Player of the Championship contenders heading into Super Saturday

Four rounds of blockbuster action are in the books and just one week remains until the curtain comes down on the 2023 Guinness Six Nations.

Four rounds of blockbuster action are in the books and just one week remains until the curtain comes down on the 2023 Guinness Six Nations.

Ireland or France will be crowned on Super Saturday, with the former in the box seat as they seek a Grand Slam, while the defending champions will be ready to pounce on any slip-up.

And while team glory is everything in rugby, there is also some individual silverware that will be up for grabs, with the shortlist for the 2023 Guinness Six Nations Player of the Championship set to be revealed on Sunday.

The performances on Saturday will have a big impact on who makes the final shortlist, but with one round left to go, we have put together a list of contenders who have a good shot of being right in the mix.

Let us know what you think, and who we might have missed in this run-down of Player of the Championship contenders!

Caelan Doris (Ireland)

Through two rounds of the Championship, there was no question who the clubhouse leader was in this race, such had been Caelan Doris’ influence in Ireland wins in Cardiff and at home to France.

The complete back-rower, Doris has quickly emerged as one of his side’s most important players, and provided he is fit for the Grand Slam decider in Dublin, has a good shot of succeeding his forwards coach Paul O’Connell as the only Irish forward to win this award.

Antoine Dupont (France)

Only Brian O’Driscoll has won this award three times, but after Saturday’s performance at Twickenham, you would not be shocked to see his record matched in 2023.

The captain as France won the Grand Slam last year, Dupont served a reminder of his almost superhuman talents as Les Bleus powered to a record victory over England at Twickenham.

His kicking off both feet had England scrambling all game while only Finn Russell has more try assists this campaign. Defensively, teammate Gaël Fickou is the only back to have made more tackles than Dupont, who plays like no other scrum-half in the game.

Thibaud Flament (France)

To think, if Cameron Woki had not been ruled out of the Championship through injury, Thibaud Flament might not even have started for France.

He has taken his opportunity with both hands, literally in the opening game in Rome when his charge down and subsequent regather led to him scoring France’s first try of the campaign.

Two more followed against England at Twickenham, with Flament now just one of the top of the pile for tries this campaign. He is also second in terms of tackles made, with 67, and France’s top lineout jumper.

Mack Hansen (Ireland)

Back-to-back Player of the Match awards from Mack Hansen have catapulted him into the conversation for the Player of the Championship, with a masterful display against Scotland in Edinburgh.

In the first half of that game, he finished spectacularly in the corner but it was the second half where he seemed to take over the game, claiming an up-and-under to set up James Lowe’s try before mystifying the Scottish defence to put Jack Conan in for Ireland’s third.

Add in a couple of crucial turnovers, and this was a reminder of just how well-rounded a player Hansen is. Another big display in Dublin and he might have another award heading his way.

Huw Jones (Scotland)

Scotland’s Championship hopes may have ended on Sunday, but it was no fault of Huw Jones, who kept up his fine try-scoring form to move for four in as many games to lead the chasing pack.

More than that though, Jones, alongside centre partner Sione Tuipulotu, has become the focal point of Scotland’s attack that caused the world’s top side huge problems throughout the first half.

Up against Garry Ringrose, Jones more than held his own, continuing this impressive renaissance since his return to the national team. With one final home game to come, he will hope to match teammate Duhan van der Merwe (2021) in being crowned the Championship’s top try-scorer and more silverware could follow.

Hugo Keenan (Ireland)

Every week Hugo Keenan underlines his status as one of the most consistent performers in the game, with his showing against Scotland again of the highest order.

Minutes after putting Hansen in for the first Ireland try, Keenan produced arguably his most important contribution with a try-saving tackle on Van der Merwe, just as Scotland looked to be in again.

The Championship’s top metre-maker has also helped himself to a couple of tries and has been virtually flawless under the high ball in a top-quality campaign.

Honourable mentions

Narrowing this list down to just six was not easy, and there is every chance that someone else could force themselves into contention on Super Saturday. From an Irish perspective, James Ryan and Josh van der Flier have both been outstanding, the latter even as a lineout thrower. France’s Thomas Ramos will almost certainly end the Championship as the top points-scorer and was sensational at Twickenham, while Finn Russell would have made the list if he had not been ruled out of Scotland’s final game and Jones’ centre partner Sione Tuipulotu has been outstanding too.

Looking further afield, Italy’s Sebastian Negri and back-row colleague Lorenzo Cannone both deserve consideration, as does England’s Freddie Steward.