Rugby World Cup 2015 Best XV

Written by Darry Worthington for @Hollywoodbets. Follow them both on Twitter and Facebook now!



With the World Cup now over, I took some time to reflect on who the best XV performers were at the tournament. This is my opinion, and as I illustrated with my backing of Australia to win the cup, I do get it wrong once in a while.


Forwards

Eighthman: David Pocock
The Zimbabwean-born Australian skipper was in fine fettle at the tournament. He was in a league of his own when it came to the turnovers won statistics. Pocock managed 17 turnovers at the tournament which is four more than his nearest rival, Francois Louw.

Honourable Mention: Kieran Reed
While the former world player of the year wasn’t at his best during the tournament he still managed to produce some incredible stats. Reed managed eight turnovers at the tournament, he led the lineouts stolen stats with six takes against the throw and was second only to Schalk Burger when it came to carries over the gain line.

Openside flanker: Michael Hooper
He may have struggled to match his loose forward partners for turnovers won, but he was still vital to the Wallabies' cause. He carried the ball with grit and determination and made tackle after tackle for his side. With McCaw retiring, Pocock is set to become the world’s premier open-sider.

Honourable Mention: Jaques Burger
The Namibian flanker epitomised his side’s efforts at the tournament. Burger lead from the front and showed little appreciation for self-preservation. He fought valiantly in each ruck he entered and often left the field with gaping wounds. Definitely one of the bravest players at this year’s event.

Blindside Flanker: Scott Fardy
The unsung hero in the Australian loose-trio. While his two partners in crime seemed to grab the headlines after each and every game, Fardy spent a lot less time in the limelight. His hard work often went unnoticed at the tournament but it’s unlikely to have bothered him. The 31-year-old managed to make seven turnovers at the tournament and was a constant irritation for opponents at the breakdown.

Honourable mention: Francois Louw
Francois Louw just pips Michael Leitch to this accolade. The former Western Province flanker was devastating at the breakdown - ending the tournament with 13 turnovers to his name. He was also solid on defence, and emerges from this tournament as one of the leaders in the Springbok camp.

Number five: Brodie Retallick
Second only to Kieran Reed in the lineouts stolen statistics, Retallick was a solid jumping option for his side on their own ball and a pain in the backside for opposition hookers. He also offered a strong ball carrying option and made more than his fair share of tackles.

Honourable Mention: Lood De Jaeger
There is no sight more joyful to witness in international rugby than Lood running with the ball. The big man is exceptional at breaking through tackles and gained a bucket-load of metres for his side during the competition. My favourite part of de Jaeger’s game isn’t either of the aforementioned attributes but rather his ability to make the most outrageous faces while carrying the ball.

Number 4: Dean Mumm
While he didn’t top the lineout steals or really register on the turnovers made nor metres carried lists, he was still crucial to the Australians run to the final. Mumm was a calm and reassuring presence at lineout time for the Wallabies. His understanding with Steven Moore saw their line out flourish.

Honourable mention: Leone Nakawara
While his forward colleagues struggled to get to grips with the English and Australian packs, Nakawara relished playing against the big boys. His nine turnovers in four games are outstanding stats for a lock.

Tighthead: Siokope Kepu
The Australian scrum has long been the laughing stock of international rugby, this all changed in 2015, however. The Wallabies actually had the ascendancy at scrum time in the majority of their games at the tournament and a lot of the plaudits for this should go to Kepu. The Waratah's tighthead wasn’t only a threat at set piece time but also a strong and exciting ball carrying option in the loose.

Honourable mention: Frans Malherbe
The Province tighthead’s elevation to the Springboks starting line-up proved to be a revelation. With Jannie du Plessis struggling for form and carrying a slight niggle, Heynecke Meyer decided to start Malherbe against the Americans. His subsequent performance saw him usurp du Plessis, and he went on to start the rest of the ‘Boks matches

Hooker: Agustin Creevy
The Argentine skipper cemented his place among the best-performing forwards in 2015 with his displays at the World Cup. While I could harp on about his lineout throwing and his ability to get his troops to follow him into the valley of death without question, I would rather talk about his deft handling skills. Creevy has the sleight of hand of a magician, the way he offloads is on par with any loose forward in world rugby. The big man is a joy to watch with ball in hand and for that reason he knocks Steven Moore down into the honourable mention category.

Honourable Mention: Steven Moore
The Australian skipper was brilliant at the tournament. Not only did he manage to get the best out of his side but he also managed to perform at the peak of his powers. Moore hardly put a foot wrong at the tournament; his line out throwing was brilliant and his ball carrying wasn’t too shabby either. He will have been bitterly disappointed to have been off the field for the final twenty minutes of the Final against New Zealand due to an injury.

Loosehead: Marcos Ayereza
Ayereza, was key to the Argentines set-piece dominance. He shoved like a man possessed at scrum time and managed to effectively put himself about the field in open play. He was fierce in the tackle and wasn't shy in following in his skipper’s footsteps when it came to telling referees that they had gotten a decision wrong.

Honourable mention: Scott Sio
Another key man in Australia’s scrummaging revolution. Like Kepu, Sio was brilliant at doing the fundamentals of his job but also offered a strong ball-carrying option.

