Six Springboks force their way into The42's Team of the Rugby World Cup

There’s still room for smaller, highly-skilled players in our tournament XV.

AFTER SIX WEEKS and a day, the World Cup has reached its conclusion. We’ve witness shocks, shockers, scintillating attack and suffocating defence. 

Every team was a story unto itself and every story had key protagonists that made everything work, but after 45 matches (and three cancellations) we’ve tried to pick out the men who made the most impressive marks on Japan 2019. Some will walk away from the tournament happy, more will go with immense frustration and one or two might even be content after experiencing a mix of the two.

Here’s our XV of Rugby World Cup 2019 – plus a few honourable mentions among the ‘finishers’.

15. Beauden Barrett (New Zealand)

Though the glossy veneer of the All Blacks was left more than a little tarnished after this World Cup, their star player never failed to sparkle.

Even during the drubbing at English hands, the 10-deployed-at-15 was one of the few Kiwis to continue pushing, pressing and causing problems for England to figure out.

14. Cheslin Kolbe (South Africa)

A joy.

elliot-daly-with-cheslin-kolbe Source: James Crombie/INPHO

The Toulouse wing possesses the invaluable ability to beat defenders with next to no space to work with. And against England in the final he put that explosive physicality to work in contact, notably taking down Courtney Lawes to thwart a first-half attack from Eddie Jones’ men.

13. Manu Tuilagi (England)

Typified England in a way as he delivered one of the great centre performances in the semi-final, but was unable to make a meaningful impact in the final. With his clever reads in defence and power in contact, England never looked better.

manu-tuilagi-after-the-game Source: James Crombie/INPHO

12. Damien De Allende  (South Africa)

Lukhanyo Am was the cutting edge, but the Springbok 12 delivered hammer blow after hammer blow to soften up defences throughout the tournament. A foil for the zippier backs in the world champions’ back-line.

11. Kotaro Matsushima (Japan)

An opening night hat-trick set the tone for Matsushima and his electric pace helped to make the home side an extremely dangerous attacking prospect.

kotaro-matsushima Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

10. Owen Farrell (England)

Didn’t wear 10 in the semi or final, but nobody was in doubt about who pulls the strings in the England side and when push came to shove, it was the skipper who was handed the reins. At the heart of an England kicking game that caused so many teams so many problems

9. Faf de Klerk (South Africa)

A talismanic presence this past six weeks for the ‘Boks. Brilliantly dictated play for the champions and was continually seen flying across the field to make vital tackles.

faf-de-klerk-lifts-the-webb-ellis-trophy Source: James Crombie/INPHO

1. Keita Inagaki (Japan)

Japan earned deserved plaudits for the tempo and ambition of their attack, but the loosehead’s physicality helped under-pin all that wide play with brute force in contact.

2. Bongi Mbonambi (South Africa)

Brilliantly abrasive hooker that led the ‘Boks from the front. Key to the excellent set-piece his side delivered, not least a line-out that coughed up just one ball all tournament.

bongi-mbonambi Source: James Crombie/INPHO

3. Kyle Sinckler (England)

His sickening concussion in the opening minutes of the final was a massive blow to English hopes. The tighthead has taken a leaf from Tadhg Furlong’s book to become a valuable extra set of hands in the England attack and his footwork in the carry made him a nightmare to defend.

4. Maro Itoje (England)

He’s been heralded as a great of the game for some time, and while the Lions tour brought him to prominence on the global stage, this tournament really underlined the Saracens star’s value. Continually set the tone for English physicality through the tournament before coming off second best.

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maro-itoje-dejected-after-conceding-a-try Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

5. Lood de Jager (South Africa)

Played a key role in a Springbok set-piece that was almost flawless in Japan. Led the physicality stakes in Rassie Erasmus’ pack and wound up a casualty of it in the final.

6. Ardie Savea (New Zealand)

Along with Barrett, his class shone through during the All Blacks campaign. Tremendously powerful in contact and had the pace and skill to create beyond the break.


7. Sam Underhill (England)

Combined to devastating effect with Tom Curry, but Underhill’s ability to make hits that felt like landmarks in the game set him apart. At 23, he will hope to get two more runs at this tournament after a painful end in today’s final.

8. Duane Vermeulen (South Africa)

Ably assisted in the ‘Bok back row by Siya Kolisi and Pieter Steph Du Toit, but the 33-year-old number 8 was a cut above his rivals throughout this tournament. Unshakable in the carry and brilliantly effective at the breakdown as he fuelled the Springbok World Cup charge.


pieter-steph-du-toit-lifts-the-webb-ellis-trophy Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

16. Shota Horie (Japan) 17. Tendai Mtawarira 18. Rabah Slimani (France) 19. Alun Wyn Jones (Wales)  20. Pieter Steph du Toit (South Africa) 21. Aaron Smith 22. Richie Mo’unga (both New Zealand) 23. Damien Penaud (France)

Who would you pick instead?

About the author:

Sean Farrell

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