THE GROUP STAGES have come to an end and so, we have decided to pick the 15 players that have impressed us most so far in what has been a compelling tournament to watch.
We decided to base it solely on players that have qualified from the group stages, which is worth pointing out, just in case Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu decides to accuse us of having some sort of agenda against the smaller nations.
And obviously, nobody’s perfect, and even us journalists can get it wrong sometimes, so let us know if we’ve missed anyone in the comments section below.
Anyway, without further ado, here are our choices:
1. Cian Healy (Ireland): The Ireland scrum has improved drastically in recent weeks. Having at one stage arguably been their weak-point, the side have now managed to win the individual scrummaging battles in all of their games in the tournament so far. Much credit must go to Healy, who has proved himself to be an invaluable member of the side during this World Cup.
2. Mario Ledesma (Argentina): Ledesma gave a man of the match performance against Scotland in what was essentially Argentina’s World Cup final – not bad for a 38-year-old.
3. Adam Jones (Wales): Held his own against the fearsome South African forwards and proved influential in their victory against Samoa also. Thus Jones, with his tireless work ethic, is one of the more underrated members of an increasingly formidable-looking Wales team.
4. Danie Rossouw (South Africa): The veteran produced some excellent performances and will prove a key player should the Springboks emerge as tournament victors, as many people are tipping them to.
5. Paul O’Connell (Ireland): Before this tournament, certain critics suggested that, given how age is no longer on O’Connell’s side, the Munster man may now be past his best. How wrong they were.
6. Stephen Ferris (Ireland): Having struggled at times this season, Ferris is now turning into the player he promised to be, showing the kind of form that made him look as if he was to be one of the stars of the last Lions tour, before an injury cruelly curtailed his progress.
7. Sean O’Brien (Ireland): What is there left to say about the player all of New Zealand is raving about? O’Brien was integral to Ireland’s victory over Australia and did not disappoint in Sunday’s crucial encounter with Italy either. Some have even described him as the player of the tournament so far.
8. Toby Faletau (Wales): Faletau was inspirational for Wales against South Africa. While the player only has a few Wales caps to his name, he looks as if he’s been playing international rugby forever.
9. Dimitri Yachvili (France): The scrum-half is one of the only French players whose reputation hasn’t suffered at this World Cup, and was one of the few bright lights in their disappointing performances against New Zealand and Tonga.
(Christophe Ena/AP/Press Association Images)
10. Dan Carter (New Zealand): Carter looked every bit the player we so often hear about during the few appearances he gave in the tournament. His injury ruling him out of the tournament is a huge loss, not just for New Zealand, but for rugby in general.
11. James O’Connor (Australia): O’Connor was an exception to Australia’s largely poor performance against Ireland, and looked equally accomplished in his side’s other games. If Australia are to have any hope of beating South Africa, he’ll surely be central to their plans.
12. Ma’a Nonu (New Zealand): A model of consistency, Nonu’s terrific form is ominous news for the rest of the countries who remain in the competition. On current form, he could arguably be considered as the best centre in the world
13. Frans Steyn (South Africa): Undeniably South Africa’s most potent attacking threat, Steyn will be sorely missed against Australia, having endured a serious shoulder injury against Samoa. He scored a wonderful try in the opening minutes against Wales, displayed his excellence in defence, and his kicking prowess has been as reliable as ever.
14. Chris Ashton (England): Love him or hate him, there is no denying the fact that Ashton has looked a much-improved player in this tournament, with a lethal finishing ability to boot.
15. Israel Dagg (New Zealand): New Zealand have, as anticipated, played some scintillating rugby so far, and Dagg has been at the heart of so much of what’s been good about their attack.