With the end of season internationals now finally over we take a look at the current World XV based on their form over the last 12 months…
The Wallabies may have had one of the most disappointing years in recent memory, but that hasn’t stopped Folau shining for club and country. He may not have the kicking game of some of his competitors but in every other respect he is pretty much the perfect full back. His try scoring form in Super Rugby was impressive whilst he single handedly kept the Wallabies in a number of games this year.
The only question regarding Ben Smith was where to place him in the team as his current form dictates he belongs in a World XV somewhere. He has looked truly excellent at full back over the last 12 months but with Folau in the team he can be placed out on the wing where he can put his impressive try scoring abilities to good use whilst continuing to make ground when facing a wall of defenders.
The award for the most improved player in world rugby has to go to Kuridrani this year after he became a stalwart of the Wallabies side. It seems the last six months have really seen Kuridrani developing into the player the Wallabies hoped he would when he was first called up. He has plenty of competition for the 13 shirt but on recent form he deserves his place in the World XV.
12.Jean de Villiers
Springbok captain de Villiers was incredibly unfortunate to end his year with an injury picked up in his sides lacklustre defeat to Wales. Despite this however de Villiers has had an excellent season for club and country as he helped guide his side to an impressive win over the All Blacks during the Rugby Championship. Hopefully he can bounce back for the World Cup and continue his good form next year.
Savea is quite possibly the most feared winger in all of rugby right now. Like Folau he may lack a kicking game as such however he more than compensates for it in every other way. He is more than capable of going both through or around defenders and seems capable of scoring tries from anywhere on the field using his power and pace to get over the try line.
Fly Half was a really tough one this year with many of the usual suspects either suffering with injuries or struggling for form during the year. Whilst the likes of Bernard Foley and Pat Lambie deserve a shout, Sexton’s dismantling of the Springboks during this years Autumn International series helps him stand out as the most complete contender for the World XV number 10 shirt.
There was never any doubt as to who would be filling the number 9 shirt in our World XV. Over the last 12 months and even beyond, Smith has been the best scrum half in the world by some margin. He is the perfect foil for the All Blacks backline, keeping the tempo high and keeping defenders guessing thanks to his clever kicks and darting runs from the base of rucks.
It’s unfortunate that Healy has been injured during the end of year international period, however despite this he has done enough to earn his place in the World XV. Healy has become one of the most well rounded props in world rugby after originally struggling with his scrummaging and is now a huge asset to an ever improving Ireland side ahead of next years Six Nations.
Selecting Hartley is always going to be something of a controversial decision, however his form over the last 12 months has been nothing short of impressive. After guiding Northampton Saints to a European and domestic double he has gone on to become a key member of an impressive England pack where his lineout throwing has been a cornerstone of their game.
Tighthead was another tough decision with few players seeming to be at their best this year. Whilst a couple of younger players like Wales’ Samson Lee deserve a mention, it is the impressive form of Owen Franks that earns him a place in the World XV. Franks has become a key man for the All Blacks in recent years and they will be hoping he can stay fit for the World Cup.
Rettalick has just been voter the World Rugby Player of the Year after an outstanding season for both club and country. Rettalick has formed a formiddable second row partnership with Sam Whitelock for the All Blacks that has made them the envy of world rugby. If Rettalick can continue his good form into the World Cup next year then it will give All Blacks boss Steve Hansen a huge boost.
Etzebeth may look baby faced, but you only have to watch him play to realise that the bite most definitely doesn’t match the bark. Despite struggling with injuries throughout the Rugby Championship Etzebeth has bounced back during the end of year internationals and has been a key man for the Springboks in what has been a testing couple of weeks for the second best side in the world.
If Gorgodze played for a tier 1 nation there’s no doubting that he would regularly be challenging for both individual and team honours. His move to Toulon over the summer proves just how highly he is thought of in the French Top 14 where he has dominated back row play for years. On current form Gorgodze is just about the most complete forward in all of world rugby.
It’s unbelievable that not only is McCaw still going, but he is still so effective given his age and injury problems. McCaw continues to be at the centre of everything good the All Blacks do and is often overlooked for his performances, such is the expectation on him these days. The All Blacks will be desperate to keep him fit for at least the next 12 months.
Vermeulen can consider himself to be genuinely unlucky not to have claimed the World Rugby Player of the Year crown after an outstanding season for club and country. Vermeulen has become an automatic selection for the Springboks and provides them with so much forward momentum other teams cannot ignore him. What people fail to realise though is that he offers much more than just a ball carrying option.
Who would make your World XV?