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Ireland scores on the doors after a mixed Six Nations campaign

By Ruaidhri O'Connor

Saturday's win over England saw Ireland finish a disappointing but compelling Six Nations with a flourish and secure a second-place finish behind Eddie Jones' champions. Joe Schmidt used 33 players over the course of the tournament, here's how they rated.

CJ Stander: Arguably the player of the tournament, the hard-carrying South African-born back-row gave everything for the cause and finished as Ireland's top try scorer. Often asked to take on too much himself but has the capacity to carry the team with him. 8

Robbie Henshaw: Ireland's best back throughout the tournament, he will go to New Zealand this summer and has every chance of making the Test team. The Wales mistake will sting, but his relentless work ethic was to the forefront of the campaign. 8

Johnny Sexton: Paddy Jackson did well in his absence, but Sexton's performances against France, Wales and England reinforced how important he is. When he is on the pitch, Ireland are a better team. 8

Conor Murray: The most important man in the squad it seems, his shoulder injury derailed the effort against Wales and while they absorbed his loss against England his work with Sexton is world class. 8

Donnacha Ryan: Arguably his best campaign in green. Schmidt left him out of the team for Murrayfield after he missed some early training sessions and never made the same mistake again. 8

Tadhg Furlong: Never got to the pitch of November when it came to standout moments but it's easy to forget he'd never started a Six Nations game before this tournament. Consistently top class and the anchor of an excellent scrum. 8

Peter O'Mahony: Injury limited his role, but his performances off the bench were good and his display against England was one for the ages. When fit, he must start. 8

Garry Ringrose: Grew into the campaign and finished with his most complete performance against England. Never quite caught fire, but gave glimpses of the promise to come. 7

Keith Earls: Ireland's game-breaker, he always looked dangerous and took the fight to Wales when things were going against his team. Can be happy. 7

Paddy Jackson: Steered the ship well in Sexton's absence and while they didn't get the job done in Edinburgh, it wasn't down to the out-half's lack of invention. 7

Cian Healy: Would prefer to start, but his impact off the bench and performance in Rome suggested he is returning to the height of his powers. 7

Jack McGrath: Looked like the heavy workload he took on during Healy's absence took a toll, but he didn't allow his performances to dip far and was part of an excellent scrum. 7

Kieran Marmion: Finally got his chance and while he wasn't perfect, he can be hugely satisfied with his role off the bench in Wales and from the start against England. 7

Rob Kearney: Considering how disruptive his injuries are, he performed admirably and was one of the best players on a bad night in Cardiff. 6

Niall Scannell: Started in Rome and came off the bench in three other games, impressing when his opportunities came. Will benefit from the experience. 6

Sean O'Brien: Perhaps too much is expected as he enters his 30s, but after producing a scintillating performance against New Zealand in November, he never quite got going in this tournament despite a committed effort. 6

Simon Zebo: Although his stats are good and he did precious little wrong, there is a sense that Ireland still don't quite know how to extract the best from Zebo who has scored just one try in his last 16 internationals. 6

John Ryan: Dislodged Finlay Bealham from the No.18 jersey without fuss and didn't take a backward step when coming on for Furlong in each game. Japan will allow him to take the next step. 6

Iain Henderson: A strange campaign ended on a high. Ireland need him in form, for he offers real dynamism. 6

Jared Payne: Came back in time to play against England and although out on his feet, he contributed well. 6

Andrew Conway: Forced his way into Schmidt's thoughts and made his debut against England. 6

Dan Leavy: Fought off major competition to make the bench for England. A promising talent indeed. 6

Luke McGrath: In the squad throughout and made an impact when he got his chance against England. 6

Devin Toner: Lineout creaked and ultimately he paid a price by ceding his place for the England game. Reminded Schmidt of what he could do off the bench, but the set-piece improved in his absence. 5

Rory Best: The captain never quite hit the heights of his previous performances in green and shares responsibility for the lineout woes. 5

Jamie Heaslip: Faded as the Championship went on and his injury, which is now being reported as a lower-back problem, showed that all is not lost when 'Mr Indestructible' breaks. 5

Ultan Dillane: Two underwhelming outings off the bench against Scotland and Italy were followed by shoulder surgery. 5

Josh van der Flier: Like Dillane, he came off the bench twice and then injury ended his campaign. 5

Craig Gilroy: A hat-trick off the bench against Italy failed to convince the coach and he wasn't seen again. 5

Ian Keatley: An achievement to make it back to this level after all he's endured, won his cap against Italy and made way for Sexton and Joey Carbery. 5

James Tracy: Leap-frogged by Scannell and only appeared as a late call-up in Rome. 5

Andrew Trimble: Injury robbed him of his opportunity and he was limited to a brief cameo against France. 4

Tommy Bowe: Sad to see him carried out of the arena after being plucked from the Ulster bench to play against Wales. Looked far off the required level in Murrayfield. 4

Joe Schmidt: Second is respectable, but the loss to Scotland will haunt his review. Ireland never really recovered the ground they lost on that opening day and while there were good moments the fact that they didn't get to the final day with the title on the line is a disappointment for the coach whose focus must be on developing his attacking game so that pressure turns into points. 6

Belfast Telegraph

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