Six Nations Team of the Week: France excel once again following free-flowing victory over Wales
Following the final round of the Six Nations Championship, we delved into the three matches and selected our best XV from those games.
France – and particularly their backline – produced the standout performance, so it is no surprise to see them lead the way, but there were also some good individual displays from the other two encounters.
Six Nations Team of the Week
15 Thomas Ramos (France): Was not first choice in last year’s Six Nations but has very much taken advantage of Melvyn Jaminet’s injury to cement himself in the XV. Ramos’ place-kicking is invaluable, while he also adds a counter-attacking threat and helps Romain Ntamack and Antoine Dupont in the playmaking duties. All those qualities were on display against Wales on Saturday as he finished two try assists, five conversions, two penalties and 91 metres made.
14 Damian Penaud (France): A tough decision with Mack Hansen and Anthony Watson both impressing in the Ireland v England encounter, but the French wing ended an impressive Championship with two tries in Paris. Penaud has been outstanding over the past month-and-a-half and continued his fine scoring form against Wales. He has become one of the best wings in the world.
13 Gael Fickou (France): No real standouts as such, but there were a few contenders in the form of Juan Ignacio Brex (Italy), Robbie Henshaw (Ireland) and George North (Wales), but we’ve gone for another Frenchman in the shape of Fickou. He has had another superb campaign and showed his class in their victory at the weekend, scoring a try, breaking three tackles and making 47 metres in total.
12 Manu Tuilagi (England): It was a weekend for the powerhouses as France’s Jonathan Danty and Bundee Aki of Ireland also had good games, but the Englishman went some way to answering his critics. Following a series of injuries and his mediocre form at club side Sale Sharks, some have questioned Tuilagi’s international future but, in his first and only game of the 2023 Six Nations, he was excellent for England in Dublin. The 31-year-old was sharp and confident, making good decisions in both attack and defence.
11 Duhan van der Merwe (Scotland): The gargantuan wing has been a significant threat all tournament and created a pretty lengthy highlights reel over the past couple of months. It started with that stunning individual try against England and ended with him finishing superbly in the corner against Italy. He also assisted Blair Kinghorn’s third score on Saturday by showing his pace and strength to speed down the left, draw in the Italian cover defence and send the Scottish playmaker across the whitewash.
10 Romain Ntamack (France): There were some magical touches from the fly-half in their opening three matches, but the game control was lacking. However, against England, Ntamack was outstanding, and he followed that up with another superb display, this time against Wales. His scything run created Penaud’s first try while he assisted Fickou’s score with a well-timed pass, taking his place in the team from Ireland’s Johnny Sexton and Scotland’s Blair Kinghorn.
France at their best! 🤩#GuinnessSixNations #FRAvWALpic.twitter.com/dU60BkLGYV
— Planet Rugby (@PlanetRugby) March 18, 2023
9 Antoine Dupont (France): The best player in the world completed another set of magical performances by dominating Wales on Saturday. There are few players who can read the game like Dupont, and the scrum-half once again made a series of correct decisions as Les Bleus racked up the points. The scary thing is that he seems to be getting better and better, which is ominous for the rest of the world as the global tournament approaches.
8 Jack Dempsey (Scotland): Man-of-the-match in a box-office performance where he made 23 tackles without missing and gained 80 metres from 13 carries. He did enough to deny Wales’ new Test centurion Taulupe Faletau and Grand Slam winner Caelan Doris a spot in the side.
7 Jack Willis (England): He may have been yellow-carded in the latter stages of the match, but until that point, Willis was stupendous. Ireland’s attack was far less fluid and accurate than it had been all tournament, mainly due to the openside’s work at the breakdown. France’s Francois Cros, Italy’s Michele Lamaro and Ireland’s Josh van der Flier were the next best.
6 Charles Ollivon (France): Scotland’s Jamie Ritchie and Wales’ Aaron Wainwright pressed the imperious Les Bleus flanker for a place in the side, but the former captain was just too good to ignore. A fantastic return to the tournament after missing last year’s Grand Slam, Ollivon hammered into Welsh attackers and defenders in another stunning 75-minute shift.
5 Federico Ruzza (Italy): A harsh call on James Ryan, who was excellent once again for Ireland, but Ruzza deserves a spot in our team this week. He has been the busiest lineout jumper throughout the Six Nations while his work rate was crucial to the Azzurri as they came close to defeating Scotland.
4 Ryan Baird (Ireland): Two injuries in the second row gave Baird his opportunity to shine in the biggest game of his career, and he took it with both hands. He was explosive on both sides of the ball and a real weapon at lineout time. He did enough to beat France’s fantastic Thibaud Flament for a place in our team.
— Murray Kinsella (@Murray_Kinsella) March 18, 2023
3 Zander Fagerson (Scotland): A massive 70-minute shift from the Scottish tighthead, which included 11 tackles, nine carries and 36 metres in between all his breakdown graft. He held up his side of the scrum against the potent Danilo Fischetti and edges the likes of Kyle Sinckler (England) and Uini Atonio (France).
2 Dan Sheehan (Ireland): Only one real option here as Sheehan muscled his way over the line against England on two occasions scoring at crucial moments before half and full-time. Freakishly powerful with ball in hand, he racked up over 80 metres from his 11 carries. His teammate Rob Herring was superb in his late cameo, while Julien Marchand and Giacomo Nicotera were superb for France and Italy respectively.
1 Cyril Baille (France): He may have looked like a shadow of his 2022 self this year, but Baille saved his best performance for last as he got the upper hand at scrum time and flourished with the ball in hand – over 30 metres from six carries.
READ MORE: Six Nations Team of the Tournament