The 2017 RBS 6 Nations finished on Saturday with tournament winners England denied a second successive Grand Slam after losing 13-9 to Ireland in Dublin.
Here, we look at seven players who have stood out during this year’s Championship.
Stuart Hogg (Scotland)
The full-back was named the Championship’s best player in 2016 and he has been the tournament’s most exhilarating runner once again. Became Scotland’s highest Six Nations try scorer with a brace in the opening victory over Ireland and claimed a third in the narrow defeat to France in Paris. Will provide the British and Irish Lions with a cutting edge in New Zealand this summer.
Owen Farrell (England)
Described as world-class by New Zealand coach Steve Hansen, the Saracens centre played a pivotal role in England’s title triumph. Balanced running and ability to pass well off both hands allowed devastating runners outside him to profit. Also provided 63 points with the boot and certain to be a Lions starter Down Under.
Joe Launchbury (England)
For so long the work of second row forwards in the boiler room has gone unnoticed. But that was before Wasps lock Launchbury took centre stage with man-of-the-match performances against Wales and Italy. Has combined big ball-carrying – making nearly 60 metres alone against Italy – with huge defensive shifts and topped England’s Championship tackle chart with 85.
Courtney Lawes (England)
One player’s pain was another’s gain when George Kruis was ruled out of the tournament with a knee injury requiring surgery. Northampton Saints lock Lawes stepped up with Maro Itoje utilised in the back row and was a revelation. A strong line-out presence, Lawes was prominent in defence and attack in recapturing the form which marked him out for Test stardom at a young age.
Sam Warburton (Wales)
Lost the captaincy to Alun Wyn Jones before the start of the tournament but focusing on his own game proved hugely beneficial. Operated at six rather than usual seven position, but worked in tandem with Justin Tipuric to lead the charge at every breakdown and was a huge defensive workhorse. Set to be a huge Lions presence again after leading the tourists in Australia four years ago.
CJ Stander (Ireland)
The South-African born back-rower put himself into Lions contention with a string of vibrant performances. Stander was a force of nature with ball in hand as he made the most carries (104) in the Championship. Lions coach Warren Gatland will also have been impressed by his versatility after a late injury to Jamie Heaslip saw him switched to number eight for the closing win against England.
Louis Picamoles (France)
Far and away the best number eight in the Championship, the Northampton Saints battering ram dominated every opponent he came up against. Stop Picamoles and you go a long way to stopping France. But that proved easier said than done as he made 71 carries and gained 362 metres in five games and drove France on to their final victory over Wales.