Rugby: Six Nations highlights, let-downs and work-ons

Stuart Hogg of Scotland breaks clear with the ball during the Six Nations match against Wales. Photo/Getty Images
Stuart Hogg of Scotland breaks clear with the ball during the Six Nations match against Wales. Photo/Getty Images

Daily Telegraph rugby writers offer their verdicts on the just-completed Six Nations championship, including what they would change for the 2018 edition.

MICK CLEARY

Player of the tournament: Stuart Hogg (Scotland)
His star may have waned at Twickenham or appeared in front of his eyes after a dizzying head knock, but the daring and the devil of the Scotland full-back has been a delight.

Try of the tournament: Elliot Daly's match-winner against Wales in the 77th minute
It was a classic, bold counter-attack, with superb technical skills on show from all three players involved - George Ford, Owen Farrell and Daly.

Nicest surprise: That it is not just Nigel Owens who can do a turn in stand-up comedy. Frenchman Romain Poite cracked the best one-liner of the championship, when telling Dylan Hartley: "I am not a coach, I am a referee."

Biggest let-down: Italy
Much as it is right and proper that they are given as much support as possible, they have been a disappointment, even by the diminished expectations of them, their rearguard "no ruck" ploy against England notwithstanding.

Best atmosphere: The Aviva Stadium for the championship finale
The Irish fans came in part-dread, but within minutes, as England fretted and Ireland pounced, it became clear that all those pre-match fears were groundless.

The noise levels rose to deliver a backdrop quite in keeping with the dramatic occasion.

One rule I would add for 2018: No Friday Six Nations rugby
The TV bods love it, so too Six Nations powerbrokers. But what of the live fans in this debate, the poor saps who have to take a day off work, if they travel and then battle through horrendous traffic?

Six Nations 2017 in six words: Lived up fully to its hype

Lions XV for first test against New Zealand (if everyone is fit): S Hogg (Scotland); G North (Wales), J Joseph (England), O Farrell (England), E Daly (England); J Sexton (Ireland), C Murray (Ireland); M Vunipola (England), J George (England), T Furlong (Ire), C Lawes (England), J Launchbury (England), CJ Stander (England), S Warburton (Wal), B Vunipola (England).

BRIAN MOORE

Nicest surprise: The form of so many players going into the Lions tour.

Biggest let-down: The scrum
It is a farce and is undermining the improvements made in every other part of the game

Best atmosphere: Wales v Ireland

One rule I would introduce for 2018: I wouldn't
I'd force elite referees to enforce those already there, especially the feed and pushing early.

This Six Nations in six words: As usual, surprising, absorbing, infuriating, wonderful.

Lions XV for first test: 15 Stuart Hogg (Scotland), 14 George North (Wales), 13 Garry Ringrose (Ireland), 12 Owen Farrell (England), 11 Liam Williams (Wales), 10 Jonathan Sexton (Ireland), 9 Conor Murray (Ireland), 1 Joe Marler (England), 2 Ken Owens (Wales), 3 Taig Furlong (Ireland), 4 Joe Launchbury (England), 5 Alun Wynn Jones (Wales), 6 CJ Stander (Ireland), 7 Justin Tipuric (Wales), 8 Billy Vunipola (England)

KENNY LOGAN

Player of the tournament: Stuart Hogg
Defensively sound, and he either scored or had a hand in the majority of Scotland's 14 tries.

Try of the tournament: Elliot Daly's last-minute winner against Wales.
Owen Farrell's 30-yard pass, while running full tilt, was world-class.

Nicest surprise: Scotland winning all three home games
You would have got very long odds on that before the tournament.

Biggest let-down: The Calcutta Cup
No-one saw that coming, apart from maybe England, but certainly not me.

Best atmosphere: The Millennium Stadium with the roof on against Ireland on a Friday night was incredible, the best of the tournament by far.

One rule I would introduce for 2018: If a side is penalised at a five-metre scrum three times in succession, the ref has to award a penalty try.

