The 2017 Six Nations – Grading each team
England – A
England got off to a cagey start against France, relying on a late try to see off the likes of Picamoles, Lopez & Co, but a win nevertheless. Then came a tricky trip to Cardiff and another late try, this time from Elliot Daly, rescuing England from what was a far from convincing performance. The Italians then gave Jones and his men a real headache with their ‘ruckgate’ leaving The Azzurri leading at half time. Five tries in the second half was enough to earn a bonus point victory but England’s performances were becoming worrying. If there was any doubt in the back of England fan’s minds it was extinguished in their next game as they demolished Scotland at Twickenham. Seven tries and four penalties left England as the champions and on the brink of a Grand Slam. Unfortunately, the Grand Slam wasn’t to be as Ireland ended England 18 match winning streak with a 13-9 win in Dublin, a tough pill to swallow for English fans but a second consecutive Six Nations championship was theirs.
Breakthrough player – Elliot Daly
Player of the tournament – Joe Launchbury
Ireland – B -
The Irish got off to the worst possible start, going down 27-22 to Scotland after an inspired display from Stuart Hogg. Battered and bruised they then travelled to Italy and produced the highest points tally of the tournament, scoring nine tries in nothing short of a demolition job. Instrumental fly-half Jonathan Sexton then returned for round three as he scored eleven points in a 19-9 win in Dublin. Hope of picking up a third Six Nations title in five years was quashed in Cardiff the weekend after as Wales put in a fine defensive display to shut the Irish out and win 22-9. All eyes then turned to a showdown with England and a chance to end their unbeaten run, an accomplishment they’d achieved against the All Blacks just last year. Joe Schmidt’s plan worked to perfection and the win was theirs.
Breakthrough player – Garry Ringrose
Player of the tournament – CJ Stander
France – B
After a disappointing tournament in 2016 where they finished fifth, France had a point to prove this year. England were taken all the way in their first fixture, followed by an assured 22-16 defeat of an improved Scotland side. A showdown with Ireland in Dublin proved to be a tight, tense game but it was the Irish who emerged victorious with the boot of Sexton doing the damage. Next up was the chance to pick up the Giuseppe Garibaldi trophy against Italy, and that they did, scoring four tries in a bonus point win. Next up was the chance to end five game winning streak against Wales, and this one really went all the way. Victory for France came in the 20th minute of extra time as Chouly crashed over, meaning Les Bleus ended the tournament with a respectable three wins.
Breakthrough player – Baptiste Serin
Player of the tournament – Camille Lopez
Scotland – B+
After a year full of impressive performance from Scotland, everyone knew they were on the up, but in the 2017 Six Nations they really showed it. Their opening game saw them beat Ireland with tries from Hogg (2) and Dunbar, getting their tournament off to a flying start. They were brought back down to earth by France a week later as Lopez kicked his side to glory in Paris. Any doubts that the Ireland win was a fluke were squashed as fly-half Finn Russell inspired his side to a 29-13 win over Wales – their first over the Welsh for ten years. England were next on their list as they looked to claim an unlikely Triple Crown. Unfortunately their day wasn’t to be and England turned up on fire, knocking the Scots back with a 61-21 victory. Their final game was a chance to finish the tournament on a high, and that they did, claiming a bonus point victory over Italy in what was Vern Cotter’s last game in charge.
Breakthrough player – Huw Jones
Player of the tournament – Stuart Hogg with an honourable mention to Jonny Gray
Wales – C –
Wales got their tournament off to a worrying start with an unimpressive first half display against Italy, going into half time 7-3 down. Leigh Halfpenny turned in a man-of-the-match performance in the second half though as Wales racked up 30 unanswered points to win the game. They then welcomed England to Cardiff and put in an exceptional performance but were made to pay for not scoring more tries when dominating as Daly scored late on to seal victory for the reigning champions. An away trip to Scotland in their next match didn’t quite go to plan as Cotter’s men claimed a historic victory condemning Wales to their second loss in three games. It was make or break next when they took on Ireland. Perhaps the most assured defensive display from any team in this year’s tournament followed as they stopped Ireland from crossing the line once and scored three tries of their own to claim victory. France then loomed in their final game in what was a disappointing performance as they were outscored by the French to finish the tournament in fifth.
Breakthrough player – Ross Moriarty
Player of the tournament – Rhys Webb
Italy – D
Italy were outgunned by every team in every aspect of the game at this year’s tournament, losing all five fixtures. Their only shining light was the innovation they showed during their defeat to England, not committing men to the ruck allowing their players to seemingly be in offside, but legal, positions. With a points difference of -151 Italy have work to do if they want to stay in the Six Nations as calls for a relegation system to be introduced gained more momentum after this year’s display.
Breakthrough player – Angelo Esposito
Player of the tournament – Sergio Parisse