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21st Mar 2023

Momentum gathers for Mack Hansen after an almost impossible position to be placed in

Patrick McCarry

Mack Hansen

“It’s different gravy, isn’t it.”

With Lansdowne Road still reverberating with song and celebrations, Mack Hansen was hooked in for some post-match media duties and produced the goods again.

The Connacht winger spoke of needing to take tablets so ‘I didn’t s**t myself’ and replied, ‘Drink, drink, drink’ when asked for his plans for the evening.

“[It’s] absolutely amazing, it’s hard to put into words at the moment,” he confessed. “It’s a crazy feeling. It’s just been such an atmosphere, it’s crazy… It’s like something I’ve never seen before, it’s incredible. It just shows how much Ireland is behind us, and we love it.”

Hansen scored three Six Nations tries, in his five starts, he played all 80 minutes and picked up two Man of the Match awards, along the way. To me, he was the championship’s outstanding player but all other five nominated have solid cases. As three are French and three are Irish, split votes could see anyone win the best player accolade.

For Hansen to even be in the conversation, going up against the sublime Damian Penaud, shows how well he has performed. That he could beat the likes of Penaud, Antoine Dupont and red-hot teammate Caelan Doris and Hugo Keenan would be virtually impossible to conceive, 14 months ago.

When Andy Farrell named the former Brumbies winger in his Ireland squad, many expected him to get a taste of being a wider squad member and push for a run-out in the home game against Italy. Instead, he was straight in from the start against Wales, scored from a restart against France, in Paris, and never looked back.

Going into the 2023 Six Nations, the form winger in world rugby was clearly Damian Penaud. By the conclusion of this Six Nations, the 26-year-old had scored five tries (18 in his last 17 Test outings) and tallied up 400+ in metres gained on carries.

Pipping Penaud to the 14 jersey is almost as improbable as making that Ireland XV seemed, back in January 2022. He might yet beat Hansen into Team of the Tournament, but the Ireland winger is my Player of the Championship.

Fortunately, I am not the only one saying it.

Momentum grows for Mack Hansen

On House of Rugby, myself, Jason Hennessy and former Munster and Ireland centre James Downey selected our Player of the Championship.

Downey, likeΒ The Times’ Will Kelleher and Irish Times rugby correspondent Gerry Thornley, could not look past Antoine Dupont. “He is absolutely unplayable, at times,” gushed Downey.

While Caelan Doris got a very honourable mention, Hennessy made a strong Mack Hansen case:

“For me, with two Man of the Match awards, three tries and someone who was so important was Hansen. He’s coming in off his wing now as an extra playmaker. He is so instrumental to our attacker play and was so influential throughout. Just an incredible talent.”

Ireland rolled Wales and had their collective performance of the championship against France, with Hansen good in both games. His only blemish in those first two wins came against France as he [not the only one] missed a tackle on Penaud and was held up short of the tryline by Dupont’s incredible strength.

For the final three games, he stepped up his levels again. He scored two tries against Italy to help shake off a niggly foe, was immense against Scotland and the best attacking talent on show against England. It felt like every time his team needed a big play, in those final three games, the 25-year-old stepped up and had a crack – haring after kicks, stunning aerial takes, turnovers at the breakdown, offloads or tries.

“Mack Hansen hasn’t been bad either.”

Not bad, Shane Horgan? The guy has been flippin’ brilliant.

The winner of the Guinness Six Nations Player of The Championship will be announced on Friday, March 24, alongside the Team of The Championship.Β To vote, visit:Β Voting PageΒ 


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