The Six Nations kicks off this weekend in the first international action in the Northern Hemisphere since the Autumn Nations Cup final between England and France in December. Based on 2020 performances, both these nations will be the leading contender to win this year’s Six Nations.
But who makes up the best XV? Bet Central took a closer look at the respective squads and this is the best XV in the Six Nations.
15: Stuart Hogg (Scotland)
Scotland’s captain, Stuart Hogg, has been one of the most exciting attacking threats over the last few years. What has coincided with his captaincy is a slightly more measured approach and much needed consistency for a player with outrageous talent. He goes into the 2021 Six Nations as the leading contender for British and Irish Lions no. 15 jumper.
Brice Dulin was also in scintillating form for France in the Autumn Nations Cup, so good was his form, he was voted player of the tournament. He will be a worthy challenger to Hogg.
Honourable mention: Brice Dulin (France)
14: Teddy Thomas (France)
The dreadlocked dynamo is an anomaly in the France team, the French chop and change their team a lot, but Teddy Thomas – except for him being inexplicably dropped for World Cup – has been a consistent part of the French team for several seasons. He is one of the best finishers in the game, so no surprises he is one of the first names on the team sheet for France.
Liam Williams is often a bright light in a very dark tunnel for Wales who have struggled since Warren Gatland left and returned to New Zealand, the winger/fullback could have a big say in who plays right wing for the Lions.
Honourable mention: Liam Williams (Wales)
13: Jonathan Davies (Wales)
Had he not sustained a knee injury that is likely to keep him out for the duration of the Six Nations, Virimi Vakatawa would waltz into this team, in his absence from the tournament. The ever reliable and consistent Jonathan Davies is the outside centre most likely to make a big impact in the twilight of his career.
Garry Ringrose is set to return to action in the Six Nations after sustaining an injury early in the Autumn Nations Cup, he will push Jonathan Davies for the title of best 13 in the Six Nations.
Honourable mention: Garry Ringrose (Ireland)
12: Gael Fickou (France)
For a very long time Gael Fickou was an enigma for Les Bleus, prone to delivering masterclasses that are worthy of his incredible talent once in a while, but mostly producing inconsistent performances that did no justice to his talent. In 2020 he seemed to finally make that shift from promising talent to big game player producing great performances at inside centre for France
Bundee Aki will push Fickou if he continues on his upward trajectory with the Irish.
Honourable mention: Bundee Aki (Ireland)
11: Duhan van der Merwe (Scotland)
It would be easy to simply put Johnny May on this wing for his try scoring and consistency, but Duhan van der Merwe’s impact from domestic rugby right through to international rugby means he has to come into the conversation. It may be his first full Six Nations, but expect him to make a big impact.
If van der Merwe were to falter, May would be on hand to do what he does best, hurt opposition defences.
Honourable mention: Jonny May (England)
10: Romain Ntamack (France)
Gone are the days where Romain Ntamack was famed for being a promising young rugby player who was the son of former French international Emile Ntamack, he has become his own man and he has done it in some style. At this point, Ntamack is one of the best flyhalves in the world and certainly no. 1 in the Six Nations.
Owen Farrell has led England to great heights over the past few years, so it’ll be no surprise if he has just as massive an impact as his young French counterpart.
Honourable mention: Owen Farrell (England)
9: Antonie Dupont (France)
The best scrumhalf in the world right now and the heartbeat of everything that is going right on-field for the French Test team. Antonie Dupont can simply do no wrong on a rugby field these days.
Ben Youngs recently joined the 100 Test club which shows his quality despite not being everyone’s cup of tea.
Honourable mention: Ben Youngs (England)
8: CJ Stander – Ireland
In recent times he has played at blindside flanker following the rise of young loose forward Caelan Doris. But he is simply too valuable to leave out or to box as a blindsider, because he may still play a vital role at 8 for Ireland with Doris out injured.
Gregory Alldritt had a breakthrough 2020, if he continues to grow, he will be a force to be reckoned with in 2021.
Honourable mention: Gregory Alldritt (France)
7: Sam Underhill (England)
A literal definition of “tackling anything that moves”, Sam Underhill’s singlemindedness and work rate make him one of Eddie Jones’ most valuable assets in the England line-up. It helps that he can also get a turnover or two in a game like every traditional openside flanker.
Though the French captain Charles Ollivon dropped off in form at the end of the Six Nations and Autumn Nations Cup in comparison to his early 2020 form, he will still make a massive impact.
Honourable mention: Charles Ollivon (France)
6: Tom Curry (England)
The other half of the “Kamikaze kids.” Tom Curry has an engine unlike most players, he goes at 100% from minute one through to the 80th, a tackling demolition man and brute ball carrier who aids the English’s cause through his outstanding performances.
Aaron Wainwright is the next big talent of Welsh rugby, certainly in the forwards and if Wayne Pivac’s men can find some consistentcy, he will thrive.
Honourable mention: Aaron Wainwright (Wales)
5: James Ryan (Ireland)
James Ryan is the darling of Irish rugby, he has long been touted as a future captain of the national team and finally got to captain Ireland in the Autumn Nations Cup. It is not his leadership that earns him a spot in this team though, it is his incredible performances for both club and country that have made him the toast of Irish rugby circles.
Alun Wyn Jones has been a massive contributor for Welsh and Northern Hemisphere rugby, his class continues to prevail for Wales, so expect him to have another big tournament in what could well be his last Six Nations.
Honourable mention: Alun Wyn Jones (Wales)
4: Maro Itoje (England)
If Cheslin Kolbe was the best player of 2020, then Maro Itoje was a close second for all his performances. To put it simply, in almost every game he played whether it was club or country, he was close to Man of the Match.
Jonny Gray has been one of Scotland’s best for years now, famed for almost never missing a tackle. He should still be a great outlet for a Scottish side which continues to grow.
Honourable mention: Jonny Gray (Scotland)
3: Kyle Sinckler (England)
The Bristol Bears man has been the best tighthead around since 2019, Kyle Sinckler possesses all the basics required of a tighthead prop, it’s the skills worthy of a backline player that add that bit of gloss to his game and make him an impactful player.
Andrew Porter’s growth in the injury enforced absence of Tadgh Furlong has propelled him to be discussed as a possible bolter for the British and Irish Lions, not bad for a backup tighthead prop.
Honourable mention: Andrew Porter (Ireland)
2: Jamie George (England)
The physicality, set-piece consistency and temperament make Jamie George a standout for England, he is the leading candidate for the British and Irish Lions no. 2 jersey and may even get the captaincy as he is highly rated as a leader in the England setup.
Julien Marchand came into his own in 2020 and will almost certainly be a huge part of France’s 2021 Six Nations campaign
Honourable mention: Julien Marchand (France)
1: Cyril Baille (France)
Ordinarily, this would be Mako Vunipola’s spot, but owing to injury his participation in the Six Nations is doubtful, so in steps Cyril Baille of France. The 27-year-old is finally displaying consistency for France that is finally worthy of his talent, he has come in leaps and bounds and is a huge part of the French resurgence.
Cian Healy is another model of consistency for the Irish side, he will also push in the quest for a British and Irish Lions spot.
Honourable mention: Cian Healy (Ireland)