Player of the Championship shortlist should be praised not mocked

RBS 6 Nations 2012 Player of the Championship Shortlist:

Sergio Parisse, David Denton, Ross Rennie, Sam Warburton, Dan Lydiate, Alex Cuthbert, Julien Malzieu, Rory Best, Donnacha Ryan, Imanol Harinordoquy, Yoann Maestri, Johnny Sexton

Looking back to the results of the 2011 Player of the Championship awards, Andrea Masi appeared to sneak up on the results like a thief in the night to claim the prize. Perhaps that analysis is not entirely just, after all, it was Masi who scored the all important try in Italy’s first win against France. Yet given Italy’s otherwise lowly performances, the fact that the award did not go to a member of England’s championship side was a surprise.

This is mainly down to the fact that once the names are announced, whoever the chosen winner might be is out of both RBS and the 6 Nations governing body’s hands. The 12 names selected are those who picked up Man of the Match awards through the first four rounds of the tournament. Given that these tend to go to the home side, regardless of whether they have been successful or not, this creates the following list of names above.

The net result therefore is that fans and pundits automatically scoff when the shortlist is revealed, despite the fact that probably in 75% of the cases the nominees have done enough to make the cut. However, given that the players selected are picked to contest an award to decide the best player of the championship, means the systems falls into disrepute.

Going through the 2012 shortlist, two names in particular are contestable. Julien Malzieu has been resplendent for Clermont throughout the Heineken Cup and Top 14, yet under the centralised Saint-André playbook, both he and Vincent Clerc have failed to shine, both chastised as a result. One splendid try against Italy aside, he has been completely underwhelming.

The other is Donnacha Ryan. Admittedly, against Scotland last weekend Ryan was excellent, but this was his first start in the Six Nations. In the three substitute performances beforehand, he had done enough to perhaps warrant a start, but not to be tipped to pick up the award for the tournament’s best player.

Narrowing a shortlist down to 12 players is by no means an easy process, but rather than opting for what is essentially an easy way out by referring back to each game and simply picking the Man of the Match, the process should be taken more seriously.

Appoint 12 former captains, two from each country, to select their Player of the Championship, but prevent them from voting for players from their own country. Sort through the inevitable matching choices, which could spring some surprises when ex-players are down to their 3rd or 4th picks, before compiling the list and releasing it to the public to decide the winner. Furthermore, just because there are six countries participating does not mean that there has to be at least one player from each country on the list. The shortlist should be based on quality, not politics. Any snub should serve as motivation to improve.

The reason for the changeover is purely because the release of a shortlist for such a prestigious award (or at least is should be), should not be met with overriding derision and mockery, but with a consensus of both respect and difficulty to pick a winner.

Therefore, based on performances throughout the tournament, here would be my personal 12 candidates for the award, in no particular order:

Sam Warburton, Leigh Halfpenny, George North, Dan Lydiate, Rob Kearney, Tommy Bowe, Stephen Ferris, Wesley Fofana, Thierry Dusautoir, David Denton, Richie Gray, Owen Farrell

Considered: Jonathan Davies, Mouritz Botha, Dan Cole, Brad Barritt, Sergio Parisse, Pascal Papé, Stuart Hogg, Ross Rennie

What is interesting is that even picking on form, only one English player still makes the final 12. This is down to the fact that England have been collectively both poor and excellent as a unit, not individually. Yes Tom Croft scored a magnificent try in Paris, as did Manu Tuilagi but their efforts overall have not warranted an award. Perhaps if Ben Morgan has started the first two matches and played to the same effect he would be on the list.

As said earlier, the beauty of a shortlist is for fans to contest the chosen one and submit their own. With that in mind, please submit yours in the comments, arguments in tow.

by Ben Coles

13 thoughts on “Player of the Championship shortlist should be praised not mocked

  1. Difficult to argue with too much of that. The current system is daft and, as you say, invites derision and brings the tournament into disrepute.

    I’d have included Ben Morgan; despite not starting regularly, his impact has been huge. Similarly Ryan Jones, who looked past it last year but has been enormously influential this, albeit off the bench. I’d drop Ferris and Warburton out – on the grounds that they’ve done nothing especially memorable (by their own high standards), and the latter only in 2/4 games.

