Six Nations 2017: Our experts reveal their highlights, let-downs and what they would change for next year

Telegraph Sport
Elliot Daly and Stuart Hogg contributed stand-out moments in the Six Nations

Telegraph writers offer their verdicts on the 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, cracking 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.

Elliot Daly's try against Wales was a favourite across the board

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 (Eng), E Daly (Eng); J Sexton (Ire), C Murray (Ire); M Vunipola (Eng), J George (Eng), T Furlong (Ire), C Lawes (Eng), J Launchbury (Eng), CJ Stander (Ire), S Warburton (Wal), B Vunipola (Eng).

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. 

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

Stuart Hogg had a great Six Nations

The 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)

Try of the tournament: Eliott Daly (England) v Wales.

Nicest surprise: Italy’s ruckless tactics.

Biggest let-down: ‘Super’ Saturday, a pale comparison to the pyrotechnic climax in 2015.

Best atmosphere: The final 10 minutes at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday carried Ireland home.

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). 

England collected the Six Nations trophy at the Aviva Stadium

Six Nations 2017 in six words: Resurgent Scotland, clinical England, ferocious Ireland.

Lions XV for first Test against New Zealand: 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 Schofield

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 

The 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.

The biggest let-down: John Feehan’s pigheaded 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.

England vs New Zealand

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: Hogg (Scotland); Seymour (Scotland), Joseph (England), Henshaw (Ireland), Daly (England); Farrell (England), Murray (Ireland); Vunipola (England), Best (Ireland), Furlong (Ireland), Jones (Wales), Itoje (England), O’Mahony (Ireland), Warburton (Wales), 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).

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

The 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.

Sir Ian McGeechans Six Nations team of the tournament

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. 

The nicest surprise: Conor O’Shea and Brendan Venter’s  inventive use of the “no ruck” tactic against England shows brains can  match brawn.  

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

The women's and U20s games could be played in the same city the night before the Six Nations finale in future

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. 

The 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. 

The 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: Hogg (Scot); North (Wal), Henshaw (Irl),  Farrell (Eng), Daly (Eng); Sexton (Irl), Webb (Wal); M Vunipola (Eng), Best  (Irl), Furlong (Irl), Lawes (Eng), AW Jones (Wal, capt), Itoje (Eng), B  Vunipola (eng), Warburton (Wal).

Graphic: How the Six Nations teams compared

 

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