It has now been two decades since Italy joined the Guinness Six Nations and the Championship has provided countless memorable moments in that time.
As we reflect on the past 20 years, we are asking some of the great players who have played a part to select their Greatest XV.
And today we have former Ireland centre Gordon D’Arcy, who gained 82 caps for the men in green between 1999 and 2015 and ran in seven tries – with five in Championship action – across a thrilling career.
You can join in too on the Guinness Six Nations app where you can pick your own ultimate team and compare it to D’Arcy’s Greatest XV below.
15. Clément Poitrenaud (France)
As a preamble, I tried to pick the best team as a whole, rather than just the best 15 individuals.
I was always an attack-minded player in my own career, and you knew Clément Poitrenaud could change the game in an instant, which I always admired.
He was part of a dominant France generation and had everything – it was very hard to look past my former teammate Rob Kearney, but Poitrenaud edges it for me.
14. Aurélien Rougerie (France)
I’ve got very few good memories of playing against Aurélien Rougerie! The quality of No. 13s was so hard to pick from, but I was always a fan of big wingers so I slotted Rougerie over to the wing.
He’s a player you can’t do without – the way he played the game was attack first, but also with a physical element.
13. Brian O’Driscoll (Ireland)
Brian O’Driscoll is a timeless force and his ability to change games was phenomenal. He was a pleasure to play alongside and I was spoilt with a front-row seat for his brilliance!
I can give many other honourable mentions to other players like Jonathan Davies and Manu Tuilagi, but there was only ever going to be one No. 13 for me.
12. Jamie Roberts (Wales)
Jamie Roberts was just one of those players who could get you over the gain line phenomenally.
But there was also so much more to his game; he was a smart rugby player, a big defender and was the sort of player you could really build a game plan around.
11. Vincent Clerc (France)
Vincent Clerc has been timeless and was an out-and-out finisher – it’s so easy for players to wait for the game to come to them but wingers like Vincent, Denis Hickie, Shane Williams and Jason Robinson never did that.
Vincent has so often been the guy responsible for other teams’ heartbreak, and has been phenomenal.
10. Johnny Sexton (Ireland)
Johnny Sexton is probably one of the most uncompromising players – in a positive way – I’ve played with. He really drove success, and his will to win was positively infectious.
He has everything and is probably the most rounded fly-half to ever play in the Guinness Six Nations.
For No. 10s to balance the tactical nuances of the game and also play what’s in front of them is hard, but he can do that.
9. Jean-Baptiste Élissalde (France)
The mindset of that France team that Jean-Baptiste Élissalde was involved in would make him complement Johnny perfectly – Johnny is such a force and you need a force next to him.
I thought about including Antoine Dupont or Conor Murray but I thought Jean-Baptiste would add another dynamic to that No. 9 and 10 partnership with his individual flair.
1. Tom Smith (Scotland)
The easy thing to do was go with Cian Healy but I was brought back to Tom Smith because he set the template for the next generation.
Few have been able to ever get close to him, and while Cian’s longevity may mean he eventually surpasses him, I was drawn to Tom because he was a player ahead of his time.
2. Keith Wood (Ireland)
Keith Wood was a fine hooker – he could throw the ball from a lineout, could win you scrums and was a big character.
He could change a game that wasn’t going your way with a quick break, could drag his team over the gain line and in many ways was also ahead of his time.
3. Martin Castrogiovanni (Italy)
Tadhg Furlong could become an all-time great prop, but Martin Castrogiovanni’s name was always there whenever we did any analysis of the Italy side.
With his scrummaging, involvement in the game and physicality, we knew he was a guy who needed to be stopped, and he was the cornerstone of Italian rugby.
4. Martin Johnson (England)
Martin Johnson was uncompromising, physical and nasty, which is everything you’d want from your second rows.
In those ways he was a very similar player to Paul O’Connell, so it would be interesting to see who would win the ultimate battle and get the final say!
5. Paul O’Connell (Ireland)
Paul is a student of the game and has all those attributes of a natural leader – he was physically built for the game and brought so much intensity to everything.
His ability to mentally compartmentalise things and do whatever it took to win really set him aside from most other second rows.
6. Stephen Ferris (Ireland)
Stephen Ferris was one of the few out and out No. 6s who have ever played the game – he was absolutely phenomenal.
He was a guy who inspired confidence and was a pleasure to play with; had he not been so unlucky with injuries, he would have been one of the first names on the teamsheet week in, week out.
7. Serge Betsen (France)
Serge Betsen is the players’ player – he doesn’t have phenomenal stats and doesn’t visibly look like he’d have a huge impact on games, but I loved the way he played.
He’d put his face where most players wouldn’t even put their boots, was a little bit crafty and would add balance, alongside Stephen, to my back row.
8. Lawrence Dallaglio (England)
Lawrence Dallaglio would have been just as effective today as he always was – he is one of the all-time great No. 8s, and was a natural leader who inspired those around him.
He was physically imposing, very athletic and a strong character. He had all the attributes and was a phenomenal player across the board.
Check out other players’ Greatest XVs below:
David Flatman and Tom Shanklin