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Thursday Mar 21, 2024

Ben Youngs names his Top 10 Six Nations players

As part of their exciting new podcast, ‘For The Love Of Rugby’, Dan Cole and Ben Youngs have been looking back at the history of the Six Nations, choosing the greatest 10 players from the six-team era. Never an easy job, Dan put Ben to the sword with the unenviable task – this is how he got on:

George North

An incredible servant for Wales, he made his debut as a 6 foot 4 inch giant of a winger at the tender age of 18. The journey from young Welsh hopeful to 121 test cap legend was one filled with success on a personal and team level, culminating in a standing ovation as he exited the pitch for the final time against Italy in the 2024 Six Nations.

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Johnny Sexton

Another recently retired hero for his country, Johnny Sexton found himself filling the boots of the previous maestro Ronan O’Gara when he forced the former flyhalf out of the mantle he had held for so long. The transition proved to be a smooth one once Sexton had his hands fully gripped around the playmaking handle, with the Leinster-man going on to become who Andy Farrell would later refer to as “Ireland’s greatest ever player”.

Sam Warburton

A national captain at such a young age and an incredibly intelligent rugby man, Sam Warburton led his Wales side to some of their greatest years, including back to back Six Nations championships, and a World Cup semi-final. On a personal level, the great man was awarded the captaincy of the famous British and Irish Lions for their 2013 tour of Australia.

Sergio Parisse

Having never won the Six Nations there was serious debate as to whether the great man should be included on this list, but clearly having read my all-time greatest list, Ben just had to put him in.

Making his international debut at the age of just 18 years old, Parisse helped embed his national side into the newly formed Six Nations Championship. Going on to win 142 caps, the former captain ensured Italy became a genuine tier 1 side.

A powerful number 8, Parisse has always had the skillset of a backline player. This alongside his mammoth size allowed him to become one of the most dangerous players of all time.

Sergio Parisse of Italy during the Six Nations International Rugby Union match between Italy and France at Stadio Olimpico on March 16, 2019 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Danilo Di Giovanni/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Antoine Dupont

Despite being 27-years-old at the time of writing, Dupont is already being called by many the greatest to have ever played the game. The France captain has been a major focal point of the French rugby revolution in both the 15s and the 7s game. Having crashed out of their home World Cup in the quarter finals, Dupont elected to move his talents to the SVNS circuit where he quickly picked up gold in only his second competition.

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There’s plenty more to come from the talented scrum-half – all of which will have the rugby world’s eyes fixed firmly upon it.

TOPSHOT – France’s Antoine Dupont scores a try during the 2024 HSBC Canada Sevens rugby tournament match between France and USA at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver, Canada, on February 25, 2024. (Photo by Don MacKinnon / AFP) (Photo by DON MACKINNON/AFP via Getty Images)

Jonny Wilkinson

Known for his dedicated work rate, leadership skills, and incredible kicking abilities, Jonny Wilkinson personified the position of fly-half – inspiring a whole generation of young English rugby players.

Retiring in 2014, Wilkinson ended his career with one English Premiership title, one Top 14 title, two Heineken Champions Cups, a Rugby World Cup and multiple Six Nations Championships all alongside a plethora of individual honours.

Jonny Wilkinson England 2002 ireland six nations

Six Nations England vs Ireland 16/2/2002
Jonny Wilkinson of England takes the ball past Frankie Sheahan of Ireland
©INPHO/Allsport

Brian O’Driscoll

Often touted as the greatest Irish rugby player of all time, Brian O’Driscoll holds the record for both the most caps and the most tries for his national side. Noted for having both exceedingly good ball skills and a brilliant rugby brain, he has an honours list as long as anyone in world rugby.

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The four-time British and Irish Lions tourist and three-time Six Nations Player Of The Tournament played his entire club career for Dublin-based province Leinster, whilst the Irish number 13 shirt also became synonymous with O’Driscoll and he will forever be remembered for his famous hattrick in Paris against France in the early days of the Six Nations.

YOKOHAMA, JAPAN – NOVEMBER 02: Broadcasters Jonny Wilkinson (L), Brian O’Driscoll (C) and Sir Clive Woodward (R) look on prior to the Rugby World Cup 2019 Final between England and South Africa at International Stadium Yokohama on November 02, 2019 in Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan. (Photo by Clive Rose – World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

Jason Robinson

Billy Whizz, as he was affectionately known, started as a youngster with Rugby League side Wigan. He soon showed what a dangerous player he was, and later went on to become one of Great Britain’s greatest try scoring legends.

His transition to Rugby Union was a smooth one, unlike many others who have struggled to make the change. His electrifying speed and fast feet made him one of the most lethal counter attackers the world has ever seen. With multiple Six Nations titles and a Rugby World Cup under his belt, he has gone done as one of the greatest in the history of the game.

Jason Robinson legend

Thierry Dusautoir

Thierry Dusautoir was a hard-hitting flanker who was widely regarded as the best tackler in the world during his career. A giant of French rugby, he played for a number of the nation’s top sides and was capped by the national team on 80 occasions.

A quiet man, he led by example on the field rather than talked off it. He was incredibly committed in all aspects of the professional game, and no one can forget his famous World Cup final performance.

Paul O’Connell

Paul O’Connell was a dominant force for Ireland. Between 2002 and 2015, he represented the national team 108 times and helped them win the Six Nations Championship on three occasions, including a Grand Slam win in 2009.

Thanks to his impressive performances for Ireland over the years, Paul O’Connell was selected for three British and Irish Lions tours. On these tours, he was capped seven times and was a series winner in 2013.

Now, whilst we agree that all the above deserve to be on a list of the greatest Six Nations players ever…we do feel that there may be a few that would feel slightly hard done by. Here are six players (one from each country) that would arguably have a shout of being on the list:

Wales – Shane Williams

Ireland – Keith Wood

England – Martin Johnson

Italy – Diego Dominguez

Scotland – Finn Russell

France – Serge Betsen

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