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Wales rugby legend picks all-time greatest Six Nations XV

05 Mar 2024 6 minute read
Jamie Roberts in action during the RBS 6 Nations match between England and Wales at Twickenham Stadium on March 12 2016 in London (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Rich Hart

Past glories seem distant with Wales’ torrid run in this year’s Six Nations, but as the tournament gets back underway after another break, one now-retired Welsh star and Six Nations winner has used the pause to pick his all-time greatest Six Nations XV.

Former inside centre Jamie Roberts – who was capped 94 times and was instrumental in his nation’s success in previous Six Nations Championships, winning three tournaments – has chosen his greatest Six Nations XV while speaking with rugby news site, RugbyPass.

Golden era

Roberts’ career coincided with a golden generation of Welsh rugby. The team saw great success, sweeping all aside for Grand Slam wins in 2008 and 2012. Naturally, his team features several Welsh legends of the modern era. Elsewhere, his picks include five Irishmen, three stars from France with a player each from England and Italy.

In the pack, Roberts selected ex-teammate Gethin Jenkins at loosehead prop. He praised Jenkins’ skills and work rate: “Gethin wins this, purely because he was an absolute machine who redefined the role of the loosehead prop.

“He was like an extra flanker on the field, plus there was his ability on the ball, his defensive qualities, his leadership qualities; just an all-round and complete rugby player. He had beautiful hands too and I learned a lot from him as a young player.”

Ireland dominates the rest of the front row with Rory Best at hooker and Tadhg Furlong at tighthead while another Irish legend, Paul O’Connell gets the number five shirt in the second row.

Partnering O’Connell is former Welsh captain and Wales’ most-capped player, Alun Wyn Jones. Roberts says: He’s another person I’ve played with and objectively you have to appreciate the heights he hit in the Six Nations. Whether it’s how he led the Wales side to Grand Slams, his longevity or how he set a standard in rugby; it speaks for itself. He’s a special and iconic Welsh player.”

Legend

In the back row, Roberts opted for another legend of Welsh rugby and Grand Slam-winning captain, Sam Warburton, at openside flanker. Roberts also praised his former skipper for his competitiveness and leadership. Partnering Warburton on the blindside is French legend Thierry Dusautoir. Sergio Parrise, the only Italian player in Roberts’ picks and he got the nod at number 8.

Deciding on who pulls the strings at fly half was a tough choice for Roberts who went for recently retired Irish legend, Jonny Sexton. He says: “I’ll go, Johnny Sexton, purely for that outrageous drop goal in Paris! That was unlike anything I’ve ever seen in the Six Nations. Other than that, I was lucky enough to play with him for a few years and he was just so good.”

Partnering Sexton in the halves, Roberts goes for another former teammate, Mike Phillips. He says: “Mike has won multiple titles and it’s hard to look past his levels of success and influence. He was also a warrior on the field and was a guy you’d always want in the team. Super talented and had it all, almost like having an extra back rower; he was great to have as a teammate too.”

Inspiration

For Roberts’ old position of inside centre, he selects Frenchman Yannick Jauzion, a player he cites as an inspiration. Roberts said: “As a complete player and a 12, he had so much success with France in the noughties and he was a big part of that. He could carry, defend, play the ball and he was the silkiest of runners; as an inside centre he was someone I looked to as a real specialist.”

Alongside Jauzion in the centres, Roberts picked an old adversary, Irishman, Brian O’Driscoll – singling him out for his rugby game and ability to influence the game. On the right wing, Roberts picks another Frenchman, Vincent Clerc. On the left wing, is another Welsh legend and teammate, the great Shane Williams. When asked about this pick Roberts says: “Shane all day long. I get asked who the best player I’ve ever played with was and it’s Shane Williams, every time.

“Just his ability to win a rugby match on his own and the ability to influence a game so much by doing something special; I don’t think many players can do that, certainly not in the Six Nations. There was an unspoken rule when he played for Wales of ‘get the ball to Shane’, so yeah, he definitely wins this one.”

Principality Stadium

The only Englishman in Roberts’ team is 2003 Rugby World Cup winner, Jason Robinson. Roberts championed Robinson for his running ability and the impact he made when joining the sport from rugby league.

Coaching his side, Roberts picks his former boss and current Wales coach, Warren Gatland, claiming this is for the role he played in turning Welsh rugby into a winning machine. He then opted for fellow Welshman and the man with the whistle in the 2015 Rugby World Cup final, Nigel Owens as referee.

Finally, in selecting a venue, there’s no place like home for Roberts who picked Cardiff’s Principality Stadium as his ideal Six Nations venue. He says: “Well, I’ll obviously have to be an unbiased Welshman here [laughs] and pick the Principality. Winner hands down.

“I think it’s the best rugby stadium in the world and I’ve played all over the world! It has an incredible atmosphere and I don’t think anything comes close, especially when the roof is closed.”

Jamie’s full line up:

1 Gethin Jenkins (WAL)

2 Rory Best (IRE)

3 Tadhg Furlong (IRE)

4 Alun Wyn Jones (WAL)

5 Paul O’Connell (IRE)

6 Sam Warbuton (WAL)

7 Thierry Dusautoir (FRA)

8 Sergio Parisse (ITA)

9 Mike Phillips (WAL)

10 Johnny Sexton (IRE)

11 Shane Williams (WAL)

12 Yannick Jauzion (FRA)

13 Brian O’Driscoll (IRE)

14 Vincent Clerc (FRA)

15 Jason Robinson (ENG)

Coach: Warren Gatland (NZ)

Venue: Principality Stadium (WAL)

Ref: Nigel Owens (WAL)


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Riki
Riki
1 month ago

I don’t understand Sergio Parisse and why people see him as a legend. He did nothing for Italy, I think it’s more of a pity pick by everyone.

Steve
Steve
1 month ago
Reply to  Riki

Sergio Parisse pretty much carried Italy on his own, an amazingly talented and resilient player. Well deserving of recognition

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