s wooden spoon.


Jonny May (right) made some poor decisions during the tournament

Daniel Schofield
Harsh as it may be because they played well at times, but you fear for Scotland and whether they can emerge from their group containing South Africa and Samoa.

Brian Moore
Again, the teams confirmed what we suspected.

 

Mick Cleary
Scotland and Vern Cotter. Harsh, perhaps, given the liveliness of their play at various junctures but their last-day collapse against Ireland at Murrayfield only goes to show just how far they have still to go.

Steve James
England’s winger Jonny May. Remember that he was the chap who scored the try that stunned New Zealand last autumn. But his general play and understanding of the game has been found wanting.

Alasdair Reid
Harsh to call him a flop, but does anyone remember the hoopla about Sam Burgess playing for England in the World Cup? How remote is that prospect now?

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What was the best decision of the tournament?

Sir Ian McGeechan
To keep the final Saturday with three consecutive kick-offs. This was the best day the Six Nations has ever had, for drama, excitement, tries and building enthusiasm and anticipation for the World Cup in the autumn.

Gavin Mairs
Staggered kick-off times. The coaches may not like it, but it made for the most compelling drama to give the championship a firecracker finish on a day that will be etched into Six Nations folklore. Just shows what is possible when the intent is there.

Daniel Schofield
Giving Jonathan Joseph a shot at outside centre. Probably more by accident than design, but Joseph’s performances have solved a long-standing problem for England.

Brian Moore
The decision of referee Steve Walsh to retire.

 

Mick Cleary
Continuing with it on terrestrial TV. There have been mutterings about going to satellite companies. That should be resisted at all costs. The free-to-air coverage on the BBC has done wonders for the profile of the sport.

Steve James
To have staggered kick-offs for the last round! All that nonsense about playing at the same time was exposed in an extraordinary trio of matches. The Six Nations is different. Long may it continue to be so.

Alasdair Reid
Rory Kockott’s decision to belt the ball into touch to bring the England-France game to a close. Our nerves could take no more by then.

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And the worst?

Sir Ian McGeechan
When Wales chose to keep George North on the field against England when he had so obviously been knocked out. At least it has subsequently led to better protocols for player welfare.

Gavin Mairs
France running the ball after winning a penalty in the final seconds against England on Saturday and almost losing possession would not have been appreciated by the Ireland team or their supporters, whose nerves were already shredded.

Daniel Schofield
A few contenders, but England’s decision to go for the corner at 6-3 down away to Ireland was compounded by chucking it to where 6ft 10in Devin Toner was waiting stood out as particularly boneheaded.

Brian Moore
England’s decision not to alter their line-out call on the five-yard line-out against Ireland.

 

Mick Cleary
The confusion over the concussion of George North shows vigilance is required on head injuries. Things must not be left to chance and that has been recognised with the addition of TV monitors and extra personnel.

Steve James
Wales’ decision to attempt to ramp up the atmosphere before their match against England, with all the lasers and concomitant razzmatazz. It was unnecessary, and it backfired.

Alasdair Reid
My decision to set aside 80 minutes to watch Italy versus France. A garbage game and time I will never get back.

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Have the northern hemisphere given the All Blacks anything to worry about?

Sir Ian McGeechan
They will respect the set-piece play. Breakdown accuracy will, I think, be one of the major factors at the World Cup. Wales’ Achilles could be their front row. Northern hemisphere teams still make too many errors in phase play to build momentum.

Gavin Mairs
Yes, at least after Saturday. Ireland, Wales and England all demonstrated a previously unseen intensity and uninhibited ambition in their attacking play that could challenge the All Blacks’ all-court game.

Daniel Schofield
Not really. Ireland’s methodical methods and England’s expansive approach could each cause New Zealand problems, but there is some way to go for either team to reach the All Blacks’ standards.

Brian Moore
If Ireland, Wales or England play very well, they can beat New Zealand but nothing less.

 

Mick Cleary
Yes, they have. The standard of rugby may have been fitful but the intense experience of the tournament, the passionate backing of each of the countries, will be a factor. And the last-day whizz-bang stylistic heroics will have caught their eye.

Steve James
Obviously, judging by Steve Hansen’s comments about the two matches – France v Wales and Ireland v England – he watched. The line speed of the defences was remarkable. That spooks the All Blacks. The last round will bear little relevance to the World Cup.

Alasdair Reid
Yes. The All Blacks generally suffer a fit of the vapours when they cross the equator in a World Cup year. They will not relish a clash with Ireland or England.

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Team of the tournament

Sir Ian McGeechan
L Halfpenny (Wales); T Bowe (Ireland), J Joseph (Eng), J Roberts (Wales), L Williams (Wales); J Sexton (Ire), C Murray (Ireland); J Marler (Eng), R Best (Ire), D Cole (Eng), AW Jones (Wales) P O’Connell (Ire), T Dusautoir (France) S Warburton (Wales) S Parisse (France).

Gavin Mairs
L Halfpenny (Wales); T Bowe (Ire), J Joseph (Eng), R Henshaw (Ire), L Williams (Wales), G Ford (Eng), C Murray (Ire); J Marler (Eng), R Best (Ire), D Cole (Eng), AW Jones (Wales), P O’Connell (Ire), P O’Mahony (Ire), S Warburton (Wales), B Vunipola (Eng).

Daniel Schofield
S Hogg (Scot); Y Huget (France), J Joseph (Eng), R Henshaw (Ire), J Nowell (Eng); J Sexton (Ire), R Webb (Wales); J McGrath (Ire), G Guirado (France), D Cole (Eng), AW Jones (Wales), P O’Connell (Ire), P O’Mahony (Ire), S Warburton (Wales), T Faletau (Wales).

Brian Moore
L Halfpenny (Wales); L Sarto (Italy), J Joseph (Eng), J Roberts (Wales), J Nowell (Eng); J Sexton (Ire), C Murray (Ire); J Marler (Eng), L Ghiraldini (Italy), N Mas (France), AW Jones (Wales), P O’Connell (Ire), P O’Mahony (Ire), S Warburton (Wales), S Parisse (Italy).

Mick Cleary
L Halfpenny (Wales); G North (Wales), J Joseph (Eng), R Henshaw (Ire), J Nowell (Eng); G Ford (Eng), B Youngs (Eng); J Marler (Eng), G Guirado (France), D Cole (Eng), A W Jones (Wales), P O’Connell (Ire), S O’Brien (Ire), S Warburton (Wales), B Vunipola (Eng).

Steve James
L Halfpenny (Wales); Y Huget (France), J Joseph (Eng), J Roberts (Wales), N Nakaitaci (France); G Ford (Eng), C Murray (Ire); J Marler (Eng), L Ghiraldini (Italy), D Cole (Eng), AW Jones (Wales), P O’Connell (Ire), P O’Mahony (Ireland), B Vunipola (Eng), S Warburton (Wales).

Alasdair Reid
S Spedding (France); G North (Wales), M Bennett (Scot), J Roberts (Wales), J Nowell (Eng); J Sexton (Ire), B Youngs (Eng); J McGrath (Ire), S Baldwin (Wales), D Cole (Eng), P O’Connell (Ire), AW Jones (Wales), T Dusautoir (France), S O’Brien (Ire), B Vunipola (Eng).

 

Source- The Telegraph

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