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The two surprise Wales stars who make ITV pundits’ Six Nations team of the tournament

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Picking a team of a tournament is a challenge that in normal times most people would enjoy having a crack at down the pub.

Even then, opinion would probably be split on the outcome.

So it’s no surprise that the offering of Tom Shanklin and Dave Flatman, in their podcast for ITV Sport, hasn’t been met with applause from all who’ve come across it.

Some Scottish fans, in particular, are aggrieved over the pair naming just one Scotland player, Rory Sutherland, in their line-up.

But there’ll be less criticism from Wales, with three Welsh players getting the nod.

Leigh Halfpenny is named at full-back, Ken Owens at hooker and Justin Tipuric at openside flanker.

Few can surely argue with Tipuric’s inclusion.

The openside from Trebanos has been operating at such a level he’s in contention to be named player of the tournament. He walked off with the official man-of-the-match award against Italy and was arguably Wales’ best player in their three other games, with his performance against England outstanding.

The selection of Halfpenny and Owens has provoked plenty of online debate.

At full-back, some felt Scotland’s Stuart Hogg should have been the choice. One post on Twitter suggested that apart from his howler against Ireland, when he dropped the ball over the line, the Exeter Chief had been “in a class of his own at 15”.

Halfpenny’s admirers will point out he performed strongly against Italy and largely steadily in the other three matches.

But perhaps the No. 15 who could feel hard done by is France’s Anthony Bouthier, with the Montpellier man running superbly in attack, displaying calm under the high ball and kicking accurately and with distance, never more so than when unleashing a 90-metre hoof upfield against England, an effort that became known as the spiral than went viral after thousands checked it out online.

One or two in Wales were wondering whether Owens had strayed into last-chance saloon territory before the game with England. But the statistics suggest The Sheriff, as the 33-year-old is known, has been performing.

Indeed, Wales have won more line-outs than any other side in the Six Nations so far, with 48, and their hooker has carried the ball more times (32) than any other No. 2 and made 51 successful tackles, missing just one.

Statistically, then, he has been on the money.

The same applies to a Welsh player who didn’t make Shanklin and Flatman’s team.

Nick Tompkins produced largely excellent displays against Italy, France and England. Against the French, he made more ball carries in a single game than any other Wales back in Six Nations history and he triggered Tipuric’s spectacular try against England.

But he loses out to Manu Tuilagi for the No. 13 spot.

Many will tip their hats to the powerful England man, but the facts are that Tompkins has made 43 carries and 297 metres with ball in hand against Tuilagi’s 20 and 143 metres, the Wales centre has made 196 metres with the boot while his rival hasn’t kicked at all, Tompkins has sent out 45 passes compared with Tuilagi’s six, Tompkins has offloaded six times while Tuilagi has done so just once.

You get the idea.

Only in the area of defence has Tuilagi performed noticeably better than the Saracen.

Maybe if a Lions squad were picked tomorrow Wales’ find of the season would be in it.

The team of the tournament : Leigh Halfpenny (Wales); Andrew Conway (Ireland), Manu Tuilagi (England), Owen Farrell (England), Johnny May (England); Romain Ntamack (France), Antoine Dupont (France); Rory Sutherland (Scotland), Ken Owens (Wales),Tadhg Furlong (Ireland), Maro Itoje (England), Bernard Le Roux (France), Tom Curry (England) Justin Tipuric (Wales), Gregory Alldritt (France).



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World Player of the Year: Antoine Dupont, the best attacker in the game, gets my vote | Sport

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When we finish up, he says the conversation is worthless unless there’s a call to action at the end of it. He asks me where I want to get to in 2009, and I tell him I want to be nominated for world player of the year.
(From The Test by Brian O’Driscoll)

This was my Lions team-mate and now BT colleague Drico recalling a conversation he had with a sports psychologist at the end of 2008 having endured a disappointing year. I am not sure too many players would have targeted that award so eagerly when it was launched in 2001. (No prizes, I’m afraid, but who among you can name the inaugural winner*?)

Back then, it wasn’t an honour that immediately caught

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Six Nations already on Huw Jones’s radar | Scotland

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The Scotland centre Huw Jones is hoping to earn a Six Nations recall thanks to Harlequins’ unique working environment that puts a smile on his face every day he turns up at their Surrey training complex.

Jones had a frustrating Autumn Nations series, making the journey back to Scotland for training but then having to head back south as Gregor Townsend chose other midfield options. A lack of game time was the deciding factor for Jones, who has faced a battle to get into the Harlequins midfield let alone the national team.

However, the Edinburgh-born centre, who turns 28 on December 17, will have the opportunity to push his cause forward today when Harlequins, the Premiership champions, tackle top-of-the-table Leicester Tigers in what will be

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Collapsed Arena TV engulfed in claims of staff working while on furlough | Business

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Le Touquet is a chi-chi seaside town in France, just south of Calais, loved by the British since the 1920s. As of last month, it is also thought to be near where Richard Yeowart, chief executive of the scandal-hit broadcast company Arena Television, is camped out.

Yeowart, 54, left Britain early last month as the company he began more than 30 years ago collapsed into administration, leaving 100 staff worried for their futures and a trail of lenders facing losses of almost £300 million. Sources suggest it could be the biggest scandal in the history of UK asset-backed lending.

Administrators to Arena, which provided outside broadcast services to everything from the Six Nations rugby to Glastonbury, are investigating alleged fraud and have launched a legal

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