Ranking the 5 Greatest Six Nations Players of All-Time

Daniel Rey@@ReyDanielMFeatured ColumnistJanuary 29, 2016

Ranking the 5 Greatest Six Nations Players of All-Time

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    FRANCK FIFE/Getty Images

    The Six Nations Championship is the premier stage for the star players of European rugby to perform. Italy joined England, France, Ireland, Scotland and Wales in 2000 to inaugurate a new era: the Six Nations. Since then, the greats of European rugby have set the tournament alight.

    Here, Bleacher Report ranks the five greatest players ever to play in the Six Nations.

    This list is comprised of two Irishmen, and one player apiece from England, Italy and Wales. Neither France nor Scotland have a star in the top five, but Fabien Pelous and Chris Paterson came closest. In compiling the list, emphasis has been placed on continued excellence, whether part of a successful team or not.

    Despite that, it is too hard to separate the claims of three players because of the different positions they play and their formidable performances. Consequently, this list is made up of a fifth place, three equal seconds and one Six Nations greatest player of all time.

    All stats are courtesy of supersport.

5. Sergio Parisse

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    Sergio Parisse, the Argentinian-born No. 8 has always shone for Italy despite injuries and the often mediocre performances from his team-mates.

    Nobody has had more of an individual impact on his team since the inception of the Six Nations than Parisse. Whereas Italy can be predictable and turgid, Parisse’s example has led the way for Italy to record wins against every side other than England.

    As Tom Cary eulogised in the Daily Telegraph ahead of Italy’s clash with Ireland at the 2015 World Cup:

    Parisse has been there for some magical wins. He was man of the match in the victory against Wales in 2007 when Pierre Berbizier’s team came from behind to edge a thriller in Rome. He was there for Italy’s first win against France in the Six Nations in 2011, and again when they repeated the trick two years later. And he was there when Italy beat their opponents on Sunday for the first time in the Six Nations that same year.

    Every country has their talisman, their key player. But few countries rely so heavily on one player to inspire them, to bail them out time and again.

    Sergio Parisse is that man.

2=. Jonny Wilkinson

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    Jonny Wilkinson is understandably best remembered for gracing another international rugby tournament, but he left his mark on the Six Nations, too.

    Instrumental in England’s early dominance of the competition, he was magisterial in 2003. His tackling against Ireland that year (see video) is an apt reminder of his extraordinary work from fly-half.

    Wilkinson also marked a comeback from longstanding fitness problems with the complete 27-point performance in the Calcutta Cup match against Scotland in 2007.

    And despite his regular unavailability, he remains second on the list of top points scorers in the Six Nations.

2=. Paul O'Connell

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    Paul O’Connell was the 2015 Six Nations Player of the Tournament after the lock led Ireland to the title. Inspirational as a captain and a dominator of the lineout, age refused to limit O’Connell’s influence.

    As former Scotland winger Kenny Logan reflected on Twitter, per Sky Sports: “If anyone wants to watch how you should be a second row or an ambassador of the game, he is the man to watch.”

2=. Shane Williams

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    Shane Williams, the Welsh wing wizard, is at the heart of many of the Six Nations’ most iconic moments, such as the last-minute winning try in the 2010 match against Scotland (see video above).

    Twenty-two tries places the flyer third on the all-time list of scorers in Europe’s premier international competition, going back to the 1880s.

    Wales captain Sam Warburton paid this tribute to the 2008 Six Nations Player of the Year and IRB World Player of the Year upon his retirement in 2014, as per Wales Online:

    Shane is a legend in Wales and throughout the rugby world. Everybody thought wingers had to be a certain height and a certain build, so Shane kept being told that he was too small to make it.

    He never gave up, kept working hard on his game and eventually when he got his chance proved everybody wrong.

1. Brian O’Driscoll

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    Brian O’Driscoll is the undisputed king of the Six Nations. He has more appearances (65) and more tries in the tournament (26) than anyone else, and he signed off his career with the 2014 title.

    O’Driscoll has a strong claim to be greatest European player of the professional era, and nowhere did he exhibit this better than in the Six Nations, where he has an unmatched record of being named Player of the Tournament on three occasions.

    For continued excellence, “BOD” tops the list and is a cut above the rest.

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