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Dublin: 5°C Thursday 4 March 2021

Our RWC Team of the Weekend is heavy on opensides, wings and Welsh warriors

There’s also a man who played his way in before being forced to retire prematurely.

AFTER EVERY BUNCH of Rugby World Cup games we’ll attempt to pick out the players that really shone through, be it out in the open or from the bottom of a ruck.

Where possible, we try to pick players in the positions they played. However, sometimes you just have to wedge the form men in however you can – within reason, we’re not sticking Paulie on the wing or anything.

Here’s our best XV of the weekend (you’ll find the finest players of the midweek matches here).

15. Ireland’s Simon Zebo

Another stunning turn at fullback that often brought him in to first receiver to help take game management and playmaking duties away from Ian Madigan.

Perhaps only Quade Cooper threw a better pass than the one Zebo spun off his left hand to Keith Earls this weekend. To top it all off, he even finished off an electric back-line move with a pass to the man keeping him out of the starting XV.

Simon Zebo Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

14. South Africa’s JP Pietersen

South Africa moved back closer to the blunt force trauma approach to win this game, but it was the cutting edge of Pietersen that broke Samoa.

his coolly taken hat-trick was completely at odds with the rancour and outrage that swirled around the camp.

Rugby Union - Rugby World Cup 2015 - Pool B - South Africa v Samoa - Villa Park Source: PA Wire/PA Images

13. Australia’s Drew Mitchell

It was a good weekend for wingers, so we’ve made room for Australia’s record World Cup try-scorer. Mitchell showed his trademark strength and power on the way to his 11th and 12th touchdown in the tournament.

Rugby Union - Rugby World Cup 2015 - Pool A - Australia v Uruguay - Villa Park Source: PA Wire/PA Images

12. South Africa’s Jean De Villiers

Sadly, a broken jaw late means we will never again see De Villiers in the Test arena. But, after being the unfortunate face of the Japan debacle a week earlier, the Springbok skipper was excellent in leading his side out of the darkness.


The look of ecstasy when he thought he had scored a try (soon chalked off) revealed a man who felt every barb and criticism of the last week. The smooth hands for the above Pietersen try were a fine way to bow out.

11. Ireland’s Keith Earls

Two tries and showing the athleticism and confidence of a man in the best shape of his life. Four years on, Earls is back in the top echelon of Irish wingers just in time for the big World Cup games.

Keith Earls scores their second try Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

10. Wales’ Dan Biggar

What can you say about a young-out half who kicks eight out of eight – including a 49 metre winner – in the most intense of cauldrons? Balls, that’s what.

Biggar proved himself to be a clutch kicker long before Saturday, but this is the biggest stage and the stress of having the world watch you, waiting to judge you for ever after can’t be understated.


9. Australia’s Nick Phipps

May well prove to be an impact player in the big clash with England next weekend, but against Uruguay he delivered excellent varied service from the base of the ruck and took full advantage of the quick ball being served up to him. The below snipe and offload for Dean Mumm’s try sum up how he kept the Green and Gold machine rumbling forward.


1. England’s Joe Marler

One try changed the game of the weekend, but for long stretches in Twickenham a Welsh win was implausible and that was down to the armchair ride their pack gave the in-form half-backs.

Rugby Union - 2015 RBS Six Nations - Wales v England - Millennium Stadium Source: Joe Giddens

The Harlequins loosehead not only got the better of Tomas Francis in the tight, but also put in a Trojan effort around the park.

2. Argentina’s Agustin Creevy

Georgia’s scrum pushed the Pumas well out of their comfort zone, but Creevy is a captain who excels in the loose and breakdown and he topped off that offering by keeping the line-out running smoothly while the other set-piece shook.

Britain Rugby WCup Argentina Georgia Source: AP/Press Association Images

3. England’s Dan Cole

Like the rest of England’s pack he has discipline issues, but he was key to giving England the upper hand (before they slipped) through his excellent scrum battle with Gethin Jenkins.

4. Wales’ Luke Charteris

The only replacement in our line-up this week, but what a replacement! Made a vital line-out steal, aided the excellent maul defence and contributed some big tackles and carries to boot. Bradley Davies is still trying to figure out how we was picked to start instead.

Britain Rugby WCup England Wales Source: Christophe Ena

5. Wales’ Alun Wyn Jones

The rock on which Wales forwards coach Robyn McBride has built his church. An enormous presence in a red pack that, under other circumstances, could easily have lost touch while chasing the game throughout.


6. Wales’ Sam Warburton

It was a weekend of excellent opensides and, while Warburton wasn’t the best of them, he made up for being on the back foot for much of the Titanic clash with England by being a captain that exuded confidence in his team throughout. Sam the captain was critical to an underdog turning the tide in the lion’s den.

Rugby Union - Rugby World Cup 2015 - Pool A - England v Wales - Twickenham Stadium Source: PA Wire/PA Images

7. Australia’s Sean McMahon

Got two tries including the opener, but that’s only a discoloured snapshot of what the Wallabies’ third-choice openside brought to the table. Excellent in the contact zone all day and smooth with the ball in hand. Michael Cheika is well stocked at openside.

Britain Rugby WCup Australia Uruguay Source: AP/Press Association Images

8. Ireland’s Chris Henry

Constantly had his shoulder to the wheel and provided his usual ultra-effective breakdown expertise, lifting, clearing and turning the pack to create openings elsewhere.

Chris Henry supported by Jamie Heaslip Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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