15. Mike Brown (England)
After Stuart Hogg had spectacularly ruled himself out of contention by playing some shoulder-induced sweet chin music on Dan Biggar, there was only really one contender. Brown once again topped his side’s metres carried and defenders beaten chart, but what impressed me most was the fact that he proved that he is now a lethal finisher as well as the strong defender and exciting counter-attacker that we already knew him to be.
14. Andrew Trimble (Ireland)
It doesn’t seem a moment ago, when he was making his debut in 2005, that Trimble was heralded as the next hero of Irish rugby. Only now, though, nine years later at 29 years old, does he look like he has fulfilled some of that promise. He rounded off an impressive tournament with another powerful display, hitting a great support line for his try and giving the French defence headaches all day.
13. Luther Burrell (England)
I am sure I will take a pasting from many for not picking O’Driscoll, but I will not patronise the great man by giving a spot he didn’t earn this week, despite a solid display. Instead, it was Luther Burrell who caught the eye once again, offloading beautifully for Brown’s first try and making several notable charges through the Italian defence. He didn’t have the perfect game – some of his passing was questionable – but he looks very comfortable in that 13 shirt for England.
12. Jamie Roberts (Wales)
The doctor is back in session. Desperate Dan was back to his rampaging best as he bullied the beleaguered Scottish defence, crashing through the 9-10 channel over and over again. He also showed a poachers instinct, running good tracking lines for his two scores in a productive afternoon for the Welsh powerhouse.
11. George North (Wales)
Another man to benefit from Scotland being a man down, North was back to his rampaging best at the Millennium Stadium, where he looked unstoppable from anywhere up to 40 metres out. Superb speed and footwork for his first try left poor Dave Denton, who was covering across, no chance at all, and his hunger for work throughout the game was really impressive.
10. Owen Farrell (England)
Sexton may have scored twice but his dodgy form with the boot left Ireland unnecessarily nervous in the game’s closing stages. Farrell, on the other hand, was flawless off the tee and imperious with the ball in hand, dictating play and varying the point of attack with authority. He has improved in every game during the Championship, and he deserved his reward of a try, two assists, and a 22 point personal haul by full time. Needs to cut out the silly stuff, though.
9. Conor Murray (Ireland)
Danny Care had a solid game whilst Rhodri Williams was very impressive during his cameo, but Murray was the lynchpin of the Irish victory in Paris. His kicking from hand was generally right on the money and his service throughout was as sharp as always, but it was his awareness and speed that were key to his team as he set up Trimble for his try at a crucial time in the game.
1. Mako Vunipola (England)
The man who has earlobes the size of small sandbags may have struggled in the scrum early on, but he recovered well to earn some penalties of his own and was at his bustling best with the ball in hand. 21 metres made and three defenders beaten are not bad stats for a loosehead prop, and the Mak Attack picked up a well-earned maiden try for his country in the process as well.
2. Dimitri Szarzewski (France)
He may look like a man from a high-budget 70s grumble flick (it could be worse, he could like somebody from a low-budget one, like Richard Hibbard), but Szarzewski is hard as nails and showed it with a ferociously physical display. His work at the breakdown was immense and he deserved his try, despite the fact that replays suggested Steve Walsh may have been a bit whistle happy in awarding it. Just pips Rory Best, who had a superb evening himself.
3. Mike Ross (Ireland)
He may be as interesting as the International Paint Drying Championships, but Ross showed once again his value to the men in green as he got the better of Thomas Domingo in the set piece, an area where the French would have hoped to have achieved some dominance. Of course, there may have been some suspect binding on his part, but he expertly pushed what he knew he could get away with to help set the platform for a superb Irish victory.
4. Joe Launchbury (England)
Yes, his last contribution may have been to give away an interception pass, but that shouldn’t overshadow another excellent display from the cherub-faced lock. He was once again a monumental presence in defence and real menace at the breakdown, where he pinched two turnovers for himself and caused countless others just by sticking his size 19 boot in irritating places for the Italians.
5. Paul O’Connell (Ireland)
The veteran lock used of all his experience and leadership qualities to lead Ireland to their first Six Nations victory since 2009. At 6 – 0 down it looked like it may just be ‘one of those days’, but the legendary second row led right from the front to haul his side back into the driving seat. A superb 14 tackles during a monumental rearguard effort demonstrated the profound influence the Munster man had on this Championship-winning performance.
6. Dan Lydiate (Wales)
I’ve not always been the biggest fan of Lydiate, wandering what else he offers aside from a serious danger to opposition ankle-joints, but he looked in really good nick against Scotland. He went about his chopping business in usual fashion, but he also added thrust to the Welsh attack with the ball in hand, which was good to see.
7. Chris Robshaw (England)
Chris Henry was immense in defence for Ireland, but Robshaw gave a trademark captain’s display with an all-court game that glued the England machine together. Carrying well, hitting rucks, making tackles, distributing effectively and showing up in support to score tries – all in a day’s work for the Harlequins man, who has now surely dispelled all serious concerns that he is not a “proper 7”.
8. Taulupe Faletau (Wales)
Damien Chouly and Jamie Heaslip both impressed me with some powerful performances in Paris, but Faletau worked his socks off in Cardiff and was almost entirely mistake-free for the full 80 minutes. Ending with a team-topping 15 tackles, he made the most metres out of anyone in the pack and picked up a try of his own whilst having a hand in another. Some are saying he needs a rest. Not on this evidence.
By Mike Cooper (@RuckedOver)