The dust is settling on the Six Nations, so we have compiled over 20 awards celebrating the best, and worst, of this year's tournament.
The dust is settling on the Six Nations, so we have compiled over 20 awards celebrating the best, and worst, of this year's tournament. Welcome!
The Planet Rugby 2014 Six Nations Awards
Player of the Tournament: Mike Brown
Yet to be officially crowned, but with three Man of the Match awards from five matches anything else would be a travesty. Brown is now 28 and with the Rugby World Cup next year is peaking at exactly at the right time, earning the praise of Israel Dagg last week for good measure. Brown will face-off with Dagg in New Zealand this year but his achievements in February and March shouldn't be forgotten.
Brown finished top of the try scoring charts, made the most metres (543), the second most carries with 64, the most clean breaks (10) and beat the most defenders (25). It would be criminal for him not to win this award alone for his sublime assist for Danny Care's try against Ireland.
Team of the Tournament: Ireland
The influence of Joe Schmidt on Ireland's rugby has been marked. Prone to flakiness and inconsistency under Declan Kidney, Schmidt's Ireland are disciplined, well-drilled and play with an overwhelming tempo.
The green jerseys swarm around the contact area like packs of rabid dogs, and it is this physical, high-octane yet controlled style that has proved so successful, not least because few Northern Hemisphere sides are able to match it blow for blow. In truth, Ireland under Schmidt are mixing their traditional brand of rugby with the hallmarks of Southern Hemisphere play instilled by the Kiwi so successfully at Leinster.
Coach of the Tournament: Joe Schmidt
He may have come under scrutiny from Denis Leamy about his Leinster-heavy selection but the fact is, Joe Schmidt has led Ireland to the Six Nations title. He persuaded Brian O'Driscoll to do it one last time – a wise move for both parties in the end – and also got number ten Jonathan Sexton back firing after a disappointing spell at Racing Metro. Stuart Lancaster came close for this gong as a new England shone.
Best Newcomer: Luther Burrell
Three tries in his first five Tests, Burrell maybe summed up how well he's taken to Test rugby with his assist for Brown's first try against Italy. Running onto Owen Farrell's pass he sucked in four defenders and unleashed Brown into enough space down the wing. It's the epitome of what Burrell has brought to England's backline, a direct runner with soft hands who is capable of breaking the line – something he did six times – and can make and score tries. A late bloomer at 26, Manu Tuilagi has his work cut out to win back the 13 shirt.
Best Performance: Ireland v Wales
With both sides coming into this Round Two game on the back of respective wins, victory in Dublin was always going to give Ireland or Wales title hope. Ireland got it as they went two from two thanks to a clinical 26-3 performance that saw their pack shine. It took until the 56th minute before the 2013 champions troubled the scorers, which was a reflection of Ireland's dominance on the day.
Best Match: France v England
Games that stood out were England versus Wales and Ireland at Twickenham, France versus Ireland and France versus England, with the latter-mentioned week one clash getting the nod from us. It had it all as an early try for wing Yoann Huget – one of two on the night – was followed by a spell of English dominance that saw them go 16-21 ahead with thirteen minutes remaining. However, Gael Fickou's late converted try saw France prevail.
Best Try: Danny Care v Ireland
The contenders were, as follows:
But we settled on Care's crucial try against Ireland, which you can see watch below:
Underrated Award: Chris Henry
Mentions for England centre Billy Twelvetrees, flanker Tom Wood and Ireland second-row Devin Toner, who all played very well throughout the campaign. But what Ireland openside flank Chris Henry offered in terms of solidity and sheer desire for the eventual champions cannot be understated. Often at the back of an impressive driving maul, Henry was non-stop around the field, giving everything to the cause.
Most Improved: Danny Care
So many names to take into account here as the England lock duo of Joe Launchbury and Courtney Lawes came of age whilst the aforementioned Toner went well for Ireland. Alex Dunbar played well in patches for Scotland while Andrew Trimble was excellent on the wing. However, Danny Care was a major reason why England pushed hard for the Championship as confidence shown in him paid off. A real livewire.
Worst Player: Jean-Marc Doussain
The French scrum-half had a nightmare from Round One, starting with a poor display against England in Round One and finishing the tournament on a low by costing his team victory over Ireland by missing a relatively easy late penalty. He was so bad against Wales that he was replaced at half-time.
Slow service, inconsistent goal kicking (62 percent is not good enough at this level) and some shocking errors – most notably crashing into Brice Dulin to gift George North a try in Cardiff – made the Toulouse half-back a liability for les Bleus.
Worst Coach: Scott Johnson
Ok, ok, let's remember, please, that Scott Johnson has a plan. This is a journey. A transitional phase for Scotland. They're moving towards something, and supposedly making real progress despite almost every shred of evidence pointing to the contrary.
Apparently that something is the coveted title of World Champions in less than eighteen months' time; that will be interesting. Johnson's stated aims – player development, increasing squad depth and competition for places – are laudable, but his methods have been atrocious. The treatment of Brown aside, his rotations and selections have seemed whimsical and incongruous; his tactics bereft of nous and smacking of a man who knows his position is assured as he steps up yet higher in the Murrayfield corridors of power. The mischievous Australian is now in charge of the entirety of the Scottish game – hardly a comforting thought if you hail from north of Hadrian's Wall.
Worst Selection: Philippe Saint-AndrÃ©
This award follows on from the one above as PSA seemed determined to dig his heels in. Dropping Louis Picamoles was bold before recalling him on the flank raised eyebrows all over France. There seemed to be some method