Conor Murray third best in Six Nations – but numbers say Lions rival is best
Wales’s Rhys Webb was judged by statistics to be most effective player in tournament
Conor Murray keeps a close eye on Rhys Webb during the Ireland-Wales match in the Six Naions. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
The battle to be British and Irish Lions scrumhalf will be a fierce one if the Six Nations player rankings are anything to go by.
Rankings released by the tournament’s official data supplier Accenture have Rhys Webb and Conor Murray in the top three among all 181 players to feature in the tournament.
Wales’ Webb has the edge, with Irishman Murray ranked third, the pair separated by France number eight Louis Picamoles.
The rankings are worked out by a formula which considers factors including ball-carrying, tackling, points scored, kicking, set-piece success and errors, assigning a weighted value to each.
Webb ranks highly in the efficiency of his ball-carrying, making 146 metres on 36 carries and beating seven defenders, with six offloads helping to keep Wales’ momentum going.
Murray, whose campaign ended when he was forced off in the second half of Ireland’s penultimate game against Wales, had fewer carries, 21, making just 71 metres with one defender beaten and two offloads, but he scored a try against France and also made only three handling errors in the tournament to Webb’s nine.
The Irishman ranked slightly higher in the kicking game but Webb was more impressive defensively, with 47 successful tackles and only five missed.
Picamoles’ tackling and ball-carrying were to the fore, while he also added a try. His team-mate Baptiste Serin made it three scrumhalves in the top four, while Ireland flanker CJ Stander and Wales hooker Ken Owens followed as the top-ranked forwards, the latter with a 95 per cent success rate on lineout throws.
Stander’s 103 carries topped the charts by a remarkable margin, with Picamoles second on 71. Picamoles was similarly dominant in terms of defenders beaten, his tally of 24 nine clear of England fullback Mike Brown with Stander third on 14.
Champions England had to wait until 12th place for their first entry in the rankings, outhalf George Ford, though Maro Itoje and Ben Youngs quickly follow in 14th and 15th respectively.
Outhalf Finn Russell ensured Scottish representation in the top 10 and joined team-mate Stuart Hogg in Accenture’s team of the tournament, which featured five Ireland players – props Jack McGrath and Tadgh Furlong, Stander and wings Simon Zebo and Keith Earls.
Centre Jonathan Davies joins Owens and Webb as Wales’ representatives, England also have three with locks Joe Launchbury and Courtney Lawes and centre Owen Farrell, and France back-rowers Picamoles and Kevin Gourdon complete the line-up.
Former South Africa and Italy coach Nick Mallett compiled a shortlist of 12 players to go to the public vote for Accenture’s player of the tournament award, with Murray, France outhalf Camille Lopez, England forward Itoje and Italy captain Sergio Parisse joining Picamoles, Stander, Farrell, Launchbury, Russell, Hogg, Webb and Owens.
Accenture Six Nations rankings – top 10: 1 Rhys Webb (Wales); 2 Louis Picamoles (France); 3 Conor Murray (Ireland); 4 Baptiste Serin (France); 5 CJ Stander (Ireland); 6 Ken Owens (Wales); 7 Dan Biggar (Wales); 8 Finn Russell (Scotland); 9 Kevin Gourdon (France); 10 Camille Lopez (France)