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Stars of England's Grand Slam success

Published 20/03/2016

Dylan Hartley has proved to be the right choice as England captain
Dylan Hartley has proved to be the right choice as England captain

England have clinched their first Grand Slam since 2003 courtesy of a 31-21 victory over France in Paris.

Here, Press Association Sport examines the stand-out players in their march to title glory.

STAR MAN

Billy Vunipola

England's player of the championship, with man-of-the-match displays against Scotland and Ireland - a growing force who has flourished under new head coach Eddie Jones. Jones has put an arm around his young number eight, giving him greater authority on and off the pitch, and is reaping the rewards. Vunipola's greatest strength is his ball-carrying, which is effective even from a standing start, and he is being used wisely by taking the ball from positions that are not limited to the half-backs. Jones believes he has the potential to become the best number eight in the world and, on the evidence of this Six Nations, he might be right.

SUPPORTING CAST

Dylan Hartley

Viewed by many as a controversial appointment as captain due to his dismal disciplinary record, but is proving to be an inspired choice. A natural leader and fine player who was at his best against Ireland and Wales. Carried off during the closing stages of England's win in Paris as the Grand Slam was completed.

George Kruis

The Saracen has established himself as England's stand-out second row during a Six Nations of remarkable consistency. An accomplished line-out operator as befits any protege of Steve Borthwick's and a menace around the field.

Ben Youngs

England raced out of the blocks against Wales and central to their dominance for 50 minutes was their scrum-half, who kept the visiting back row on their toes with his threat around the fringes. Also impressed against Ireland and is first-choice nine, while he created a key second-half try for Anthony Watson against France.

Owen Farrell

Adapting well to inside centre and although unable to offer the gain-line threat of a Manu Tuilagi, his hands and vision make him a valuable second playmaking option outside George Ford. Kicked masterfully from the tee against Wales. Kicked superbly throughout the tournament.

A STAR IS BORN

Maro Itoje

It is hard to recall a player whose emergence has caused so much excitement. Still only 21 years old, the supremely athletic Itoje appears to have it all. Against Wales he delivered a near-perfect performance, stealing ball at the line-out, snatching a turnover, delivering shuddering hits and even making a break to set up Watson's try. Jones believes he needs more snarl and insists his greatest threat is not remaining grounded, but a long and successful future surely beckons.

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