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Gerry Thornley’s Six Nations 2024 Team of the Tournament

Irish players dominate the best team after winning the championship

Fullback: Hugo Keenan (Ireland). Only played three times and eclipsed by George Furbank at Twickenham, but three key defensive plays in Marseille, lit up the win over Italy and didn’t put a foot wrong when shifting to the wing for 40 minutes against England.

Rightwing: Damian Penaud (France). Only the one try on opening night but was France’s most consistent threat and finished with the most line breaks and offloads (11 apiece) in the tournament and joint most try assists (three).

Outside-centre: Robbie Henshaw (Ireland). Huw Jones and Gael Fickou also performed strongly but Henshaw’s all-round talents (carries, offloads and tackles) edge out the brilliant Juan Ignacio Brex due to his tournament high of 17 missed tackles.

Inside centre: Bundee Aki (Ireland). Carried on his World Cup form seamlessly, remaining a go-to reference point (50 carries) for Ireland’s attacking game throughout with his footwork, explosiveness and carrying beyond the gain line. Edges out Tommaso Menoncello and Ollie Lawrence.

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Leftwing: James Lowe (Ireland). Although Duan van der Merwe was joint highest try scorer with five, Lowe (who had four) again showed why he is probably the leading all-round winger in European rugby with his huge carries, offloads and monster boot.

Outhalf: Jack Crowley (Ireland). In the post-Sexton era, Crowley played every minute. Shone under the Velodrome lights, took his first try against Italy nicely and even in Twickenham had two lovely involvements. Carried and tackled well too. Paolo Garbisi and George Ford also good.

Scrumhalf: Jamison Gibson-Park (Ireland). A strong position with Alex Mitchell, Tomos Williams and the brilliant 21-year-old Nolann le Garrec who ignited France when finally given the ‘9′ jersey for their last two games. But Gibson-Park was the heartbeat again of the champions.

Loosehead: Andrew Porter (Ireland). The Irish loosehead put in five huge shifts as he did at the World Cup, hit 117 attacking rucks (sixth highest), won penalties, made tackles and scored the title-clinching try. Danilo Fischetti (297 minutes) had another fine tournament.

Hooker: Dan Sheehan (Ireland). Granted, his haul of five tries (joint first) is also a tribute to the Irish maul and didn’t quite hit his customary heights in last two rounds. His darts and his carrying (six line breaks) remain world-class.

Tighthead: Tadhg Furlong (Ireland). France would be goosed without Uini Atonio, but his scrummaging oomph is overtaken by Furlong’s better stamina and all-round game, and he kept his best till last. Dan Cole rolled back the years at 36.

Lock: Maro Itoje (England). Backed up a strong World Cup with his best Six Nations in a few years. Played every minute, hit 117 attacking rucks, was a constant thorn in opposition lineouts, mauls and rucks. Loads of strong secondrow candidates.

Lock: Tadhg Beirne (Ireland). Perhaps his influence waned a little in last two games but was outstanding against France and Wales, won some vital turnovers close to the Irish line, made three lineout steals and scored two tries.

Blindside flanker: Francois Cros (France). The underrated Toulouse blindside was an ever-present model of consistency for Les Bleus, making 58 tackles, but he also added some real attacking edge to his game. He kept his best until last with a tour de force against England in Lyon when dominating collisions.

Openside: Michele Lamaro (Italy). Shades Tommy Turnover Reffell by dint of his inspirational form in leading the Azzurri to two wins and a draw. Played every minute, led the Championship’s tackle count with 103 and also made 35 carries.

Number eight: Ben Earl (England). Caelan Doris had huge numbers but Earl carried on his wonderful World Cup form to rival Aki for player of the tournament. Made the most carries (73) in the tournament for 261 metres, as well as 63 tackles, and two tries, including one in his man of the match performance against Ireland.

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