Backs

Scrum Half: Fourie du Preez
The veteran nine basically carried the South Africans on his own – which is quite a feat when you consider how much Coenie Oosthuizen weighs. Du Preez’s tactical kicking was sublime - that cross field grubber to Brian Habana has got to be one of the greatest attacking kicks ever seen at a World Cup. While he may not have managed to add another William Webb Ellis Cup to his trophy haul, du Preez did remind rugby fans around the world why he is so highly rated.

Honourable mention: Greig Laidlaw
Is there a better goal-kicking scrum-half in world rugby? Laidlaw was brilliant with the boot at the tournament. The Scottish nine scored 79 points at the tournament, the majority of which came from his boot.

Flyhalf: Dan Carter
I was set on naming Nicholas Sanchez as my flyhalf of the tournament before Daniel Carters semi-final and final performances. The veteran pivot slotted two of the most well-struck drop goals seen at a World Cup. While the kicks were a wonder to behold, the actual timing of them showed why Dan Carter will go down as one of the finest All Blacks to ever pull on a jersey.

Honourable mention: AJ McGinity
Once again Nicholas Sanchez should really feature here but I’ve decided to go with one of the most impressive rugby players to come out of America. He may only be nineteen years old but AJ McGinty showed the composure of a veteran pivot. The American youngster performed his kicking duties with aplomb and was a constant threat with ball in hand. I for one, cannot wait to see the youngster in action come 2019.

Right Wing: Nehe Milner – Skudder
If he doesn’t win the IRB’s breakthrough of the year award then there is something seriously wrong with rugby.  Milner-Skudder has gone from struggling to find a starting berth at a Super Rugby franchise to being one of the first names pencilled in on Steve Hansen’s teamsheet. The diminutive utility back scored six tries and lead the tournaments stats for metres gained.

Honourable mention: Adam Ashley-Cooper
Ashley-Cooper was on fire for the Australians at the tournament, scoring four tries in the Wallabies seven games. It was not only his try scoring exploits that made him so crucial to his team's run to the semi-finals but also his defensive positioning.

Inside Centre: Ma’a Nonu
After much deliberation, I finally concluded that there is nothing to separate Ma’a Nonu and Matt Giteau apart from Nonu having a winner’s medal, and for this reason, he pips Giteau on to the list. The former Hurricane was a rock in the New Zealand midfield. Testament, to how key Nonu was to the side, is the fact that he kept one of the most explosive players in world rugby's participation in the tournament down to a few cameo appearances.

Honourable Mention: Johan Deysel Jnr
The whole of Namibia celebrated Deysel’s try against the All Blacks like their team had just won the World Cup. The centre really caught the eye at the tournament with his abrasive performances and intriguing running angles. I for one, wouldn’t be surprised if some of Europe’s top clubs start sounding Deysel out as a potential recruit.

Outside Centre: Conrad Smith 
Tevita Kuridrani was good, Marcelo Bosch likewise, but neither could compete with the freak of nature that is Conrad Smith. Mr. consistent was at his best again at the tournament, turning in performance after performance. The combination between Nonu and himself should definitely be researched further as their understanding is the closest thing to telepathy I’ve seen in my life.

Honourable Mention: Marcelo Bosch
He is not the biggest outside centre to ever play the game of union but boy does he make up for that with his heart. Bosch made tackle after tackle at the tournament but still managed to offer a solid running option when his team had the ball.

Left Wing: Bryan Habana
I’ll be brutally honest and admit this partly based on patriotism and a bit of nostalgia. Habana is one of the finest wingers South Africa has ever produced. While he’s nowhere near as explosive as he was in 2007, he still managed a few moments of magic at this tournament, unfortunately, he wasn’t able to break Jonah Lomu’s longstanding world cup try scoring record. Habana was integral in getting the ‘Boks campaign back on track after the ignominy of the Japan defeat. I’ve been kind and overlooked his semi-final and playoff performances, which were not of the vintage we come to expect from the man who once raced a cheetah.

Honourable Mention: DTH Van Der Merve
As comfortable in the centres as he is on the wing, van der Merve was one of the few players to standout for Canada. While his name is a dead giveaway that he’s of South African heritage, his playing style also shows he didn’t learn his trade in North America. The way he takes contact and his fearless approach to tackling indicate that he’s been mentored by a few South African coaches. He isn’t a bad finisher either as his pool stage tries provide testament to.

Fullback: Ben Smith
I know many will argue with my decision to name Smith as the best fullback at the tournament, but hear me out before you go running for the pitchforks and torches. Smith may have got himself carded in the final, and yes he did make a few handling errors in both the semi-final and final, but he more than made up for that with some crucial tries and his solid fielding of the high ball. The Highlanders' fullback may have been uncharacteristically quiet at the tournament, but sometimes it is the 15 who is noticed the least, that is the best performer at these tournaments.

Honourable mention: Mike Brown
One of the few Englishmen who can walk away from their dreadful campaign with his head held high. Brown tried his utmost to spark some life into an English backline that was zombie like. The talented fullback will hopefully have some colleagues who can match his performances come 2015.

Ref of the tournament: Nigel Owens 
The Welshman is a real character and has a good relationship with the players. Like most Northern Hemisphere officials, Owens tries to officiate the game by the letter of the law but unlike his colleagues, he is more inclined to let the game flow. His comment to Stuart Hogg, when the fullback tried to emulate Cristiano Ronaldo, will probably go down as the quote of the tournament.

Please feel free to post your best XV or tell us where we got it wrong on Facebook or Twitter. We look forward to hearing your opinions!



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