Flats selects his XV of the season
The Gallagher Premiership Rugby season came to a crunching conclusion on Saturday as Saracens edged a thrilling contest with Exeter Chiefs to add domestic success to their European Champions Cup trophy.
With second-half tries from Liam Williams, Sean Maitland and Jamie George, Mark McCall’s men overturned an 11-point deficit to retain their title and win a fourth crown in five years.
Having finally caught his breath, David Flatman has once been pondering over the game’s standout stars, but this time it’s the big one – his best XV of the season.
Champions Saracens claim two spots in the side, with full-back Alex Goode and second-row Will Skelton among Flats’ picks.
Former England international Goode has been at his best this season with 11 assists in Gallagher Premiership Rugby, also earning EPCR’s Player of the Year award back in May.
Australian Skelton’s blistering form has led to calls for a relaxation of his national side’s ‘Giteau’s Law’ to allow him to play in this Autumn’s World Cup, the giant lock displaying tireless work-rate and leading Saracens’ thunderous approach on many an occasion this season.
Beaten finalists Exeter are represented in the XV by centre Henry Slade, who capped off a fine season with the Chiefs’ fourth try in Saturday’s final, and what a try it was to.
Semi-finalists Gloucester – who reached the final four for the first time since 2011 – have five players in the team, with triple award-winning Danny Cipriani taking his place at No.10.
Cipriani topped the assists chart with 14 and brilliant performances throughout the campaign saw him claim the Gallagher Premiership Rugby, Rugby Players’ Association and The Rugby Paper’splayer of the year awards.
South African Franco Mostert joins Skelton at second-row while Mark Atkinson – who scored two tries for the Barbarians against England on Sunday – slots in at No.12.
Ben Morgan’s 280 carries was the third-highest of anyone this season and he lines up at No.8, while Gloucester teammate Ollie Thorley – who was called up to the England squad for the first time in the New Year – is on the wing.
On the opposite wing is former England Sevens star Ruaridh McConnochie, who made a stark impression in his first season in the Gallagher Premiership, as Bath just missed out on the top four.
Harlequins were equally unlucky to miss out to Northampton’s superior number of wins, and former England mainstay Joe Marler takes his place at loosehead.
Joining him in the front row are Bristol pair Harry Thacker and John Afoa, while Steve Luatua’s inclusion at blindside flanker completes a trio of representatives for the Bears, who missed out on the top six by five points.
Joint-top tryscorer Cobus Reinach – who went over 12 times – is the Saints’ sole representative, while Sale’s Tom Curry claimed a division-topping 22 turnovers to earn a place at No.7 and complete Flats’ XV for the final time this season.
For the final time, @davidflatman reveals his XV of the season⭐️
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) 4 June 2019
Flats’ XV of the Gallagher Premiership Rugby season:
15. Alex Goode (Saracens)
14. Ollie Thorley (Gloucester)
13. Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs)
12. Mark Atkinson (Gloucester)
11. Ruaridh McConnochie (Bath)
10. Danny Cipriani (Gloucester)
9. Cobus Reinach (Northampton Saints)
1. Joe Marler (Harlequins)
2. Harry Thacker (Bristol Bears)
3. John Afoa (Bristol Bears)
4. Franco Mostert (Gloucester)
5. Will Skelton (Saracens)
6. Steve Luatua (Bristol Bears)
7. Tom Curry (Sale Sharks)
8. Ben Morgan (Gloucester)