15 NICOLAS BRUSQUE (FRANCE)
15 NICOLAS BRUSQUE (FRANCE)
Classically orthodox - an elegant full-back who knows the value of precise positioning, split-second timing and weight of pass. Rugby's tactical deconstructionists could learn a thing or two from him.
14 JASON ROBINSON (ENGLAND)
The anti-Brusque, almost by definition, which is why this team has its most destructive runner on the wing, where he belongs. The Frenchman creates, Robinson finishes: a marriage made in heaven.
13 GORDON D'ARCY (IRELAND)
Not only did he force Brian O'Driscoll, the patron saint of Lansdowne Road, into a new position, but he out-performed his captain on a match-by-match basis. The find of the championship.
12 DAMIEN TRAILLE (FRANCE)
During the World Cup, the French coaches ridiculed him as a mummy's boy who could not hack it in the international jungle. Somewhere along the line, little Damien grew up. Some player.
11 SHANE WILLIAMS (WALES)
Small is beautiful, especially when it moves like greased lightning and switches direction more easily than New Labour in election year. Rugby is better when not dominated by behemoths.
10 STEPHEN JONES (WALES)
If outside-half play is about individual pyrotechnics, forget Jones. If it is about pragmatic decision-making, calmness under pressure and the occasional killer pass, he is definitely your man.
9 GARETH COOPER (WALES)
Another little squirt, smaller even than Williams. But who needs size when existing qualities include scalding pace, a sharp eye for the gap and the capacity to irritate for Britain?
1 SYLVAIN MARCONNET (FRANCE)
A serious nasty streak would turn him into a world-beater. As it is, the Stade Français prop's technical expertise, mobility and footballing instinct make him merely brilliant.
2 WILLIAM SERVAT (FRANCE)
Where on earth were the French hiding this character? New to the Six Nations, the hooker from Toulouse brought fresh dynamism to a Tricolores front row already rated the best in the world.
3 MARTIN CASTROGIOVANNI (ITALY)
It is scandalous to omit Pieter de Villiers of France, but when an Italian pack performs this well with so little encouragement from their backs, the tight-head prop deserves some recognition.
4 DANNY GREWCOCK (ENGLAND)
His influence must be measured against the paucity of England's efforts in his absence. Brutally effective against both Scotland and Wales, the quiet man can now whisper his own price. Towering.
5 PAUL O'CONNELL (IRELAND)
Had Limerick's finest met Grewcock in the England-Ireland match, we would have seen the two form locks in the game contesting the same territory. World peace might have been set back years.
6 SERGE BETSEN (FRANCE)
When a workaholic flanker becomes the darling of a Parisian crowd that responds most readily to high-flown genius, he must be doing something right. World-class to the tips of his fingers.
7 SIMON EASTERBY (IRELAND)
A flanker in the Betsen mould, with added line-out potential. If the two played together in an international back row, no opposing ball-carrier would dare go near them. Phenomenal energy.
8 IMANOL HARINORDOQUY (FRANCE)
The English loathe him; he loathes them back with attitude. The Basque's swaggeringly superior performance against the world champions on Saturday night was his finest yet.
COACH - STEVE HANSEN (WALES)
Fourth may be a so-so finish, but the rugby delivered by the Red Dragonhood was anything but humdrum. Hansen, a Kiwi, has Welshified Wales and restored their sense of their own virtue.Reuse content