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Irish Independent
Irish Independent
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Hugo Keenan is top of the charts as we rank all 32 of Ireland’s Grand Slam winners

Hugo Keenan. Photo: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

It was the ultimate squad effort, with 32 players featuring across the five games and some making brief but telling contributions.

From Robbie Henshaw scoring a key try on his first start to Finlay Bealham shining early on before suffering a knee injury, Ireland’s Grand Slam was built on a thousand tiny moments of quality from a squad who are all pulling in the same direction.

Andy Farrell was keen to shine a light on those who never featured for a minute but trained all week with the squad and a host of them were present on Saturday for the celebrations.

Still, there was plenty of heavy lifting to do to allow Johnny Sexton raise the trophy and we’ve ranked their efforts.

1 Hugo Keenan

(Played 5, 360 minutes, 2 tries)

There was something startling about Keenan hooking his clearance kick midway through the first half on Saturday, because it was basically the first mistake he’d made all tournament.

The full-back is a rock of security and his presence allows others to thrive, but he’s also an incisive attacking weapon with two tries, four line breaks and the most metres carried of any player in this year’s Six Nations tournament.

2 James Ryan

(Played 5, 400 mins, 2 tries)

He was a prominent player in the 2018 campaign, but he has gone to a new level since enduring some tough months last season. His aggression on the opposition ball is a key weapon for the team, while his handling and carrying are improving as is his leadership.

3 Andrew Porter

(Played 5, 363 mins, 1 try)

Porter’s durability underpins his overall excellence and, while others were dropping around him the Dubliner pitched up with big shifts that must have taken a physical toll. His discipline let him down once or twice, but his aggression is a key part of Ireland’s dominance.

4 Josh van der Flier

(Played 5, 400 mins, 1 try)

The World Player of the Year still sometimes operates below the radar somehow, but his phenomenal work-rate allows others to flourish and he makes big contributions across the game.

5 Johnny Sexton

(Played 4, 259 mins)

The guiding hand that makes so much else happen, his kicking was accurate at all times and he nailed clutch kicks at the moments Ireland needed them. Has developed so much as a captain.

Irish captain Johnny Sexton. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

6 Mack Hansen

(Played 5, 400 mins, 3 tries)

Hansen backs himself and that helps get Ireland out of difficult positions, while his blend of creative touches and finishing excellence is a potent combination. A good defender too, he’s had a great tournament.

Irish winger Mack Hansen. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

7 James Lowe

(Played 5, 400 mins, 3 tries)

Like Hansen, he’s a critical player for Ireland and the way they attack. Without the ball, he made big plays in the first two games and, while he struggled against Italy, was back on it for the decisive games.

8 Peter O’Mahony

(Played 5, 277 mins)

The flanker has always been a big contributor to Ireland, but his consistent excellence across five games deserves special mention. His lineout work in Murrayfield was key.

9 Caelan Doris

(Played 5, 331 mins, 1 try)

Would be higher up the list if it wasn’t for that injury against Scotland that knocked his performance down against England. In the first three games, he was magnificent.

10 Dan Sheehan

(Played 3, 185 mins, 2 tries)

Like Sheehan, he’d be better placed were it not for injuries. The best hooker in the world, his speed and lines of running married with set-piece excellence set him apart.

11 Garry Ringrose

(Played 3, 232 mins, 1 try)

Injury cost him a few places, but he played a crucial role by setting the physical tone against Wales and scoring a beauty of a try against France. Ireland missed him in Rome.

12 Finlay Bealham

(Played 3, 158 mins)

Tadhg Furlong’s injury was a concern coming in, but the Connacht prop didn’t miss a beat with three impressive displays. His two try-assists show his skills and he was unlucky to suffer a knee injury.

13 Bundee Aki

(Played 5, 268 mins, 1 try)

Got better as the tournament went on and was excellent against England. His erratic performance in Rome perhaps belied a lack of game-time, but he’s a central figure for Ireland’s head coach Farrell.

14 Jamison Gibson-Park

(Played 2, 100 mins)

In terms of impact per minutes played, there’s no beating the Leinster scrum-half who had to withdraw before the opener against Wales and only featured off the bench against Scotland and starting against England. He was superb.

15 Jack Conan

(Played 5, 192 mins, 1 try)

He’s lost his starting place to Doris, but Conan’s performances off the bench were all impressive. He was a little quiet on his one start in Rome, but he made a difference in Murrayfield with his try and was impactful against England.

16 Ryan Baird

(Played 3, 157 mins)

Has had to bide his time, but he’s the real deal. Big shifts off the bench against Italy and Scotland were followed by an important role in the win over England.

17 Conor Murray

(Played 5, 195 mins)

His role has changed, but he remains a key figure in this Irish squad and a man that Farrell trusts implicitly. Given what he’s been through personally, his contribution was incredible and he played a big role in the win over Italy in particular.

18 Ross Byrne

(Played 5, 139 mins)

Thought his chance was gone, so he can take a lot of satisfaction from his contribution; in particular his performance off the bench against France on February 11 at the Aviva.

19 Cian Healy

(Played 2, 36 mins)

Sure, others played a bigger role in terms of minutes played but the importance of Healy’s display at hooker against Scotland can’t be underestimated.

20 Tom O’Toole

(Played 5, 118 mins)

Pretty unmapped coming in but he was involved in all five games and made a difference when coming into games with his impact in the carry and tackle.

21 Stuart McCloskey

(Played 3, 198 mins)

Played his part in the Grand Slam success story with three starts and was solid across the board. Picked up a knock against Italy and never got his place back.

22 Tadhg Beirne

(Played 2, 99 mins)

Injury deprived him of having a greater role after he started against Wales and France, playing well on both occasions.

23 Robbie Henshaw

(Played 2, 94 mins, 1 try)

Missed the first three games with injury, but his try was a key moment against England and, though short of a gallop, he did well.

24 Tadhg Furlong

(Played 2, 124 mins)

He’s missed a lot of rugby and that contributed to a lack of sharpness in his two outings, particularly against England where he struggled to get back to his best.

25 Rónan Kelleher

(Played 3, 141 mins)

Was just finding his feet after injury when his shoulder gave in against Scotland. Impressed from the start against the Scots and off the bench against France.

26 Craig Casey

(Played 3, 105 mins)

Impressive cameos off the bench against Wales and particularly France were followed by a decent start against Italy.

27 Rob Herring

(Played 3, 42 mins, 1 try)

Unlucky to have to go off injured against France, but his cameo against England brought another try from the back of the maul and he’s a reliable option.

28 Iain Henderson

(Played 2, 73 mins)

He’s absolutely cursed when it comes to injury at the moment and was just showing signs of getting back to himself when he broke his wrist against Scotland.

29 Jimmy O’Brien

(Played 2, 49 mins)

Came on just before half-time on Saturday when the game needed winning and he was ice-cool despite the high stakes.

30 Dave Kilcoyne

(Played 3, 54 mins)

Can consider himself unlucky to have missed out on the last two games to Cian Healy after impressing off the bench in the first three.

31 Kieran Treadwell

(Played 1, 7 mins)

Left out initially, but injuries opened the door and he was on the pitch at the end of it all.

32 Jack Crowley

(Played 1, 2 mins)

He was at every game and had things gone better in Rome he’d have had a longer stint. Highly rated by the coaches, has to bide his time.

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