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The world's best XV rugby players from Pocock and Burger to Carter and Nonu

Our rugby Correspondent Jonathan Bradley picks his best players from the tournament

By Jonathan Bradley

Published 03/11/2015

1. Scott Sio (Australia): Assistant coach Mario Ledesma received much of the credit for the massive turnaround in the Australian scrum but the transformation of Scott Sio has given a real boost to Michael Cheika's short reign. Picked up an injury in the latter stages of the competition, he came through to return in the final while his performances in the pool stages, especially against England, were deserving of headlines. Marcos Ayerza remains one of the best looseheads in the world while Georgia's Mikheil Nariashvili enhanced his country's reputation for producing grizzled props. Notable mentions: Marcos Ayerza (Argentina), Mikheil Nariashvili (Georgia)
1. Scott Sio (Australia): Assistant coach Mario Ledesma received much of the credit for the massive turnaround in the Australian scrum but the transformation of Scott Sio has given a real boost to Michael Cheika's short reign. Picked up an injury in the latter stages of the competition, he came through to return in the final while his performances in the pool stages, especially against England, were deserving of headlines. Marcos Ayerza remains one of the best looseheads in the world while Georgia's Mikheil Nariashvili enhanced his country's reputation for producing grizzled props. Notable mentions: Marcos Ayerza (Argentina), Mikheil Nariashvili (Georgia)
2. Agustin Creevy (Argentina): The performances of the Argentinian captain made it all the more unfathomable that he had spent last season playing in the English second-tier. Accurate out of touch, unflappable in the scrum and capable of an eye-catching offload, his injury in the semi-final was no way for a great tournament to come to a close. Stephen Moore led Australia all the way to the final with consistent class, although the lineout faltered at the last, and Ulster's Rory Best was always among Ireland's top performers. Notable mentions: Stephen Moore (Australia) Rory Best (Ireland)
3. Ramiro Herrera (Argentina): Ireland fans will remember him as the man who could well have been sent off in the 50th minute of the quarter-finals but it was the only time when the Castres man failed to impress. An absolute beast in a front-row that continually caught the eye despite the change in emphasis of the Pumas game, when Daniel Hourcade went for brute force Herrera was to the fore. Naturalised South African WP Nel was impressive for the Scots and Sekope Kepu is another who deserves credit for the Wallaby's performance in the tight. Notable mentions: WP Nel (Scotland), Sekope Kepu (Australia)
4. Leone Nakarawa (Fiji): By some distance the toughest of the positions to pick as New Zealand, South Africa, and Argentina all boasted two strong performers in the row while Iain Henderson, Kane Douglas and Alun Wyn Jones were also superb. Glasgow's Leone Nakarawa was, however, a different beast entirely when turning out for Fiji. While his work in the tight exchanges was exemplary, his open-field game for an islanders team that were always up against it ensures his inclusion is more than warranted. Notable mentions: Sam Whitelock (New Zealand), Iain Henderson (Ireland)
5. Brodie Retallick (New Zealand): It almost beggars belief that the 2014 World Player of the Year is still just 24 years of age. A destructive force both with and without the ball, he can be a key component of the All Blacks pack moving toward to 2019 and even 2023. Ability to ruck can sometimes be overlooked given everything else he brings to the table but he is crucial in ensuring that his sparkling backline has quick ball to play with. Potential captain of the future. Notable mentions: Kane Douglas (Australia), Alun Wyn Jones (Wales)
6. Mamuka Gorgodze (Georgia): Few teams look to their leader in the way Georgia rely on Toulon star Mamuka Gorgodze. The man they call 'Godzilla' scored the crucial try in what was a famous win over Tonga on the first Saturday of the competition while he remarkably led his side in carries, clean breaks, tackles, offloads and turnovers during their four games. The lesser-praised member of Australia's back-row Scott Fardy was superb, doing much of the unseen work, while Japan captain Michael Leitch was another who led a squad of underdogs with total conviction. Notable mentions: Scott Fardy (Australia), Michael Leitch (Japan)
7. Schalk Burger (South Africa): Richie McCaw may have confirmed his standing as the greatest player of his generation, and Michael Hooper's tandem with David Pocock was one of the tournament's talking points, but Schalk Burger is a man who seemingly defies odds at every turn. Playing with a seven on his back, although showing many characteristics of a blindside, at 32 years of age and having fought back from a potentially fatal bout of bacterial meningitis two years ago Burger was supreme throughout. His staggering number of carries in the quarter-final win over Wales was vintage stuff and he backed it up with another big performance in defeat against New Zealand. Notable mentions:: Michael Hooper (Australia), Richie McCaw (New Zealand)
