France trio up for Six Nations award
SPOTLIGHT: It may have been the longest Championship in history but the 2020 Six Nations delivered an enthralling tournament that saw England claim the title.
A resurgent France and powerful Ireland were also in contention on the final day, while all five rounds delivered numerous impressive individual performances.
And six of those individuals have been nominated for the Six Nations Player of the Championship, with one set to follow in the footsteps of 2019 winner Alun Wyn Jones.
Half of the contenders are France players, after Les Bleus lit up the Championship and only missed out on the title on points difference, with back-row Grégory Alldritt, scrumhalf Antoine Dupont and flyhalf Romain Ntamack all in contention.
Champions England have two nominations in the form of destructive lock Maro Itoje and centurion scrumhalf Ben Youngs, while Ireland’s back-row star CJ Stander rounds out the nominees.
Grégory Alldritt – France
You only have to look at the Six Nations Player of the Match roll call to see how impressive Alldritt was during the 2020 Championship as, incredibly, he earned that award in three of France’s five matches.
The back-rower was Player of the Match in the tone-setting 24-17 victory over England in Round 1, the 35-22 victory against Italy in Round 2 and the Super Saturday triumph over Ireland to round out the Championship.
Alldritt was an attacking and defensive force – ranking second for carries (66), third for metres made (393), joint-second for breakdown steals (four) and second for tackles made (81) across the five rounds.
Antoine Dupont – France
The France scrumhalf was a creative hub for his team, a menace with ball in hand whose athleticism kept defences on the back foot, while also dovetailing effectively with half-back partner Romain Ntamack.
No scrum-half made more than Dupont’s 249 metres with ball in hand while his 54 kicks for 1,543 metres (both Championship highs) prove there is another facet to his game outside his electric running in the open field.
His Championship-high 12 offloads speak to his ability to keep the ball alive and the support lines he runs were rewarded with a try against Ireland on Saturday.
Maro Itoje – England
Itoje lifted the Six Nations title for the third time in his still-young international career after once again being the beating heart of the England pack.
A constant threat to steal ball, or at least disrupt, the breakdown, the 26-year-old was also a defensive demon with 80 tackles – third most in the Championship – while 22 of those were dominant, eight more than his nearest rival in the rankings, as he consistently won the all-important collisions.
The lock also hit 33 more attacking breakdowns than any other player and was his usual reliable self at the lineout while playing every single minute across the five rounds.
Romain Ntamack – France
In Dupont and Ntamack, France look to have their halfback pairing of the present and future, with the flyhalf coming into his own as the Championship progressed.
He crossed for three tries and assisted a handful more – including Virimi Vakatawa’s Super Saturday score with a gorgeous chip-and-chase followed by an intelligent inside pass – while he was also reliable from the kicking tee.
That combination meant he scored more points than anyone else in this year’s Six Nations (57) and unlocked many a defence with his vision and decision-making in the ten channel.
CJ Stander – Ireland
Another man who played almost every minute in this year’s Championship, Stander was a consistent, relentless dynamo in Ireland’s back row.
He made more carries than any other player, as he took the ball on 77 times for 312 metres – churning out the hard yards to ensure Ireland consistently had front-foot ball – while also winning a Championship-high six turnovers.
His 61 tackles prove what a defensive presence he is and the 30-year-old was particularly impressive in the Round 1 and 2 victories over Scotland and Wales respectively – being named Player of the Match on both occasions.
Ben Youngs – England
Youngs brought up 100 England caps in style on Super Saturday, with two tries, a Six Nations Player of the Match gong and the Championship trophy.
That completed another impressive Championship for the scrum-half, who made his international debut way back in 2010 but is still at the peak of his powers.
Still a threat to snipe from the breakdown, his game management and decision-making get England’s backs and forwards alike ticking, while his 1,306 metres kicked show his understanding of how important the territory battle is.