Another season of Premiership rugby is coming to a close; Robert Rees gives you the Last Word on Rugby 2018/19 Gallagher Premiership team of the season.
Gallagher Premiership team of the season
Joe Marler has had one of his best season’s in a Quins jersey. Fighting off stiff opposition in Mako Vunipola, Josh Hohneck and Ben Moon has earned him the starting loosehead jersey. The best pure scrummager in the Prem, his form may well have increased and endured more time due to his stepping down from international rugby.
Jamie George tops the list following a tremendous season at Allianz Park. Stability at the set piece and a huge carrying presence George comes in ahead of Harry Thacker and Luke Cowan-Dickie in this list. The European Cup winner will be hoping he can help his side to a famous double again.
Kyle Sinckler has helped push Harlequins to a top four contending side along with fellow Gallagher Premiership team of the year representative Joe Marler. His gargantuan defensive efforts haven’t gone unnoticed and he remains a staple of their set piece. He gets the starting spot above John Afoa, Fraser Balmain and Tomas Francis.
Will Skelton has transformed into one of the world’s most dangerous locks this season. Shedding weight has enabled him to work better around the field and when you have a man the size of Skelton doing the hard carries and dominant tackles your fortunes will increase. His transformation was noted by McCall who due to injury moved Maro Itoje to the back row and brought in Skelton for a European Cup final.
Franco Mostert has added that much desired grunt to the Gloucester pack alongside fellow boilerhouse teammate Ed Slater. His endless desire to carry at first receiver or further down the line has helped Gloucester massively in getting their front foot attack going as well as putting in the work without the ball.
Alex Dombrandt. The former Cardiff Met student has been a huge factor in Harlequins’ successes this season. A key carrying figure in their back row he also goes well around the park. Some mammoth defensive shifts see him take the blindside shirt and fight off competition from Mike Rhodes and Steven Luatua.
Tom Curry‘s form for Sale this season has seen him rise to claim an England shirt. His jackal technique and strong positioning over the ball has been crucial in not only winning Sale the ball back but starting off their attacks. Despite strong cases from Don Armand and Chris Robshaw, he takes the seven jersey for his tenacity and durability at such a high level.
Ben Morgan has gained form worthy of an England training camp slot up until an unfortunately timed injury. The Premiership’s top carrier (carries made, not metres made) has given Willi Heinz a massive boost in the front foot ball he allows as well as the leadership and experience he brings to the pitch. Always topping the tackle charts Morgan pips Billy Vunipola and Matt Kvesic to the shirt.
Cobus Reinach has made the most carries (141), metres (801), clean breaks (26) and beaten the most defenders (46) of any scrum half this season. At times he has single-handedly shredded defences apart and that is why Saints are a top four contending side now. His quick-mindedness and ability to deliver the right ball at the right time gets him in above Faf De Klerk and Harry Randall.
Danny Cipriani. The RPA Player’s Player of the year has set together this season to transform Gloucester’s attack into a deadly try-scoring machine. Putting together a personal highlights reel as he’s gone Cipriani has won the admiration of pretty much everyone except England head honcho Eddie Jones. Despite some excellent goal kicking and leading his side to safety Duncan Weir misses out on this one.
"Cipriani… Almost disinterested!" ?
"I'm not looking, and neither are you!"
Danny Cipriani with the no-look, 360 assist? ?
Sounds about right… That is outrageous! pic.twitter.com/7YOqftsJq5
— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) April 13, 2019
Ollie Thorley has seen his breathtaking runs and try-scoring ability shoot Gloucester up the table and as a result has seen off stiff opposition for one of the winger jerseys. His raw ability to pick up speed from nothing and a ravaging presence whenever he runs at a defender saw him voted as the Young Player of the year by his peers. A savagely strong bloke despite him not being a 6’4 behemoth, he can outrun and outmuscle his opponents.
Ruaridh McConnochie may well be a late bolter for England’s training squad ahead of this year’s World Cup. Stacking up the metres made he has bloomed this season and maybe gone under the radar due to his teammate Joe Cokanasiga’s performances. However, despite this his ever-present carrying ability, strong in contact persona and defensive abilities see him take the other winger slot ahead of the likes of Liam Williams or Taqele Naiyaravoro.
Mark Atkinson has shone through this season with his outstanding hard-running style at Kingsholm. Playing outside of Cipriani will always help but he holds the structure well and allows Gloucester to get over the gain line in attack. Occasionally acting as playmaker to Billy Twelvetrees he’s proved he can mix it up and deserves the starting jersey over tough opposition from Ollie Devoto, Brad Barritt and Ryan Mills.
Henry Slade has returned to his peak form this season and pushed himself up to top three outside centres in the northern hemisphere. A true playmaker who helps pull defenders out of the line and create space in behind. Bags of pace, but the power to go through defenders as well. When Exeter have this man fit, they have a match winner. He fights off the likes of Rory Hutchinson and Chris Harris for the shirt.
Alex Goode has looked one of the best full backs for several seasons now. His accuracy from the boot to clear any sight of danger and a strong sense of where the space is to either kick or rampage into with ball in hand is quite remarkable. Getting over the gain line is his key quality and the control he provides Saracens with is what gets him in above the likes of Santiago Cordero, Mike Brown or Elliot Daly. Goode is pretty much a totemic figure of the Sarries culture.
The European Player of the year and also a nominee for Premiership Player of the season has to take the starting 15 jersey.
“Main photo credit”