Bristol dominate BT Sport's Gallagher Premiership Dream Team
By Rugby Onslaught

Bristol dominate BT Sport’s Gallagher Premiership Dream Team

Five Bristol Bears players have made the BT Sport Gallagher Premiership Dream Team in what pundits Ben Kay and Austin Healy described as “the hardest year ever to pick this XV.”

John Afoa, Chris Vui, Piers O’Conor, Semi Radradra and Charles Piutau are the quintet from the table-topping outfit, while fellow semi-finalists Exeter Chiefs and Harlequins contributed three players each, while Sale Sharks provided one.

Newly crowned RPA players’ player of the year Sam Simmonds is joined by fellow back-row Dave Ewers and winger Tom O’Flaherty. Golden boot winner Marcus Smith is also joined by Quins half-back partner Danny Care and flanker Will Evans. Akker van der Merwe was Sale’s only representative in the team.

The three players outside the top four in the Dream Team are England and Leicester Tigers loosehead Ellis Genge, Northampton Saints lock Dave Ribbans and Wasps winger Josh Bassett.

This is what Kay had to say about the pack:

“If you look at our side, it is full of ball-carriers and I think that is probably down to the fact that we’ve seen the attacking levels in the Premiership go up this year. That front-row alone, full of excitement, explosive power, you’ve got Genge, van der Merwe and Superman himself [Afoa] at tighthead with his ability and ball handling.

“You then move into a really nice balanced second-row. Vui maybe slightly looser and his offloading game, but also his workrate massive. Then Ribbans bringing the power up front with those ball carries he’s become synonymous with this year and his defensive work.

“Then looking to the back-row, very difficult to choose but there’s a really nice balance to it. You’ve got Will Evans who’s that dog over the ball in the No7 shirt making turnover after turnover. You’ve got the power of Sam Simmonds and his ball-carrying ability. Then you’ve got his Exeter partner Ewers bringing that size and just all round presence in the final spot at blindside.

Healy also provided his take on the backs:

“Really difficult to pick this year because there was quality completely across the board and some amazing individual performances through the season. Half-backs, we went for the Harlequins boys Care and Smith. They’ve really set that team alight this season, pace, options, width on the ball, and it just seems to be ticking for those boys. Will be interesting to see if they can take it all the way this year.

“Then we’ve got three of the Bristol guys in the team. They’re three real powerhouses. Piutau at the back, Radradra and then O’Conor, probably I think their player of the season this year offering so much quality and electric running skills.

“On the wing, probably the most difficult positions to pick this year. O’Flaherty got most of the votes, he goes straight in. He’s been top of the metres, top of defenders beaten, top of clean breaks. Then Bassett takes the other wing. It’s a really good back line and I can only apologise to some of the quality players that have missed out because it has been one of the best seasons we have ever seen.

BT Sport Dream Team 2021:
15 Charles Piutau (Bristol Bears)
14 Tom O’Flaherty (Exeter Chiefs)
13 Semi Radradra (Bristol Bears)
12 Piers O’Conor (Bristol Bears)
11 Josh Bassett (Wasps)
10 Marcus Smith (Harlequins)
9 Danny Care (Harlequins)
1 Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers)
2 Akker van der Merwe (Sale Sharks)
3 John Afoa (Bristol Bears)
4 Chris Vui (Bristol Bears)
5 David Ribbons (Northampton Saints)
6 Dave Ewers (Exeter Chiefs)
7 Will Evans (Harlequins)
8 Sam Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs)