Player of the Championship contenders: The five stand-out players so far

Finn Russell 2000
This weekend will feel empty without the Guinness Six Nations.

This weekend will feel empty without the Guinness Six Nations.

The opening two rounds have been an action-packed feast of rugby, tries and drama aplenty.

Ireland recorded two huge wins over Wales and France, while Scotland are in hot pursuit, having also beaten Warren Gatland’s side and Steve Borthwick’s England.

England and France have one win each, both over Italy.

But who have been the best players in this year’s edition of Rugby’s Greatest Championship?

Hugo Keenan

Ireland’s guy in the sky, Hugo Keenan has spent the first two rounds of the 2023 Guinness Six Nations defusing bombs and offering a serious threat going forward.

The full-back started this year’s Championship with a Player of the Match performance at Principality Stadium.

Gatland’s Wales have always been masters of the high ball, so Keenan was key in defence, nullifying one of the hosts’ most effective weapons.

And he backed it up by offering a lot in attack, opting to run the ball back rather than kick.

He made 11 carries, gaining 86 metres with the ball, the second most of any Ireland player.

He was also excellent against France, getting the better of two of the best open-play kickers in the world in Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack.

The 26-year-old scored Ireland’s opening try in the match at Aviva Stadium, putting his team on the path to victory.

Finn Russell

Scotland have been sensational in the 2023 Guinness Six Nations, and with Finn Russell pulling the strings, there is no telling what they can achieve.

The talismanic ten has been a crucial cog in Gregor Townsend’s back line, passing with expert precision and kicking superbly.

He was key against England, sending Huw Jones through a gap in the build-up to Scotland’s first try and claiming a decisive nine-point haul from the tee.

But the fly-half was even better against Wales, making three try assists to fire Scotland to an impressive win at BT Murrayfield.

Scotland are still in the hunt for the Championship ahead of a fascinating trip to Paris at the end of the month, and with Russell pulling the strings, you would not bet against Townsend’s team.

Antoine Dupont

France may have fallen to defeat in Dublin, but Antoine Dupont somehow managed to come out of the epic encounter with his reputation enhanced.

He was a machine at Aviva Stadium, stopping a near-certain try, setting a lightning-quick pace of play for his teammates and manipulating Ireland’s defence in crucial moments.

The scrum half was also excellent in the Round 1 win over Italy, winning Player of the Match.

He was a shining light during a sub-par France performance, gaining 52 metres from seven carries and regularly popping up with crucial hits in defence.

Ange Capuozzo

Italy came into Rugby’s Greatest Championship with high expectations, and despite being without a win after two games, there are clear signs of significant improvement.

Ange Capuozzo has been a catalyst for that improvement, inspiring some of Italy’s best play over the first two weeks of the 2023 Guinness Six Nations.

The full-back was superb against France, scoring a try after dazzling Grégory Alldritt with some delightful footwork in the corner.

He was also a source of inspiration against England, starring in his side’s best spells of possession.

Italy have games against Wales, Scotland and Ireland to come, and with Capuozzo in the team, they could still finish their 2023 campaign with a Guinness Six Nations win.

Caelan Doris

Caelan Doris is another star who picked up a Player of the Match prize in the opening weeks of this year’s Championship.

The No.8 has been one of the standout players in an Ireland pack that has run rampant in the first two weeks.

In Round 1, Doris and his fellow Ireland forwards put Wales to the sword inside 20 minutes, taking a convincing lead through two close-range scores from Doris and James Ryan.

It does not get much better than that for most, but Doris somehow managed to go one step further in Round 2.

He was named Player of the Match for his performance against France, making 117 metres from 18 dominant carries.

Matt Fagerson

There has been a lot of talk about Scotland’s flying backs, but Matt Fagerson has helped give them the platform to perform to the highest standard.

The Scotland No.8 has been brilliant from the word go, assisting a try against England.

He also made an incredible 26 tackles in Round 1 while also contributing in attack with nine carries.

Fagerson followed that up with a try of his own in the Round 2 clash with Wales, making a further 13 carries and another 19 tackles.