Planet Rugby

The 2014 Six Nations Awards

18th March 2014 09:08


six nations planet rugby awards 2014

Top prizes: BOD, Brown and Schmidt

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-André

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 to that madness but why Doussain started in Cardiff is harder to understand given the positive impact Maxime Machenaud made off the bench against both England and Italy and Morgan Parra's availability.

Worst still, on the weekend before the Wales debacle, Doussain had a shocker for Toulouse, missing four penalties before returning to the national team with tired legs having played 80 minutes in the rain against Biarritz. Robbed of all confidence, he only played 14 minutes against Ireland, enough time to squander three potentially match-winning points and miss touch with vital late penalty.

Worst Team: Italy

The wait goes on for the Azzurri to convince. The change in ethos is welcome and there is talent coming through in the backs - think Michele Campagnaro, Leonardo Sarto, Tommaso Allan - but these players will need time. Allan's goal-kicking, at 54 percent, has to improve. The ageing pack is not the dominant force of old, despite Leonardo Ghiraldini's best efforts, while their best forward was in fact one of their youngest in the 24-year-old Australian born lock Joshua Furno. No wins from five, a points difference of -109 and 21 tries conceded, compared to Ireland's four, make for dire reading.

Ironman Award: Dan Lydiate

66 tackles out of 66 for the Welsh blindside. Forget how Wales did for a moment and that is an astonishing feat, at an average of 13.2 per game. Penalty-prone he may have been in Dublin, but Lydiate knows how to tackle.

Most Metres: Mike Brown - 543

A second gong for our Player of the Tournament. Brown made 543 metres across the five matches in this year's Six Nations, with 156 coming against Wales.Top Try Scorer: Mike Brown and Jonathan Sexton - 4

Split between Brown and Ireland's number ten, Sexton impressively scored his four tries in the last two matches against Italy and France. The latter two were of seismic importance, making up for a couple of missed kicks.

Golden Boot: Jonathan Sexton - 66

Edging out England's Owen Farrell by two, Sexton also takes away the Golden Boot for the most points scored in this year's tournament. Leigh Halfpenny finished on 51, so we can assume that had he played in Wales' hammering of Scotland that he might have taken this prize home instead had it not been for a dislocated shoulder.

The Diplomacy Award: Kelly Brown

It's impossible not to feel sorry for Kelly Brown. Played away from his most effective position on the blindside flank during Scott Johnson's reign, the skipper was bafflingly jettisoned from the matchday squad altogether for the Round Two loss to England. Ignoring his style of play, form and the fact that, as one of a handful of the Scottish squad playing regular Premiership rugby, that game would have been ideally suited to Brown, dropping the captain ahead of the biggest game of a big tournament just didn't make sense.

Reinstated two rounds later, still on the openside flank, Brown gave his all but was concussed early on in the final match, meaning he was forced to sit through his side's 51-3 drubbing from the Cardiff touchline. The back-row also wears possibly the saddest post-match facial expression in world rugby, as many of our recent Scottish features will attest to. You wouldn't blame many Scots for feeling the same way this week.

Best Villain: Stuart Hogg

Rugby prides itself on respect and fair play, and so it was very disappointing to see Louis Picamoles offer Alain Rolland a sarcastic round of applause after the referee had sin-binned him during France's loss to Wales. More encouraging was the way his coach, Philippe Saint-André, dealt with the matter - there aren't many sports where a manager would see fit to drop arguably his best player for a display of petulance towards a referee. Most football games would be three-a-side, for starters.

Stuart Hogg's out of character but nonetheless unsavoury late shoulder on Dan Biggar last weekend was also a low point, not least because it cost Scotland dearly on the scoreboard.

Best Crowds: Twickenham (England v Ireland), Aviva Stadium (Ireland v Italy)

The tremendous din at Twickenham as Ireland came to town was noted as exceptional by players and coaches as well as those who were in the stands, and it was matched in amplitude and intensity only by the touching send-off the Aviva Stadium faithful gave Brian O'Driscoll in the penultimate round.

The Planet Rugby Legend Award: Brian O'Driscoll

133 games, 46 tries and a couple of Six Nations titles is some feat from the living Irish legend. Add in eight appearance in a Lions jersey - his standout performance coming in 2001 - and O'Driscoll says goodbye to international rugby with the respect of those on and off the field. What is predictably brilliant is that he said farewell with back-to-back man of the match awards and a Six Nations Championship to his name which, at the age of 35, is staggering. Now the attention switches to Leinster and a PRO12 and Heineken Cup charge. You wouldn't bet against it.

Compiled by Ben Coles, Adam Kyriacou, Jamie Lyall and Ross Hastie

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Friday , February 6
Wales vs England20:05
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Italy vs Ireland14:30
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Saturday , February 28
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