Updated: Dec 18, 2020
Oh boy did we moan and groan during this competition, but like all good things, you only miss them when they're gone; no international Rugby this weekend sure does bring a tear to your eye! It looks as though we won't have another ANC next year, or perhaps, ever again, so it's incredibly important for us to milk this tournament for all it's worth! We know there has been a lot of discourse throughout the competition between fans, players and coaches alike, but let's reflect on the highlights, the positives, the best players and best moments! Let's dive into our 'Team of the Tournament'!
15. Brice Dulin (France)
Regardless of the lack of competition in this position, Dulin has still been one of the standout performers this ANC. With Hogg, Daly, Stockdale and Halfpenny all looking pretty inconsistent and indecisive in the back-field, it was fairly easy for Dulin to stick out like a sore thumb. Calm, composed and collected, he went about his job routinely yet effectively. Dynamic and reliable in the air, a hot step to beat the first man and an awesome territorial/tactical kicking game, he really gave England a fright by pinning them back and dominating the tennis. He also picked France up in the match against Italy, causing problems in attack and not putting a foot wrong in Defence; one of the most consistent players this tournament.
14. Gabin Villiere (France)
Again, another position that really lacked competition due a pretty poor showing by most wingers from game to game. However, let's not underestimate Villiere's impact with ball in hand. With one of the tries of the tournament against Italy, Villiere showed a clean pair of heels, an eye for a gap and explosive acceleration when France needed something special. Like Dulin, he also rarely put a foot wrong, kicking well when he needed to, fielding effectively in defence and putting in tackles to shut down potential opportunities on the outside.
13. Giorgi Kveseladze (Georgia)
No-one managed to string together a consistent run of form in this ANC at outside centre. Henshaw had a great game against Scotland, North looked far better against Italy, Slade looked uncomfortable and clumsy most of the tournament and Chris Harris didn't do enough throughout the full 80 minutes to warrant a place in this side. Giorgi on the other hand, consistently performed to a really high standard in this brave Georgian outfit. Scoring another 'Try of the Tournament' nominee, he cut Ireland to shreds in fantastic solo effort. He tackled well, made all the right decisions and looked composed in a pretty flaky backline. One to watch moving forward!
12. Carlo Canna (Italy)
Sure I'll say it! I have a bit of a soft spot for Carlo Canna and I think he's one of the most underrated players in Italian Rugby history... Big statement eh? Canna carries hard and strong for an ex-standoff, tackles well, makes deft kicks into space look easy and is largely the main contributor to Garbisi's rising success. Even when it goes horribly wrong for Garbisi, as it did against France, Canna is usually the fill-in guy who mops up missed opportunities and poor handling errors. A consistent top performer for a side that has been largely toothless in their backline for three/four years now.
11. Jonny May (England)
Work ethic can go a long way to improving our outlook on certain players. Jonny May carried England's backline on his shoulders throughout the tough Ireland clash and always looked focused and determined against his opposite number. He ran hard, tackled consistently and looked dangerous with ball in hand the majority of the time. Sure there were wasted chances and he does have a tendency to stick it out on the wing rather than looking to create opportunities, but he worked hard to cover ground that Daly and Youngs weren't dropping into at Full Back.
10. Matthieu Jalibert (France)
The MOTM in the final for us, Jalibert exploited weaknesses in that English backline that we hadn't seen since the last time France met them in the Six Nations. Other than a silly dropped ball in Defence, Jalibert orchestrated an inexperienced backline and got them hungry for the collision. His kicking game was really the standout for us though, pinning England back at will, wrongfooting the back three by identifying glaring gaps and driving his team up the pitch. He took the ball to line well, creating the gap that saw Dulin race in to score. All the hype has been on Ntamack's shoulders heading into this ANC, now he will have to fight to keep that starting 10 slot.
9. Ali Price (Scotland)
People are going to hate this shout and we understand, but Ali Price was one of the few Scrum Half's this tournament who wasn't actively 'bad' game on game. Dupont had one special performance, Murray had a decent performance in the final match against Scotland, even Davies turned it around against Italy, but you have to look at the tournaments wider picture. Davies was awful in that first match against Ireland, in fact, he was the source of what was going horribly wrong for that backline. Youngs nearly cost England another final with terribly sloppy, lethargic delivery and a severe lack of dynamism throughout. Gibson-Park did okay against Wales but looked woefully out of depth on the backfoot against England. To be honest, Price is the only consistently-playing Scrum Half this tournament who didn't really have a have a howler... I was half tempted to leave this Scrum Half slot blank!
