Monday, March 20, 2017

The battle to be British and Irish Lions scrum-half will be a fierce one if the Six Nations player rankings are anything to go by.

Rankings released to Press Association Sport by the tournament’s official data supplier Accenture have Rhys Webb and Conor Murray in the top three among all 181 players to feature in the tournament.

Wales’ Webb has the edge with Limerick man Murray ranked third, the pair separated by France number eight Louis Picamoles.

The rankings are worked out by a formula which considers factors including ball-carrying, tackling, points scored, kicking, set-piece success and errors, assigning a weighted value to each.

Webb ranks highly in the efficiency of his ball-carrying, making 146 metres on 36 carries and beating seven defenders, with six offloads helping to keep Wales’ momentum going.

Murray, whose campaign ended when he was forced off in the second half of Ireland’s penultimate game against Wales, had fewer carries, 21, making just 71 metres with one defender beaten and two offloads, but he scored a try against France and also made only three handling errors in the tournament to Webb’s nine.

Both players have been

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shortlisted for the Six Nations player of the championship.

Former South Africa and Italy coach Nick Mallett compiled a shortlist of 12 players to go to the public vote for Accenture’s player of the tournament award, with Murray, France fly-half Camille Lopez, England forward Itoje and Italy captain Sergio Parisse joining Picamoles, CJ Stander, Owen Farrell, Joe Launchbury, Finn Russell, Stuart Hogg, Webb and Ken Owens.

Murray ranked slightly higher in the kicking game but Webb was more impressive defensively, with 47 successful tackles and only five missed.

Picamoles’ tackling and ball-carrying were to the fore while he also added a try. His team-mate Baptiste Serin made it three scrum-halves in the top four while Ireland flanker Stander and Wales hooker Owens followed as the top-ranked forwards, the latter with a 95% success rate on line-out throws.

Stander’s 103 carries topped the charts by a remarkable margin, with Picamoles second on 71. Picamoles was similarly dominant in terms of defenders beaten, his tally of 24 nine clear of England full-back Mike Brown with Stander third on 14.

Champions England had to wait until 12th place for their first entry in the rankings, fly-half George Ford, though Maro Itoje and Ben Youngs quickly follow in 14th and 15th respectively.

Fly-half Russell ensured Scottish representation in the top 10 and joined team-mate Hogg in Accenture’s team of the tournament, which featured five Ireland players – props Jack McGrath and Tadgh Furlong, Stander and wings Simon Zebo and Keith Earls.

Centre Jonathan Davies joins Owens and Webb as Wales’ representatives, England also have three with locks Launchbury and Courtney Lawes and centre Farrell, and France back-rowers Picamoles and Kevin Gourdon complete the line-up.

    Accenture Six Nations rankings – top 10:

  • 1 Rhys Webb (Wales)
  • 2 Louis Picamoles (France)
  • 3 Conor Murray (Ireland)
  • 4 Baptiste Serin (France)
  • 5 CJ Stander (Ireland)
  • 6 Ken Owens (Wales)
  • 7 Dan Biggar (Wales)
  • 8 Finn Russell (Scotland)
  • 9 Kevin Gourdon (France)
  • 10 Camille Lopez (France)
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