Six Nations 2018: the team of the tournament so far

Championship leaders Ireland dominate the XV after three rounds with seven players

Johnny Sexton drops to win Ireland the match against France. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Johnny Sexton drops to win Ireland the match against France. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 

15 Matteo Minozzi
A rare bright spot in what has been a thoroughly miserable Championship for the Azzurri. The impish fullback has impressed in all three defeats, finishing neatly against Ireland and France.

Matteo Minozzi dives to score against France. Photograph: Christophe Simon/AFP
Matteo Minozzi dives to score against France. Photograph: Christophe Simon/AFP

14 Keith Earls
Jacob Stockdale might be taking all the glory on the other wing but Earls, an old-timer in comparison, has been efficiently solid throughout. Just the one try so far but he has been dominant in the air and typically twinkle-toed in attack.

Keith Earls is tackled by Josh Navidi during Ireland’s win over Wales. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty
Keith Earls is tackled by Josh Navidi during Ireland’s win over Wales. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty

13 Huw Jones
The Scottish 13 has been a revelation, and is delivering on the promise he showed last autumn. He is excellent at picking a line and has the pace and power to punch through defences - he’s scored three tries and he made a staggering 115 metres in the win against England.

Huw Jones scores Scotland’s third try against England. Photograph: Shaun Botterill/Getty
Huw Jones scores Scotland’s third try against England. Photograph: Shaun Botterill/Getty

12 Bundee Aki
Injuries to Robbie Henshaw and Chris Farrell mean Aki is likely to be playing with his third midfield partner against Scotland - but already he is arguably the centre Ireland can afford to lose the least. Pace, power, intelligence and the softest of hands, he is Ireland’s own All Black.

Bundee Aki has been one of Ireland’s standout players of the Championship so far. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho
Bundee Aki has been one of Ireland’s standout players of the Championship so far. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

11 Jacob Stockdale
At 21-years-old and with eight tries from just seven Test matches, it’s safe to say Stockdale is living the dream. He has picked up where he left off last November, with his electric finishing seeing him lead the try-scoring charts with four. His defence will improve with experience.

Jacob Stockdale is the tournament’s top scorer with four tries from three games. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty
Jacob Stockdale is the tournament’s top scorer with four tries from three games. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty

10 Johnny Sexton
The general, the master. From his last second drop goal against France to his sublime display with the ball in hand against Wales, Sexton is currently the world’s best outhalf. The one player Ireland can’t afford to lose.

Johnny Sexton kicks for goal against Wales. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
Johnny Sexton kicks for goal against Wales. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

9 Conor Murray
One half of the world’s best outhalf pairing, Murray has been a steadying presence over the first three rounds, marshalling a new-look pack and giving typically fine distribution to an improving back line. Even took over the kicking duties with aplomb when Sexton got the yips against Wales.

Ireland’s number nine Conor Murray. Billy Stickland/Inpho
Ireland’s number nine Conor Murray. Billy Stickland/Inpho

1 Mako Vunipola
Met his match in Simon Berghan as the Scottish scrum held firm but Vunipola delivered a monstrous performance in round two, making a huge 17 tackles and 14 carries from loosehead as England battled to a 12-6 over Wales. Honourable mention goes to the returning Cian Healy.

Mako Vunipola carries against Scotland. Photograph: Russell Cheyne/Reuters
Mako Vunipola carries against Scotland. Photograph: Russell Cheyne/Reuters

2 Ken Owens
Was particularly impressive against England in round two, hitting his target in all 15 of his lineouts at a greasy Twickenham. Struggled to assert his usual influence over the ball against Ireland, but he was a constant thorn in the side of Scotland and the English on the deck.

Ken Owens tackles CJ Stander. Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters
Ken Owens tackles CJ Stander. Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

3 Andrew Porter
Called into action in the opening stages of Ireland’s win over Italy, Porter has ably filled the gap left by the injured Tadhg Furlong. A starting berth against Wales in the Six Nations is as stern a test a 22-year-old converted tighthead is likely to get but he passed it with flying colours.

Andrew Porter has filled in for the injured Tadhg Furlong with aplomb. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
Andrew Porter has filled in for the injured Tadhg Furlong with aplomb. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

4 Alun Wyn Jones
Wales came into the tournament shorn of the majority of their stars so needed the leadership of their old war horse more than ever. Helped steer a new-look side to a thrashing of Scotland and was inspirational in the ultimately doomed attempt to raid Twickenham.

Alun Wyn Jones tackles Johnny Sexton at the Aviva. Photograph: Julian Finney/Getty
Alun Wyn Jones tackles Johnny Sexton at the Aviva. Photograph: Julian Finney/Getty

5 Jonny Gray
The numbers speak for themselves. Gray made 15 tackles in defeat to Wales, 14 in the win over France, and a staggering 24 in the historic victory over England. A towering presence in the engine room for Scotland.

Jonny Gray with Tommy Seymour after Scotland’s win over England. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
Jonny Gray with Tommy Seymour after Scotland’s win over England. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

6 Aaron Shingler
Rangy, pacy and brilliant over the ball, the 30-year-old Shingler has waited a long time for a consistent run in the Wales team but he is taking his belated opportunity with both hands. Scored a good try against Ireland, and his break against England will live long in the memory.

Aaron Shingler scores for Wales in Dublin. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA
Aaron Shingler scores for Wales in Dublin. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA

7 Dan Leavy
The future’s bright. Like Porter negating Furlong’s absence, Leavy has been so impressive Ireland have flourished without the injured Seán O’Brien - something which has been unthinkable in the past.

Ireland openside Dan Leavy. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho
Ireland openside Dan Leavy. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

8 John Barclay
In the absence of a standout number eight Scotland captain Barclay moves across from blindside. Saw his team fail to fire in the opener against Wales but has been pivotal in their resurgence since, and had mammoth games against both France and England.

John Barclay with the Calcutta Cup. Photograph: Russell Cheyne/Reuters
John Barclay with the Calcutta Cup. Photograph: Russell Cheyne/Reuters
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