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Room for just one Kiwi as 'Boks and England dominate international Rugby Team of the Year

No Irish players made the cut this time around, but there was still a lot to love about rugby in 2019.

THE BIG TOURNAMENTS in 2019′s international rugby schedule were hoovered up by Wales and South Africa and we’ve paid due credit to the champions of hemispheres north, south and the world in our international Team of the Year.

It was not a vintage year for Ireland, but the side who did such a thorough job of knocking both them and New Zealand off their perches are well represented. England were arguably the best team at Japan 2019 and showed their full capability at the semi-final stage, but could not replicate the performance a week later.

We have done our best to keep players in the positions they played this year, but in some cases – looking particularly at 13 – we just had to err on the side of a player who was too impressive to leave out.

Here’s our XV of ’19. Dig in.

15. Beauden Barrett (New Zealand)

Could easily be considered as out-half in this 2019 XV, but was shifted to the back-field at international level. Stood out as a sensational talent even as the All Blacks crumbled in the World Cup semi-final.

14. Cheslin Kolbe (South Africa)

Lightning in a bottle that gave the Springboks a vital cutting edge behind their powerful pack.

cheslin-kolbe-celebrates-his-try Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

13. Damian Penaud (France)

Deployed on the wing by Les Bleus, but we just had to include the abrasive all-action Clermont star because he has been incredibly fun to watch through the Six Nations and World Cup.

12. Jon Davies (Wales)

Played himself to a standstill trying to drive Wales towards the World Cup final. A classy and steely presence in the Welsh Grand Slam run.

11. Liam Williams (Wales)

A remarkably elusive runner whether counter-attacking from fullback or in more conventional attacks and terrific in aerial contests.

10. Owen Farrell (England)

Often moved to 12 by Eddie Jones, but never far from the control panel as England built themselves into a seemingly irresistible force.

owen-farrell-celebrates Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

9,  Faf de Klerk (South Africa)

A veritable power-cube with a surfer’s haircut, the South Africa scrum-half brilliantly complemented the pack in front of him with clever kicks and energetic running.

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1. Keita Inagaki (Japan)

The Brave Blossoms were the story of the pool phase at their home World Cup and their exhilarating attack was able to thrive on the back of an underrated pack headed up by their hard-carrying loosehead.

2. Bongi Mbonambi (South Africa)

A core element in the ‘Boks brilliant set-piece that laid foundations for the World Cup win and the Stormer was terrifically abrasive in the loose.

3. Kyle Sinckler (England)

Targetted for some patented Warren Gatland mind games in the spring, but hit his best form in the World Cup as he used his agility and handling skill to add an exciting extra dimension to England’s attacking ability. A frightening concussion early in the final certainly didn’t help England’s cause.

kyle-sinckler Source: James Crombie/INPHO

4. Maro Itoje (England)

Another of Saracens’ European champions and England’s World Cup finalists, Itoje is living up to the hype that has long followed him with accuracy and work-rate that makes him arguably the most influential tight five forwards around.

5. Alun Wyn Jones (Wales) 

The captain of this team. Holds his country’s Test cap record after a season in which he led them to a Grand Slam and a World Cup semi-final while being the catalyst behind their physicality.

alun-wyn-jones-with-paul-gabrillagues Source: James Crombie/INPHO

6. Pieter-Steph du Toit (South Africa)

Awarded World Player of the Year on the back of the ‘Boks success and he was a constant tower of strength that they could work around.

7. Sam Underhill (England)

A devastating tackler who so often made game-changing moments and gave a sharp edge to England’s back row.

8. Duane Vermeulen (South Africa)

The 33-year-old reached the peak of his powers when the ‘Boks most needed a point of difference. A powerful carrier that proved himself able to make gainlines over and over again.

duane-vermeulen-with-beauden-barrett Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

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