18 March 2023

Ireland’s key men in stunning Six Nations campaign

18 March 2023

Ireland celebrated Grand Slam glory after defeating England in Dublin.

Here, the PA news agency picks out five standout performers in the Guinness Six Nations triumph.

Caelan Doris

Doris has become a colossal figure in Ireland’s back row having developed from a rising star to a world-class number eight since making his debut in the first match of Andy Farrell’s tenure. The towering 24-year-old claimed his country’s opening try of the tournament and has been a fearsome presence for opposition sides. His outstanding ball-carrying skills were a key weapon in the Irish arsenal, while he also produced a series of crucial turnovers.

Johnny Sexton

Influential on and off the field, captain Sexton continues to relentlessly drive standards. The 37-year-old taskmaster deservedly celebrated his final Six Nations campaign by lifting the title for the first time as skipper and a fourth occasion overall. He also took individual acclaim by surpassing former fly-half rival Ronan O’Gara as the championship’s all-time leading points scorer. His forthcoming retirement following the autumn World Cup in France will leave sizeable boots to fill.

Hugo Keenan

Like Doris, Ireland’s ‘Mr Dependable’ is one of the fresh faces who have helped the team kick on since the 2019 World Cup. Keenan has made the full-back role his own and started 30 of his country’s last 32 matches. Exceptional under the high ball, the 26-year-old is lightning quick and rarely makes mistakes. His major contributions during the championship included Ireland’s opening try in the pulsating victory over France, while he was among the tournament’s top performers for metres gained.

Mack Hansen

Successive man-of-the-match displays against Italy and Scotland underlined the Australia-born wing’s increasing importance to the cause. The 24-year-old, who only made his Test debut a year ago, was phenomenal at Murrayfield and, like James Lowe on the opposing flank, has added a different dimension to Ireland’s attack. A constant creative threat, he is fearless, pacey and chips in with crucial tries, such as his timely second at Stadio Olimpico.

James Ryan

The lock continues to grow as a leader and impressed players past and present by speaking passionately of Ireland’s troubled history and the significance of wearing the green jersey in the run-up to the France game. On the field, he is back to his formidable best after suffering a dip in form either side of the 2021 Lions tour, for which he was overlooked. He led the team in Rome and was a tackling machine throughout the tournament.

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