Rugby legends combine Six Nations stars to pick Perfect Player for 2024

Jared Wright
Sponsored Post
The perfect Six Nations player

What makes the perfect player? We spoke to the experts to find out.

What would the Perfect Six Nations Player look like? Planet Rugby teamed up with Two Cents Rugby, eToro and a host of former players and coaches to answer that question.

In our six-part series, we spoke to ex-England captain Chris Robshaw, former Red Rose number eight Nick Easter, ex-Lions full-back Tim Stimpson, ex-Scotland back Chris Paterson and Stade Francais coach Paul Gustard to piece together the perfect player.

This six-part series is brought to you by eToro, the official investing and trading partner of Premiership Rugby, where we dive into the different attributes players bring to a team and head to the lab to piece together the perfect Six Nations player, getting insight from some of rugby’s top minds.

Having consulted the experts to discuss the key attributes and a player who fulfils each of them, we have now asked Easter, ex-Ireland hooker Bernard Jackman and Wales great Adam Jones to select their perfect players.

But first, we recap the attributes that make up a perfect player and the Six Nations stars that our expert panel selected.

Leadership – Peter O’Mahony

We got ex-England captain Chris Robshaw to speak about leadership, where he explained all the different leaders and captains in a rugby squad. The former back-rower picked out Ireland skipper Peter O’Mahony, who led his country to another Six Nations title in 2024.

“I think he’s got over 100 caps as well. He’s had a pretty impressive resume, of course being very heavily involved with the Munster captaincy and was skipper there for a long time, albeit he has just stepped down,” Robshaw said of the Ireland captain.

“He would have been in that kind of senior leadership group, no doubt with Ireland, so he would have had a huge say in that.

“Also with him he is probably a little bit older and has built a good leadership group around him. He often now plays about 60 minutes because they have such good options and someone else will step into that role and take it forward. That, I think, is a really good leader as you’re not stepping out of the role and letting the squad down, you’ve enhanced everyone else around you to continue those standards and I think that’s what he does really well.”

Defence – Paul Gabrillagues

We sought out the expertise of current Stade Francais defence coach Paul Gustard for what defensive attributes the perfect player has.

Gustard spoke highly of ex-Saracens forward Jacques Burger, who he believed had many of the key characteristics of the best defenders in rugby.

“Emotional desire, the mental capacity to have the fight and the grit resilience and those unseen traits that make a good defender,” the coach explained.

But from the 2024 Six Nations crop of players, Gustard highlighted one of his club players, France lock Paul Gabrillagues.

“The reason I picked Paul is not only because I coach him but he is actually in the top four in the Top 14 for dominant tackles, he is in the top six for total tackles – bearing in mind that he has played three games less than the guys above him,” he explained.

“He is also in the top four for lineout steals, so defensively, lineout pressure, and his actual work rate is second to none. He and Courtney Lawes are probably the two best second-rows I have ever coached, and I have coached Maro Itoje, Steve Borthwick and George Kruis, to name just three.”

Kick – Tommaso Allan

As for the kicking, we spoke to Leicester Tigers legend and one-cap British and Irish Lion Tim Stimpson.

Stimpson explained that kickers are a “maligned bunch” and always need to keep their emotions in check.

“I call it ‘cold inevitability’. One of the biggest problems a goal-kicker can do is think about the consequences before they’ve kicked it,” he explained.

Stimpson spoke highly of former Argentina and Italian fly-half Diego Dominguez but says that the player he has picked as his perfect kicker from the 2024 Six Nations is the man who has overtaken Dominguez’s record for the Azzurri.

“You’ve got to go with Tommy. Until last week, he hadn’t missed in something like 28 kicks. He’s gone past Diego Dominguez just now as a lad that has scored the most points for Italy, which is a great feat,” he praised.

He added on Allan’s technique: “There’s not much going wrong, is there? For all the chat that goes on in my head, it comes down to, are you delivering under pressure? He gets himself in a great position, you see his finish is right the way through the ball. He’s like me, he doesn’t use a massive tee, which is probably why I picked him out. He still uses quite a low tee and he leans the ball slightly open, so you can see the piece of stitching.”

Power – Bundee Aki

Rugby is a collision sport, which means that power in contact is a bare minimum for players. However, some players are physical beasts on the pitch, and we got insight from ex-England back-rower Nick Easter about who the most powerful player in the 2024 Six Nations is.

“To put it in the simplest possible terms, the tryline is in front of you, you need to pass the ball backwards, so you’ve got to go forward and there’s 15 guys on the field trying to stop you, so you need to go forward,” Easter explained.

“You need to have the ability to take two or three defenders with you when you’re carrying the ball to create a quick attack and obviously lessens the numbers in defence. From a defensive point of view, you need to make sure you knock players back to give your team time to reset your defensive line.”

Easter highlighted England’s Ben Earl as a notable mention, but for him, there is one standout.

“I’ve gone with the guy that is the cornerstone of Irish Rugby, Bundee Aki,” he said.

“I think he is playing his best rugby, in the twilight of his career and is still in peak form. He has been sensational, even in the loss to England. He’s so consistent in what he delivers.”

But what makes him such a good player?

“His foot speed is amazing in contact, he has got a great body height – he doesn’t run upright – which helps him stay on his feet and fall over and his change of direction,” Easter added.

Speed – Blair Kinghorn

Finally, what would a perfect player be without some pace!? We got insight from one of Scotland’s all-time greats, Chris Paterson, who was quick to praise Toulouse star Blair Kinghorn.

“A former Edinburgh player, plays in Toulouse and he is tall – six foot three/six foot four – with a long stride, and seriously quick with ball in hand. It’s just brilliant to see now with such a lack of space in the game, when there is half a gap, it seems to be a big gap for him because he accelerates through, gets away from that initial first-line defence and he gets those big long legs opened up,” Paterson praised.

He added: “With Blair’s pace to support and get on the end of these offloads, it’s pretty special to watch, I must admit.”

Picking the perfect player

To round off the Perfect Player series, we tasked Easter, Bernard Jackman and Adam Jones to select their perfect player, a star who ticked all the above boxes.

Ex-Ireland hooker Jackman highlighted one of his fellow countrymen and a superstar of the 2024 Six Nations.

“Dan Sheehan might not be a kicker but he is incredibly quick for a hooker, his set piece is good, a leader in terms of what he does, very explosive, good skill set, try scorer,” Jackman marvelled.

“I’ve seen him kick but at schools and he hasn’t done it at international level yet, but for me he’s probably nearly the perfect player.”

As for Wales great Jones, he joked that we would pick his ex-Harlequins teammate Nick Easter but explained that “having spent a few seasons with him, he is a shocking kicker.”

“But I’m going to go with Justin Tipuric,” Jones said.

“He is quick, strong, a good leader of the Ospreys and Wales. I’ve seen him score a worldie from a kick-off when he caught the ball, ran and kicked over the full-back to score under the posts. He probably encompasses all those attributes.”

As for Easter, he looked a bit further back and selected one of his former teammates, Lawrence Dallaglio.

“I don’t need to say much in regards to his leadership. Ben Earl’s try against Wales brought back memories of Lawrence’s in 2000 that showed plenty of power and plenty of pace,” he said.

“Defensively, he always managed to find himself on the wrong side of the ruck and never get penalised or tactical yellow cards when whenever the moment arose for Wasps or England.

“Kicking wise? He wasn’t a great kicker, but he does have a drop goal in Premiership Rugby to his name. He actually hit it to win the game, I remember that, so he does have kicking in his arsenal, although it wasn’t used that much.”

READ MORE: Six Nations Team of the Tournament: Ireland and Italy lead the way as one country misses out