A disappointing finish to England's Grand
Slam quest in Ireland has put something of a dampener on the Six Nations
However the preceding matches - and
first three in particular - gave English rugby a glow it has not exhibited for
some time: since the 2007 World Cup, in fact.
Oval Talk's best XV from the annual tournament
reflects that, with six players from the Red Rose selected.
That is double the number of Ireland,
who have the second-most players represented with three.
From young guns such as swallow-diving Chris
Ashton and Dan Cole to the experienced Toby Flood and Tom Palmer - all
represented here - England manager Martin Johnson has an excellent group of
players to work with leading up to the World Cup in New Zealand later this
Also featuring are a new Six Nations
try-scoring record holder and a Welsh centre whose favoured position remains
What do you think? Who's missing from this line-up, and who among them doesn't deserve his place in your eyes? Leave a comment below!
15. Ben Foden, England
Foden is not
Chris Ashton, England
The new Jason
13. Brian O'Driscoll, Ireland
12. James Hook, Wales
Hook is one of the most gifted three-quarters in world rugby. He might not be the quickest, but uses his footwork and sense of timing to great effect. Hook's best position will eventually be 10, but he does a great job at centre. Ospreys will miss him when he moves to Perpignan in the summer.
11. Tommy Bowe, Ireland
Ireland missed Bowe's electrifying speed in the early stages of this championship. Last year's player of the tournament pops up all over the place in attack and defence and took his international try tally to 17 when he scored the first in the 24-8 mauling of England.
10. Toby Flood, England
What can you say about this man? Simply on top of his game. Flood scored 50 points in the five matches but there is so much more to him than his kicking game: he injects creativity and incisiveness into England's attack, with everything running through him with a great deal of precision.
9. Morgan Parra, France
Known as the petit generale for the way he commands the pack, Parra is the latest in a long line of world-class French scrum-halves. The 22-year-old's decision-making and timing are second to none. He also contributes with his goal-kicking, scoring 43 points with his boot in the championship.
1. Thomas Domingo, France
Domingo might look like the school fatty, but he is immensely powerful. He was influential in the French pack, winning 31 scrums - more than any other in the championship. It is no coincidence that Domingo was not involved in France's surprise 22-21 defeat to Italy.
2. Dylan Hartley, England
Wales coach Warren Gatland said before the tournament that Hartley was England's weak link; however the Northampton hooker has proven Gatland and any other doubters wrong. Hartley has eliminated his occasional lapses in concentration while his control at the lineout is exemplary .
3. Dan Cole, England
Cole has fitted well into England's front row. He has a knack of getting the measure of his opposite number very quickly then slicing them into bits. Cole is learning all the time and put in excellent performances against France and Italy.
4. Richie Gray, Scotland
It is little wonder that Gray has a reputation as one of rugby's great emerging talents; the expression 'old head on young shoulders' springs to mind. His work-rate is just incredible. Gray has been one of the few positives for Scotland in what has been another disappointing Six Nations .
5. Tom Palmer, England
England's go-to man for important line-outs has had an excellent championship. Martin Johnson must weep with joy every time he is hoisted into the air. The Stade Francais forward was also a force in the loose and is a key part of England's industrious pack .
6. Sean O'Brien, Ireland
Had it not been for the injury to Stephen Ferris, we may have never seen O'Brien in this tournament; he has been Ireland's find of the Six Nations. O'Brien is an imposing player for any opponent and is almost unstoppable when he has the ball in hand.
7. Sam Warburton, Wales
Warburton had an impressive autumn series, stepping into Martyn Williams's shoes with ease and he has just got better and better. His work at the tackle area is outstanding and he provides a decent link going forward too. A remarkable physical specimen, Warburton will be an important player for years to come.
8 . Sergio Parisse,
The incredibly talented Italy captain would walk into a World XV; he has effectively been a one-man team at this level for the last three years. Italy sorely missed him for six months in 2010 and they will need him fit if they are to make it through to the World Cup knockout stages.