There were three away victories in round one of the 2023 Guinness Six Nations as Ireland, Scotland and France all claimed bonus-point wins.
Here are our picks from the opening weekend...
15. Hugo Keenan (Ireland)
"The courage on that kid, how he got up for those high balls and never looked like dropping one. And he always looked dangerous with ball in hand as well."
Andy Farrell was effusive in his praise for Keenan, who was rock-solid in the air against the Wales and a great counter-attacking threat. He also made a vital intervention to deny Rio Dyer a certain try on 11 minutes.
14. Ange Capuozzo (Italy)
.@CapuozzoAnge - unlocking defences for @Federugby since 2022 🔓#AwakenAnticipation | #ITAvFRA pic.twitter.com/JzvB08k2n5— Guinness Six Nations (@SixNationsRugby) February 5, 2023
We just had to include Capuozzo in our XV so we're switching him to the wing. The 23-year-old produced a brilliant finish in the corner for his first-half try and was outstanding in attack throughout.
He made 122 metres with ball in hand, the most of any player on the pitch.
13. Gaël Fickou (France)
France found themselves under mounting pressure in the second half but Fickou helped limit the damage with an outstanding defensive display. The centre made 16 tackles, missing none, while he also produced a strong fend on Giacomo Nicoterra during one of his 14 carries.
Fickou edges out Garry Ringrose, who had another strong showing in Cardiff.
12. Sione Tuipulotu (Scotland)
The 25-year-old’s decision-making under pressure was near flawless as Scotland claimed another memorable win at Twickenham, this time in front of a full house.
Tuipulotu’s inch-perfect kick teed up midfield partner Huw Jones for the opening try while his passing and carrying were on point. He gained 63 metres off ten carries and made 12 tackles.
11. Duhan ver der Merwe (Scotland)
Just WOW 🤯— Guinness Six Nations (@SixNationsRugby) February 4, 2023
Take a bow @duhanvdmerwe, that was sublime!#GuinnessSixNations | #ENGvSCO pic.twitter.com/LDPDQmroxS
Van der Merwe’s first-half try, from inside his own half, will go down as one of the best in Six Nations history.
His second score wasn’t bad, either, stepping two England defenders and holding off another couple to score the winning try with six minutes remaining.
10. Johnny Sexton (Ireland)
Sexton dictated proceedings behind a dominant Ireland pack. The skipper was hugely influential during Ireland’s rip-roaring start and also put in a shift in defence, where he used the choke tackle to good effect.
There were a couple of misplaced passes and kicks but this was an impressive showing by the out-half on his return from injury.
9. Antoine Dupont (France)
There was no panic from the scrum-half when Italy threatened a major upset in Rome. Dupont was strong in defence, making 12 tackles, while he broke three tackles in attack with his distribution and decision-making also standing out.
1. Ellis Genge (England)
🦏 You just don't stop @EllisGenge from that range.#GuinnessSixNations | #ENGvSCO pic.twitter.com/QrKpIjovmf— Guinness Six Nations (@SixNationsRugby) February 4, 2023
A willing and effective carrier throughout, Genge had a hand in Max Malins’ second try and scored himself after half-time to extend England’s lead to eight points.
The loosehead made 83 metres from 18 carries and held his own against WP Nel at scrum time after a shaky start.
2. Dan Sheehan (Ireland)
Wales struggled to cope with Sheehan’s explosive ball-carrying, the hooker breaking six tackles for a gain of 54 metres from nine carries.
The 24-year-old was solid at lineout time, made seven tackles, won a turnover, and even impressed on the wing late on as Ireland finished strongly.
3. Finlay Bealham (Ireland)
All eyes were on Bealham in Tadhg Furlong’s absence and the Connacht tighthead stepped up on his first Six Nations start.
Solid at scrum time, Bealham also worked his socks off in the loose, making 13 tackles and missing none. An impressive 60-minute showing from the 31-year-old.
4. Federico Ruzza (Italy)
It was an outstanding display by the Italian pack, which would surely have clinched a famous victory but for the indecisiveness of their half-backs.
Ruzza excelled at lineout time, winning eight throws and also stealing a French dart. He made 13 tackles, missing none, and his ball-carrying caused problems for the defending champions.
5. James Ryan (Ireland)
Ryan powered over for his first Ireland try since September 2019 and was hugely influential during Ireland’s thundering first quarter.
The lock unsettled Wales at lineout time and claimed a fantastic steal on his own five-metre line during the second half to knock the wind out of the hosts’ sails.
6. Jamie Ritchie (Scotland)
🏆 Three Calcutta Cup wins in a row for @Scotlandteam.— Guinness Six Nations (@SixNationsRugby) February 4, 2023
For the first time since 1972 ☑️☑️☑️#GuinnessSixNations | #ENGvSCO pic.twitter.com/WgaTvj3mRs
It was fitting that the Scotland skipper won the turnover that clinched victory at Twickenham.
Ritchie’s influence grew after a nervy start, the blindside brilliant on both sides of the ball as he made 13 carries and eight carries, while also proving a useful lineout option.
7. Josh van der Flier (Ireland)
The world player of the year’s footwork and explosiveness in contact was a joy to watch while he was again outstanding at the breakdown.
Van der Flier didn’t miss any of his 17 tackles and combined with Sexton in the second half to choke tackle George North, before then sealing victory by diving over untouched for the bonus-point try.
8. Caelan Doris (Ireland)
Another standout showing from the No 8, who ran Keenan close for the player of the match award.
Doris got Ireland off to a dream start with his early try. He also topped the charts for tackles (19) and carries (15) and won a vital turnover on Justin Tipuric during the second half.
Watch live coverage of Ireland v France (Saturday 2.15pm) on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player, follow our live blog on RTÉ.ie/Sport and the RTÉ News app, or listen to live commentary on RTÉ Radio 1.
Watch live coverage of England v Italy (Sunday, 3pm) on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player.