World Rugby

Top Forwards Of The Six Nations: Freakish Athleticism And Exceptional Skill

Top Forwards Of The Six Nations: Freakish Athleticism And Exceptional Skill

The 2024 Guinness Six Nations Championship has seen several breakthrough performances, and here are five of the best forwards playing in the event.

Mar 5, 2024
Top Forwards Of The Six Nations: Freakish Athleticism And Exceptional Skill

Following three rounds of Six Nations action, we’ve already got a good picture of where each team finds itself. 

Ireland is humming, France is limping through, Scotland is resurgent and the rest are experiencing teething issues.

Amidst all of this, there have been numerous players, and in particular, forwards, who have shone from all nations, taking games by the scruff of the neck.

Here, we take a closer look at the top forwards from the Six Nations so far:

Joe McCarthy

Of all the teams in the Six Nations, Ireland is the most complete, from 1 to 15, but, just like any great side, they have a fresh pool of players coming through, ready to challenge for a starting spot. 

One of the latest newcomers is Joe McCarthy, a hulking figure in the second row who was brought in by Andy Farrell for the pivotal Round 1 bout with France. 

Eyebrows may have been raised at the decision, but any doubters soon were silenced, as McCarthy put in a sublime all-around performance against one of the best packs in the world.

His carrying was immense, work in the lineout slick, yet it was his work rate that really caught the eye.

A man of that size shouldn’t be able to get around the park with such ease, but the Leinster man makes it look effortless. 

Mixed into all of this, he manages to fly up off the line and crunch opponents in the tackle, much like Eben Etzebeth.

That’s high praise for someone still in international infancy, but such has been the level of his performances. It doesn’t feel too much to say McCarthy may be the latest in a long line of great Irish secondrows.

Tommy Reffell

Playing well is a lot easier when your team is doing well. It becomes a lot harder when others around you are struggling.

So far, Wales has spluttered in the competition and still is in search of a first win. 

It will take time for the new crop of youngsters to raise their level to match the intensity of international rugby, but there is one man on the squad who’s been delivering stellar showings so far, and that’s Tommy Reffell.

The Leicester Tigers backrower has been a menace at the breakdown, stifling the opposition's possession whenever he gets a chance. 

Against Scotland, his jackaling was a source of frustration for the visitors and led to the penalty count raking up against Scotland. 

A week later, against England, Reffell raised his game further, winning numerous turnovers at pivotal points in the match.

He was, without question, the best player on the pitch that day and emerged from Round 2 with more turnovers than any other player.

While his performance against Ireland was more subdued, it’s hard to find someone more valuable to his side than Reffell.

Ben Earl

A year ago, there was a wide consensus that Ben Earl was not necessarily a test-match player. 

Under Eddie Jones, he struggled for consistency. When Steve Borthwick came in, he initially did not shine above the rest.

But slowly, Earl’s confidence has grown. During the World Cup, he quickly became one of England’s top players.

He’s continued that trend this Six Nations, picking up a Player of the Match award against Wales for his hard-carrying and stellar solo try off a scrum, which brought England back into the game after they’d been trailing.

While England is far from the finished product, as its loss to Scotland clearly demonstrated, Earl is fast becoming its most valuable asset.

There’s a real dearth of big ball carriers in the pack, which means there’s extra reliance upon the muscle of Earl, and the Saracens backrower has answered the call seamlessly. Not to mention, he’s also done all this while playing out of position at No. 8.

Caelan Doris

It doesn’t feel like an overreaction to include two Irishmen on this list. Ireland far and away has been the best team in the tournament and look primed to win another Grand Slam.

A lot of that is down to the work of Caelan Doris. 

The imposing No. 8 has been at his reliable best, working hard to give his team the edge in every facet of the game.

There’s never been a question about his effectiveness in an Ireland shirt - he’s a huge runner who also uses his speed to break tackles and score tries.

What has been more impressive to see this Six Nations is the growing responsibility placed on his shoulders to become a leader within the squad.

At age 25, Doris still is one of the younger faces within an experienced squad, but despite that, he was given the opportunity to captain the team against Italy and rose to the occasion.

He’s a true leader by example and carries the weight of his nation on his shoulders without much of a sweat.

Pierre Schoeman

The front row can be an unforgiving position. You can put in a lot of work and still get overlooked in favor of the more dynamic players at the back of the scrum.

But they’re worthy of recognition, and in particular, for this list, it’s the tireless work of Pierre Schoeman that gets the nod.

The Scotland frontrow has been a real asset for some time, holding his weight in the scrum, while also packing a punch in the midfield.

However, in Round 1, he managed to nab a rare try and followed that with a supreme performance opposite the 150-kilogram Uini Atonio in Round 2. 

To prove that show of scrummaging strength wasn’t a one off, Schoeman then locked horns with an experienced English front three and again held his own, giving Scotland a valuable platform off which to attack.

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