8. Billy Vunipola (England)
Let's get this straight, I do not think Billy Vunipola is the best number 8 in the country at the moment, in fact, I think he's dropped out of the Top 3 pecking order. However, he is the perfect number 8 for Eddie Jones' game plan and he executes his job like a professional, week in, week out. One of the top tacklers of the competition, Billy is a great defensive option for any team on front foot ball. He put in some huge hits against the Irish and French lads, and for all the talk of how Faletau looked against Italy, he was largely anonymous against England. If you pick big Billy at 8, you will get someone who will put in a huge shift but not necessarily set the world ablaze. With all the criticism that has been pushed his way throughout the competition, he deserves this spot as much as anyone.
7. Sam Underhill (England)
Well I guess you can see how this back-row is shaping up... Underhill is an absolute force, a wrecking ball, a bruiser and a gut buster. It doesn't matter the size of the player, he will knock you backwards. His dominant collision numbers are record-shattering, his work rate around the pitch is always top notch, he's surprisingly effective with ball in hand and he even added some jackaling to his tool-set. With Jack Willis and Ben Earls waiting for their opportunity, you have to feel like Underhill is unfortunately un-droppable in this form. He put in the performance of the competition against an abrasive Irish side, and didn't look to slow down for one moment.
6. Tom Curry (England)
Most fans player of the tournament, Curry is the toughest 22 year old on the planet. As a 23 year old, ex youth academy prospect myself, he is TERRIFYING! He hits so hard, carries with such aggressiveness and tenacity, jackals so consistently and disrupts so majestically; he's an absolute prodigy. If he can stay fit (which with an approach like his, is unlikely), he could go on to become a record appearance maker for England without a doubt. He's also un-droppable and would slide into any national side and be the first name on the team sheet. For someone so young to be in the 'World Player of the Year' debate is remarkable in itself, but to be this dominant in such a savvy and gritty position is genuinely unheard of. I cannot praise him enough and would be repeating the same as other pundits up and down the country; he is the rightful 'Player of the Tournament'.
5. Joe Launchbury (England)
As much as I love James Ryan and think that he will eventually bloom into the best Ireland Rugby captain they've had since O'Driscoll and O'Connell, Launchbury just had that edge throughout the tournament that we didn't see consistently enough from Ryan. Launchbury isn't a fancy, break down doors, smash and grab lock, he's just an awesome all-rounder. His match intelligence goes far and beyond those typically within his position. When you talk about second rows you think of lineout expertise, big hits and mauling generals, Launchbury does all that but possesses traits you don't get in many big men. His positional awareness allows him to snot scrum-half's and wingers when they least expect it, his handling allows him to offload consistently without error, his speed off the deck allows him to make repeat hits like an openside flanker, his centre of gravity and balance allows him pull players over the white wash (as he did with Willis and Vunipola); he's an exceptionally underrated player.
4. Maro Itoje (England)
I feel like we have already gotten too used to Maro Itoje putting in MOTM performances every week? Despite completely outclassing Ryan, Alun Wyn Jones, Rowlands, Roux and Henderson, a couple of which are genuine world class stars, it feels like we overlook him in favour of giving accolades to players who have put in a one off blinder. There is no question that Itoje deserved MOTM against Wales and Ireland this ANC, but still the awards went to other people. What can I say that hasn't already been said about this man? He'd make any team in the world, would already be captaining most sides in the world and is already one of the best, if not the best, lock in English Rugby history.
3. Andrew Porter (Ireland)
He might have had a quiet game against England, but Porter has really put his hands up for contention for the Lions tour next season; something none of us were necessarily expecting going into this competition. He destroyed the Welsh scrum and carried like a bull every chance he got. He looked effective in small periods against England and Georgia with ball in hand and put some hard hits in when it counted. Reliable, effective and real prospect for this Irish side.
2. Jamie George (England)
Ooh yeah baby welcome to George-town! Jamie George was one of my favourite players to watch throughout the competition. Whether it was because of his record-shattering, hat-trick scoring performance against Georgia, his fantastic defensive display against Ireland or his world class, all-round battering of the Welsh forwards in Llanelli, George is an absolute delight. He's just such a talented sportsman and the epitome of work-hard, get results; as much as I wanted to see LCD and Dunn get a run out, George will be England's hooker for as long as his body lasts. Also he seemed like the only hooker who could throw the ball in straight at the lineout, so that made this decision pretty easy from the get-go!
1. Mako Vunipola (England)
Pretty routine decision this one, despite Mako missing out on the final. He's like having a fourth back-row option on the pitch, tackling, jackaling, stealing and carrying at will; I'm sure he would get into most back rows in World Rugby too! Put in some game changing moments throughout the competition including a try against Wales and some thundering hits against the likes of Cian Healey and Quin Roux. An absolute titan in the English front row, Vunipola rarely puts in a bad game for the men in white and is surely in consideration for a starting spot in the Lions squad.
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