8. David Pocock (Capt) (Australia): As the focal point of a back-row that choked the life out of their opponents at the breakdown, David Pocock (left) was the best player in the entire tournament. Working alongside superb flankers, Michael Hooper and Scott Fardy, the Brumbies man was an absolute menace on the deck. While he may no longer be captain of his country, he continues to be a consummate leader. Elsewhere, Louis Picamoles was the best of what was a largely abject bunch for France and Taulupe Faletau was one of a group of Welshmen who deserved better than a quarter-final exit. Notable mentions: Louis Picamoles (France), Taulupe Faletau (Wales)
9. Aaron Smith (New Zealand): The undisputed best scrum-half in the world was the pick of the bunch at the tournament and was a key component to the New Zealand victory. Maybe just a touch below his incredible best, his speed of pass, accuracy of box-kicks and ability to snipe around the fringes set the platform for Steve Hansen's men to succeed. Greg Laidlaw for Scotland was an effective nine, talismanic leader and reliable goalkicker while Fourie du Preez was again a steadying hand for a South African side rocked by defeat to Japan in their first game. Notable mentions: Greig Laidlaw (Scotland), Fourie du Preez (South Africa)
10. Dan Carter (New Zealand): If the team was to have been picked after the pool stages then few would have had Carter in the ten jersey but the fly-half put an indelible stamp on the tournament during its knock-out stages. With his time in international rugby coming to an end ahead of a move to Racing Metro, Carter (below) held off the Australian comeback on Saturday with a memorable drop goal and long distance penalty while his contribution against South Africa in the semis was also crucial. Dan Bigger and Bernard Foley were both utterly indispensable in seeing their sides through the 'Pool of Death'. Notable mentions: Dan Biggar (Wales), Bernard Foley (Australia)
11. DTH van der Merwe (Canada): The battle for the number 11 jersey was hugely competitive but it was unexpectedly the Canadian speedster DTH van der Merwe who impressed most. His side may not have made much of an impact but his try against Italy was a superb effort while he also crossed the whitewash against Ireland, France and Romania. The Scarlets man is a real talisman for his country. Julian Savea's bulldozing runs, especially against the French, drew comparisons with the great Jonah Lomu while Ireland felt the full force of Juan Imhoff in their quarter-final loss. Notable mentions: Julian Savea (New Zealand), Juan Imhoff (Argentina)
12. Ma'a Nonu (New Zealand): The rampaging centre was in the final days of his Test career but can make a real claim to being the back of the tournament. Far from just a battering ram, although his power is always eye-catching, he has added guile to a skillset that continues to just get better and better. Won his 100th cap during the tournament while his try in the final was a memorable way to finish what has been a great All Blacks career. Juan Martin Hernandez, such a star in 2007, was again at his best on the big stage while Matt Giteau remains a pleasure to watch and it was a real shame to see him exit the final with concussion. Notable mentions: Juan Martin Hernandez (Argentina), Matt Giteau (Australia)
13. Conrad Smith (New Zealand): Not a tournament where the outside centres particularly stood out but Conrad Smith was far and away the pick of the bunch. Acting as a second playmaker in the midfield, the Pau-bound 34-year-old remains a fantastic decision maker and had a big impact during his 40 minutes of action in Saturday's final. Jesse Kriel is another man who will be at his best in Japan 2019 while Argentina's Marcelo Bosch was an impressive candidate with the exception of the dangerous tackle that saw him miss the quarter-final with Ireland. Notable mentions: Jesse Kriel (South Africa), Marcelo Bosch (Argentina)
14. Nehe Milner-Skudder (New Zealand): The winger (below) secured the World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year on Sunday and the Hurricanes man has certainly enjoyed a memorable campaign both on the Test stage and in Super Rugby. His footwork is a sight to behold while, at just 24-years-old, he is set to get better and better. Adam Ashley-Cooper, who scored a hat-trick in the semi-final against Argentina, again displayed a great awareness of his surroundings while Santiago Cordero caused havoc for the Pumas. Notable mentions: Adam Ashley-Cooper (Australia), Santiago Cordero (Argentina)
15. Ayumu Goromaru (Japan): The Japanese goal-kicker was a star of the tournament's pool stages and the key figure behind what was the greatest shock of this or any World Cup. Contributed 24 of his side's tally in the win over South Africa and became the first tier 2 player to surpass 700 Test points during the victory over USA. His try-saving tackle on Scotland's Tommy Seymour provided another memorable moment. New Zealand's Ben Smith was also superb and barely made a mistake until his final yellow card that saw Australia come back into the contest. Notable mentions: Ben Smith (New Zealand), Joaquin Tuculet (Argentina)

The curtain has finally lowered on what will go down in history as the greatest World Cup ever.

It was a tournament that had just about everything, drama, shocks, rising stars, tearful goodbyes, and the fairytale ending as some of the All Blacks' finest bowed out as champions of the World.

Click through the gallery to see my pick of the players who made the 2015 World Cup such a treat for all rugby fans.

Online Editors

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