This Six Nations in six words: The most competitive Six Nations ever.

Lions XV for first Test: 15 Stuart Hogg (Scotland), 14 George North (Wales), 13 Jonathan Joseph (England), 12 Owen Farrell (England), 11 Elliot Daly (England), 10 Johnny Sexton (Ireland), 9 Conor Murray (Ireland), 1 Jack McGrath (Ireland), 2 Jamie George (England), 3 Tadhg Furlong (Ireland), 4 Maro Itoje (England), 5 Courtney Lawes (England), 6 CJ Stander (Ireland), 7 Sam Warburton (Wales), 8 Ross Moriarty (Wales).

GAVIN MAIRS

Player of the tournament: Owen Farrell (England)
Superb goalkicking, distribution and menace in attack and defence make him one of the first names down on the Lions XV.

Try of the tournament: Eliott Daly (England) v Wales
Both in its timing and execution, this was the decisive moment in England's title success.

Nicest surprise: Italy's ruckless tactics
Fears that England would run up a cricket score were allayed, when Conor O'Shea's side caused a stir to knock their opponents off their stride.

Biggest let-down: "Super" Saturday
A pale comparison to the pyrotechnic climax in 2015. With the title already won by England in round four, the only drama was in Ireland stopping the Grand Slam.

Best atmosphere: The final 10 minutes at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday carried Ireland home
The stadium rocked like the old Lansdowne Road.

One rule I would introduce for 2018: Change the presentation of the Six Nations title to the day it is won, rather than the last weekend (and no more Friday night kick-offs).

Lions XV for first test: 15 Rob Kearney (Ireland), 14 George North (Wales), 13 Jonathan Joseph (England), 12 Owen Farrell (England), 11 Elliot Daly (England), 10 Jonathan Sexton (Ireland), 9 Conor Murray (Ireland), 1 Mako Vunipola (Ireland), 2 Rory Best (Ireland), 3 Tadgh Furlong (Ireland), 4 Alun Wyn Jones (Wales), 5 Joe Launchbury (England), 6 Maro Itoje (England), 7 Sean O'Brien (Ireland), 8 Billy Vunipola (England)

DANIEL SCHOLFIELD

Player of the tournament: Courtney Lawes (England)
Consistent in his excellence, even in defeat against Ireland. Other players are more valuable, but Lawes has made the greatest strides under Jones.

Try of the tournament: Not an original selection, but Elliot Daly's match-winning score against Wales was the perfect execution of skills under the highest pressure.

Nicest surprise: Coaches trying something different, from the Alex Dunbar lineout try to Italy's no ruck policy.
A reminder that brain can frequently trump brawn.

Biggest let-down: John Feehan's pig-headed attitude to even countenancing the idea of admitting Georgia - if only the coaches' adventurous spirit transferred to the administrators.

Best atmosphere: It was always going to be the Aviva Stadium for England's visit on St Patrick's weekend.
A second-half rendition of Fields of Athenry was truly spine-tingling.

One rule I would introduce for 2018: No more evening kick-offs. Television is the tail that wags the dog. It has to stop.

This Six Nations in six words: The All Blacks should be worried

Lions XV for first test: 15 Hogg (Scotland), 14 Seymour (Scotland), 13 Joseph (England), 12 Henshaw (Ireland), 11 Daly (England), 10 Farrell (England), 9 Murray (Ireland), 1 Vunipola (England), 2 Best (Ireland), 3 Furlong (Ireland), 4 Jones (Wales), 5 Itoje (England), 6 O'Mahony (Ireland), 7 Warburton (Wales), 8 Vunipola (England)

TOM CARY

Player of the tournament: Owen Farrell (England)
Although not as effective in the final game in Dublin, he was the architect of England's second successive championship win.

Try of the tournament: Elliot Daly v Wales
As much for what it meant as the way in which it was executed. Secured the only away win of the Six Nations (excluding games in Rome).

Nicest surprise: Italy's first half at Twickenham
Confusing, amusing and brilliantly executed. A genuine surprise and a coaching triumph.

Biggest let-down: The Calcutta Cup
Huge build-up, embarrassingly one-sided. Would also like to have seen Italy stay in games longer.

Best atmosphere: Ireland v England
Although the championship was gone, there was no doubting what was on the line at the Aviva. Great atmosphere.

One rule I would introduce for 2018: Promotion and relegation
The new schedule announced by World Rugby post-2019 will help the likes of Georgia and Romania. The chance to play in the Six Nations would help more.

This Six Nations in six words: Away wins at a premium, competitive

Lions XV for first test: 15 S Hogg (Scotland), 14 G North (Wales), 13 J Joseph (England), 12 O Farrell (England), 11 E Daly (England), 10 J Sexton (Ireland), 9 C Murray (Ireland), 1 M Vunipola (England), 2 D Hartley (England), 3 Furlong (Ireland), 4 Itoje (England), 5 Wyn Jones (Wales), 6 O'Mahony (Ireland), 7 Haskell (England), 8 B Vunipola (England)

RICHARD BATH

Player of the tournament: Stuart Hogg
No other player was so important to his side. Against Italy, he gave the scoring pass in three of four tries.

Try of the tournament: For sheer bloody-mindedness, guts and determination, it has to be Damien Chouly's 100th-minute score against Wales in a dead rubber match.

Nicest surprise: Conor O'Shea and Brendan Venter's inventive use of the "no ruck" tactic against England shows brains can match brawn.

Biggest let-down: The Calcutta Cup
Scotland simply failed to show up, resulting in a horribly one-sided and disappointing game.

Best atmosphere: The atmosphere crackled during England's attempt to win the Grand Slam in Dublin, the day after St Patrick's Day.

One rule I would introduce for 2018: I'd play the corresponding women's and under-20s games in the same city the night before the main Six Nations game.

This Six Nations in six words: Possibly the highest standard ever

Lions XV for first test: 15 Stuart Hogg (Scotland), 14 George North (Wales), 13 Gary Ringrose (Ireland), 12 Owen Farrell (England), 11 Elliot Daly (England), 10 Johnny Sexton (Ireland), 9 Rhys Webb (Wales), 1 Jack McGrath (Ireland), 2 Rory Best (Ireland), 3 Tadhg Furlong (Ireland), 4 Maro Itoje (England), 5 Alun Wyn Jones (Wales), 6 CJ Stander (Ireland), 7 Sam Warburton (Wales), 8 Jamie Heaslip (Ireland)

JAMES CORRIGAN

Player of the tournament: Hard not to give it to an Englishman, but Warburton could have been man of the match in every game he played.

Try of the tournament: Daly's match-winner against Wales featured one of the great passes of all time from Farrell.

Nicest surprise: Eddie Jones's graciousness in defeat in Dublin
After some daft statements in victory, he showed the great rugby man that he is.

Biggest let-down: Italy, obviously
Conor O"Shea is an astute man, but it would have taken Houdini to make that sorry lot in any way competitive.

Best atmosphere: Wales v England
The best game and the biggest noise. Imagine if Eddie had agreed for the roof to be closed.

One rule I would introduce for 2018: Get rid of the bonus points
The Six Nations proved this year that it simply does not need them.

This Six Nations in six words: England, Ireland, France, Scotland, Wales, Italy

Lions XV for first test: 15 Hogg (Scotland); 14 North (Wales), 13 Henshaw (Ireland), 12 Farrell (England), 11 Daly (England), 10 Sexton (Ireland), 9 Webb (Wales); 1 M Vunipola (England), 2 Best (Ireland), 3 Furlong (Ireland), 4 Lawes (England), 5 AW Jones (Wales, capt), 6 Itoje (England), 7 Warburton (Wales), 8 B Vunipola (England)

- Daily Telegraph UK

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