Final Ireland player ratings for Six Nations sees Hugo Keenan edge out three teammates
Digging into the numbers, the Leinster fullback was as consistent as he was brilliant.
On Wednesday evening, voting will close on the 2023 Six Nations Player of the Championship and Team of the Tournament. Hugo Keenan could feature in both but Thomas Ramos is a worthy foe when it comes to casting votes.
Freddie Steward had a fine championship for England, even before the red card he received in Dublin that has now been rescinded. Still, he was a distant third [no offence, Ange Capuozzo or Stuart Hogg] to Keenan and Ramos.
Keenan, Caelan Doris and Mack Hansen are the three Ireland stars contesting the player of the championship accolade. That trio all rated very high for us, across the tournament, as well as two other regular starters and a late bolter.
We have gone back over our five sets of player ratings [marks out of 10 for each game] and come up with a final number, looked upon in the context of the games and tournament on the whole.
IRELAND'S BEST-RATED PLAYER - Hugo Keenan
The man who has played the most Test minutes since Andy Farrell took over from Joe Schmidt, as head coach, Hugo Keenan only added to his reputation in the championship.
In his first four outings, Keenan rated 9, 9, 8 and 8 for us. He scored a 7/10 in the Grand Slam decider against England as he had two uncharacteristic errors in the first half but a few decent moments before going off with a head blow after that collision with Steward. That took his overall rating down to 8.2.
Only one teammate scored higher, on average. We will get to him, next.
IRELAND'S HIGHEST RATED PLAYER - Ryan Baird
The 23-year-old only played his first championship minutes in round three of the Six Nations as he came off the bench to deliver a big impact against Italy. He repeated the dose against Scotland and was playing so well that he might have pushed Iain Henderson for a start against England had the Ulster lock not already fractured his arm at Murrayfield.
Ryan Baird came in for his first start, against the English, and was up there with Bundee Aki as Ireland's best performers in that 29-16 victory. He finished with an average rating of 8:33. Since he had only one start and 158 minutes of action, Keenan got our best player nod. Best breakthrough player, though? Look no further.
THE TOP PERFORMERS - Sexton, van der Flier and Hansen
These three players had big moments and plays in each game they played. Johnny Sexton started four matches [missing Italy] and got 8/10 in each game for us. Caelan Doris would have definitely pushed Hugo Keenan for our top championship rating but he limped off after only 12 minutes against Scotland. The 6/10 he got for that game looks out of place [and slightly unfair] when you look at his other four game scores - 9, 9, 8 and 8.
Mack Hansen is the outside bet for Player of the Championship after timing his run perfectly. He was solid in his opening two games [two 7/10s] before coming on like a train, against Italy, Scotland and England. Finished with an average rating of 7.8 but that even undersells the amount of times he showed up just when his team needed a big play. It is why myself and Jason Hennessy argued for him as Player of the Championship in the latest House of Rugby [LISTEN from 58:15 below].
THE FOUNDATION STONES - Aki, Beirne, Ryan, Furlong and Sheehan
Four of these players all finished with average ratings of 7.5 for the championship. James Ryan was a shade lower [7.4] as he started all five games. To us, his best two performances were in the away wins over Wales and Scotland.
Tadhg Furlong and Dan Sheehan might yet make Team of the Tournament despite only having five starts between them - that is how well they played in their time on the pitch. Tadhg Beirne was in top form and his loss should have been a hammer blow, but Ireland moved serenely on with Henderson, Baird and Treadwell filling that breach.
Bundee Aki began the championship as backline cover but proved how valuable he remains to this squad. He was great in attack and shaky in defence against Italy, rock solid against Scotland and superb against England.
DECENT CAMPAIGNS - Ringrose, McCloskey, Lowe, JGP, O'Mahony, Bealham, Healy, Porter, O'Toole
All of these players finished with average ratings around 7/10. In overall context of the tournament, the three lads were picking out for a boot shine are Peter O'Mahony [great against Scotland], James Lowe [two 8/10s and important tries] and Andrew Porter. The loosehead still leaks too many penalties put his engine is immense - he played 361 of a possible 400 minutes with the away win over Scotland his best game.
SUPPORTING CAST - Henshaw, Murray, Conan, Herring, Kelleher, Treadwell, Casey, R. Byrne, O'Brien, Crowley, Henderson
32 players got minutes for Ireland, with another 16 called in, over the championship, to train with the squad at the IRFU High Performance Centre. Each player can look back on a championship in which they played key roles in getting Ireland into winning positions or seeing our leads with room to spare.
Ireland player ratings for each 2023 Six Nations game
To get you up to speed on all the 2023 Six Nations matches for Ireland, so far, here is how the championship has played out for the men in green.
Ireland rolled over Wales, in Cardiff, in their first match out, with Hugo Keenan and Caelan Doris getting our highest ratings (9/10). France were rumbled next, in Dublin, with Keenan and Doris once again in flying form.
In round three, Italy put up a big fight but Ireland finished strong to get their third win on the trot. Josh van der Flier and Tom O'Toole got big chunks of praise, in our final ratings.
After the 22-7 victory over Scotland, van der Flier rated highly again, as did Mack Hansen and emergency hooker Cian Healy. In the Grand Slam clincher against England, our top ratings of 9/10 went to Bundee Aki and Ryan Baird.
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