With the Gallagher Premiership season almost over, it is time to take a look back at the very best of the best. In this article, lets take a look at the Gallagher Premiership Team of the Season.
1: Ellis Genge
The turnaround at Leicester over the last 12 months has been exceptional. From finishing bottom of the premiership two seasons ago, they have been the best team in England this season, in big part to soon departing captain Ellis Genge.
Despite his England commitments, Genge has played in 13 games so far this season. But his best attribute has been his captaincy. The leadership of Ellis Genge has been a major reason why Leicester are in the place they are now, sitting atop the premiership. He will certainly be missed next season by the Tigers.
2. George McGuigan
It does seem an odd decision to give a team of the season place to a player who plays for one of the worst teams in the premiership, but George McGuigan has been exceptional throughout this season. His performances have been recognised despite the Falcons performances, being awarded player of the month for March this season.
Despite being a hooker, McGuigan might be Newcastle’s best ball carrier. He has incredibly light and fast feet for a seventeen stone man. Those feet have helped him to 14 tries so far on the season, with two games still to play. Accurate lineout throwing has accompanied excellent ball carrying to make McGuigan a must in this team of the season.
3: Mako Vunipola
Two years ago it would have been incredibly surprising to see Mako Vunipola out of the England side all together. But this is where the 31 year old has found himself this season.
So what Mako has done is help to lead Saracens back into the top four in their first season back in the premiership. He has continued to be a monster in the scrum as well as being good with the ball. I understand he is not in the long term plans of England, but it has got to hurt national team fans seeing how good Mako has been this season.
4: Ollie Chessum
One player whose performances will certainly please England fan is 21 year old Ollie Chessum. He has been a revelation this season, playing either in the second or back row for the Tigers.
His versatility has been massively helpful to Leicester, but more importantly has been his work at the lineout and ball carrying abilities. Chessum has been excellent all season and it is hardly surprising that he caught the attention of Eddie Jones during the Six Nations. Certainly a name to remember for a very long time.
5: Elliot Stooke
There was a few different contenders for the other second row place including Hugh Tizard, Mauro Itoje and Lood de Jager. But for his consistency, it had to be Elliot Stooke. Wasps have shown good flashes throughout the season, but injuries have really hurt any top four or European chances.
One of the few good parts has been the performances of Elliot Stooke. In his first season with Wasps, Stooke has been one of the few constantly available players. He has played in every game for Wasps this season. Stooke is not the sort of player to get a lot of praise.
He is known for consistent performances and it is exactly what he has done consistently for a shaky Wasps side. Wasps players player of the season, Stooke deserves a lot more recognition then he is getting.
6: Ben Earl
Rugby is a tough game, but there may not be any harder workers in the premiership than Ben Earl. He is the top tackle maker in the league, making more than 40 tackles more than second place on the list. Tackling and work rate is exactly what Saracens need.
Earl is also often one of Saracens primary ball carriers, very fast for his position. A good indication of how good Earl is, would be by looking at the form of Bristol Bears. Without Earl, the Bears have been a shell of their team last year.
Eight tries show the danger he is carrying the ball and it surely can’t be long until Earl is back in the England set up now Saracens are back in the Premiership.
7: Lewis Ludlam
At the time of writing, the race for the top four has not been finalized yet. If the Northampton Saints do get that fourth spot as they are favoured to do so at the time of writing, a big reason for that will be the performances of April’s player of the month Lewis Ludlam.
The Saints Flanker has made the second most tackles in the premiership this season, only behind the outstanding Ben Earl. Ludlam has really done it all for his Saints team. A heavy hitter in defence, Ludlam can always produce a crucial turnover when required.
In attack, his combinations with Alex Mitchell have given Ludlam three tries. His power on the inside helps the Saints to play the expansive rugby that they do, getting it to their fast wingers.
The most impressive part of Ludlam’s season is his leadership. With Courtney Lawes only playing in nine premiership games this season due to injury and England, Ludlam has stepped up as the leader of the forward pack. His performances have been brilliant all season and Ludlam is a great player and leader.
8: Billy Vunipola
Especially with his brother Mako already featuring on this list, England fans will be annoyed at just how good Billy Vunipola has looked back in the premiership this season.
It really seems like his incredible engine has not diminished at all. Billy continues to look like one of the most powerful ball carriers in the world, with Saracens relying on his brute force to break through the line. Vunipola’s brute force allows Owen Farrell and the rest of the backs to do what they do.
The stats back up how good Billy has been this season. With 50 defenders beaten and 24 offloads made, Vunipola has the hands of a back and the power of a small lorry. It seems as though he is making Eddie Jones question leaving him out of the England team.
9: Danny Care
This may sound slightly ridiculous, but Danny Care may be playing his best rugby at the age of 35.
Sixteen years after making his Harlequins debut, Care is playing some brilliant rugby for the London team. A year on from their title win and Harlequins have look excellent again this season. A big reason for this is Care.
While Marcus Smith gets most of the praise, Care orchestrates everything the side do in attack and defence. His experience and smarts is exactly what this young Harlequins team needs.
His intelligence and experience has helped Care to six tries this year, as well as six yellow cards. Care is a brilliant player who has been the best scrum half in England this season.
10: George Ford
Ellis Genge gets a lot of the plaudits for Leicester’s bounce back this season. But George Ford is another example of player having a brilliant season, after being moved out of the England team.
In his list season for the Tigers, Ford has been brilliant. He consistently pulls the strings for the Tigers, giving the incredibly talented backline the ball they need. Having been aged out of the England team over the last couple of years, Ford has rediscovered himself in his last season with Leicester.
Ford was particularly brilliant to begin the season as Leicester won their first eleven games in a row. He was awarded as Premiership player of the month for October and December as Leicester did not lose a game in the league until January. The teams form dipping slightly has coincided with injuries to Ford, showing just how important George Ford is to the league leading Leicester Tigers.
11: Ollie Hassell-Collins
While they have missed out on an unlikely top four finish, London Irish look like a good competitive team with a lot of young stars, primarily Ollie Hassell Collins.
The 23 year old winger has been excellent for the Irish this season. Despite being 6ft 4in, he is incredibly fast down the wing. One of the things that has led to London Irish success this season is a lot of box kicking, with Hassell-Collins height and ability in the air being brilliant.
In his second full season as a premiership started, he has hit double digits for tries scores, being the perfect finisher for London Irish. He is also third in metres gained, constantly breaking through the line, with the most clean breaks of anyone in the premiership. It is no surprise that he was called up to the England squad during the Six Nations.
12: Andre Esterhuizen
Harlequins have developed a reputation for fast flowing, exciting rugby in the last couple of seasons. With Marcus Smith at the helm, they have played some incredibly exciting rugby and produced some brilliant tries.
None of this would be possible without South African Andre Esterhuizen. The huge centre is a battering ram for Quins, gaining the fourth most metres in the premiership and constantly being first receiver for Quins. His power helps to open up the space that has led wingers Cadan Murley and Louis Lynagh to combine for 22 tries.
Surely the Bok will be in with a chance of an international call up considering he is consistently one of the best players in the premiership.
13: Chris Harris
It would have been very harsh to not have someone from Gloucester in this team. The Cherry and Whites have had a good season and at the time of writing, could still make it to the top four.
One of the main reasons for this is Chris Harris. The Scottish international is another one of those players who gets very little attention from the press. But he has been consistently brilliant for Gloucester and Scotland this season.
A lot of Gloucester success this season comes from their power and pace in the backs. While Adam Hastings and Louis Rees-Zammit get most of the attention, Harris has been the most consistent performer out of all of them, scoring six tries so far this season. A very underrated, consistent performer.
It has been an incredible season from Max Malins. In a star studded Saracens team, he has stood out amongst the rest.
Statistically, Malins has been brilliant, taking advnatge of the space on the wings created by Sarries big ball carriers. He is currently the leagues leading try scorer on fifteen. This is mainly thanks to four tries against Worcester and Wasps as well as three tries against Bath.
Malins looks like the perfect finisher for Saracens and he has been brilliant in countless games this season. It seems as though fitting back into the Saracens team has been an incredibly easy job for Malins and it is no surprise he featured in four of England’s five games in the Six Nations.
15: Freddie Burns
One of the reasons for Leicester being so good this season has been absolutely no drop off when George Ford comes off the pitch, thanks to brilliant performances from Freddie Burns. In his second stint with Leicester, Burns is playing in a very different role to previously.
His versatility has been crucial to Leicester. When Burns comes onto the pitch he maintains the level Ford is playing at. In his stretch at ten to start the year, Leicester only lost one game out of six. Recently, he has returned to a bench role now that Ford and Freddie Steward are back healthy.
Despite starting on the bench in Leicester’s strongest team, he has been crucial in multiple positions for Leicester this season as they have gotten back to the top of the premiership.
16: Joe Marler
17: Augustin Creevy
18: Dan Cole
19: Maro Itoje
20: Ruan Ackermann
21: Alex Mitchell
22: Curtis Rona
23: Cadan Murley