Four Irish players on Six Nations team of year

IRISH fly-half Ronan O’Gara has edged out France’s Frederic Michalak in the Six Nations team of the year, chosen by French sports daily l’Équipe.

The Munster man is joined on the side by provincial colleague Paul O’Connell, along with Leinster duo Brian O’Driscoll at centre and Shane Byrne in the front row.

There are nine Frenchmen in the side, including six in the pack. There is only left wing Ben Cohen from World Cup winners England, who lost twice in the tournament for the first time in 11 years. England had eight players in the l’Équipe side last year.

Wales winger Shane Williams completes the side as Italy and Scotland have no representatives.

Meanwhile, the championship is set to feature a Friday night match next year. The 2005 Six Nations calendar will be published in a fortnight but tournament chief executive John Feehan said England would not play France in the concluding fixture at Twickenham, as they did last weekend with a 9pm kick-off in Paris.

And he said they were considering spreading matches through the weekend. “I have sympathy with the view that the rhythm of the old tournament has been changed, but my job is to get rugby to as many people as possible,” he said yesterday.

Of the debate over Friday night fixtures, he said: “That will be looked at, as will all the available options.”

This year’s tournament saw a 28% rise in television viewing figures.

Scotland centre Tom Philip faces a ban after being cited for a high tackle on Ireland’s Brian O’Driscoll in last Saturday’s Six Nations match.

The incident was caught on television cameras but missed by match officials.

He will appear before a disciplinary panel today and if found guilty, a ban of more than one match would rule Philip out of Edinburgh’s European Cup quarter-final against Toulouse on April 10.

Edinburgh have already lost the injured No 8 Simon Taylor for up to nine months and Scotland assistant coach Todd Blackadder was considering a return.

“I’d have to think it through because you have to know when to go, but I would say it’s not out of the question,” the 32-year-old former New Zealand skipper said.

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