    1. Agreed no way Warbs should be on there, he’s had one decent game. Also the decision should be made post competition it’s useless doing it with 20% of the competition left!

  2. I have to say Ben, that your list is a much fairer reflection of the tournament, and how it’s been played.

    The idea of picking the winner for this just from MOM’s is ridiculous. Someone could pick up MOM, but then get injured, and only play in one game, so how could they be considered for the award.

    Your comment “Given that these tend to go to the home side” is an interesting point as England have one three games away, and not had a player win MOM. They lose one game at home, but play well, and still an opposing player wins MOM. To be second in the table, having lost only one game (won three away), and still not have a player in the shortlist just proves how ridiculous this system is.
    If by some miracle England go on and win it, Farrell (for example) kicking 25 points in the last game, setting up tries for Tuilagi, Ashton and Strettle, and making a try saving tackle. He will still not be in with a chance of winning. Just one example of why the system needs to be changed. And you’re idea is much better than what is currently in place.

  3. I’d scrap it – it’s a team sport. Although I did feel sorry for Gray after the Irish match as I often do for Parisse – maybe it should be an award for the outstanding player on the wooden spoon team. Give a quality player some recognition – come to think of it that’s probably the logic behind Masi’s award. Just thinking out loud…….

    1. Nice idea, but it would mean either a Scottish or Italian player would probably be winning it every year.

  4. “Player of the Championship shortlist should be praised not mocked”

    Yes, master. Wait what? No, it should be mocked I’m afraid.

    Bens’ list is far superior I’m afraid..

    Sam Warburton, Leigh Halfpenny, George North, Dan Lydiate, Rob Kearney, Tommy Bowe, Stephen Ferris, Wesley Fofana, Thierry Dusautoir, David Denton, Richie Gray, Owen Farrell

    I’d add Tom Croft too – bonus points for a great performance in an away game against top opposition.

  5. The current system is terrible but putting together a reasonable list is always tricky, especially in rugby where because of injuries so few players play every game. For instance, how can you select Warburton when he has played a pretty limited role in this years championship due to injuries?

    Still far better than the actual list which in my opinion does include any of the 5 best individual performers in this years tournament: 1.Halfpenny 2.Adam Jones 3. Ferris 4.Kearney 5.Gray

  6. For me, I would put jon davies ahead of warburton, scored two great tries against ireland, but his defence has been outstanding. Lydiate deserves to be there for the grafting of a 6. Croft scored a great individual try, but his job should be in the rucks,securing ball not out wide.

    Kearney, Bowe Halfpenny, Lydiate , jon davies, rennie, denton, north,rory best, sexton, farrell and dan cole.

  7. I am really looking forward this weekends round of matches there are so many sub-plots if you will:

    Italy v Scotland – Obviously the wooden spoon decider.

    Wales v France – To be honest the title is in the bag for Wales but can they get over the line for The Grand Slam or will Les Bleus spoil the party as they have the potential to do.

    England v Ireland – A faint whiff of the title which I believe is just out of reach for England and Staurt Lancaster out to prove he is the man for the job and Ireland more than likely wanting to end the tournament on a high on St Patricks Day.

    Saturday is shopping for me then the rest of the day in front of the telly!

  8. I’d add Parisse and Harinordquoi to your list.
    Having watched every match to date I honestly can’t remember who Yoann Maestri is so I don’t see why he’s on there. Donnacha Ryan probably won’t be after Saturday also!
    Morgan is probably the best English example, assuming he does well on Saturday, he should have played every match but Lancaster got there in the end.

  9. It’s a daft way to pick a player of the tournament, surely it’s much easier to stand out in one game and pick up a man of the match award is one thing, but to put the work in and be consistently good over 5 games is a different matter!
    Your list is definitely a truer reflection of those who have performed over the whole championship

  10. Well. Being wise after the Event. To me, looking back at all the games, Cole should be somewhere in the top 12. Good, solid, un flinching through out. But, by a mile it should be Dan Lydiate. Bloody Awesome, in every match. If someone can put Warburtoin and Felatau in the shade, then they deserve it.
    For France. No one. For Scotland, on consistency, Gray. Italy.Parisse or Masi.
    Ireland. Possibly Best. Wales. Tkae you pick. Halfpenny, Lydiate, J.Davies. Adam Jones ( see Cole)

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