Planet Rugby's Team of the Year

Date published: December 22 2011

You've had your turn, now it's ours. After hours of debate and dummy-spitting here at Planet Rugby HQ, we've picked our best XV of 2011.

You've had your turn, now it's ours. After hours of debate and dummy-spitting here at Planet Rugby HQ, we've selected our line-up of 2011.

After 21 years of hurt, the World Cup trophy is with New Zealand while other significant silverware this year went the way of Australia and England.

But so as not to take achievements away from the club scene, there is a ringer included in our XV. A certain Jacques Burger also came very close.

There were eight selection differences from our 'Reader's Team' while we also chose four men who earn their keep in the northern hemisphere.

So without further ado, herewith…

Planet Rugby's Team of the Year:

15 Kurtley Beale (Australia) – You vocal readers went for Israel Dagg but rest assured we have not sided with this Wallaby just to stir the pot. Beale was without doubt the best 15 in Super Rugby and those who compete in fantasy competitions will realise exactly what he offers in attack. What also tipped the scales was the impact having/not having the now Rebel had on the Wallabies at the World Cup. He is our player of the year.
Bubbling under: Israel Dagg

14 Chris Ashton (England) – Top of the Six Nations and joint-top of World Cup 2011's try-scoring chart, Ashton has had quite a year for Northampton and England. While he has plenty of critics and enemies – mainly at Welford Road – the league convert's statistics cannot be ignored. He takes our fourteen jersey ahead of Wallaby James O'Connor, Frenchman Vincent Clerc, Wales's George North and Kiwi Cory Jane after a fine 2011.
Bubbling under: James O'Connor

13 Conrad Smith (New Zealand) – This was where we almost drew a blank. While Brian O'Driscoll helped lead Leinster to Heineken Cup glory and Jaque Fourie performed strongly in patches, no one jumped out and grabbed this jersey. Adam Ashley-Cooper struggled to find his range after he was shifted around the backline and so, for the second year running, Smith is our man. Arguably the best defending 13 around who rarely has a bad game.
Bubbling under: Brian O'Driscoll

12 Ma'a Nonu (New Zealand) – Based solely on the World Cup we would have to go for Jamie Roberts – but this is a 365 day assessment. Despite a somewhat sluggish start, Nonu was the best of a bad bunch at the Hurricanes and then kicked on in the black jersey to become excellent for New Zealand, showing a cutting edge they desperately needed when struggling for penetration. Frans Steyn earns a pat on the back for his RWC efforts.
Bubbling under: Jamie Roberts

11 Digby Ioane (Australia) – The easiest decision and we are sure you would agree this wing has been a cut above his rivals in 2011. Line-breaks aplenty while offering go-forward ball in an exciting Reds and Australian back-line, Ioane has also thrown in some dancing moves for good measure. However, we enjoyed Rene Ranger's rendition of 'The Crab' a touch more due to its comedic value. Good news for Oz that he is not heading for Japan.
Bubbling under: Isa Nacewa

10 Dan Carter (New Zealand) – Ah yes, our debate at fly-half or should I say first-five. Quade Cooper had another laughably impressive Super Rugby term until his World Cup became, well, laughable. Public enemy number one and all those boos clearly affected the Reds man and ultimately saw his Team of the Year spot here at PR go to his nearest challenger. That man is Carter, who despite missing the Webb Ellis run-in, was consistently mesmeric.
Bubbling under: Quade Cooper

9 Will Genia (Australia) – Much like his aforementioned half-back partner, Genia did not enjoy the best of World Cups following what was an unrivalled Super Rugby season from the number nine. The Reds scrum-half creates so much from the base for his close-field runners and capped the tournament off with that score against the Crusaders in the final. Hopefully a good long rest over the festive period sees Genia return for more of the same.
Bubbling under: Mike Phillips

8 Kieran Read (New Zealand) – An injury scare during the World Cup had New Zealand hearts beating a little quicker than normal, but it all worked out in the end as their number eight recovered to play a major role. However we felt that it was Read's showings for the Crusaders, who were on the road for all of Super Rugby, that were where he earned most credit. Read is an honest forward who deserves his spot. Huge mention for Sergio Parisse.
Bubbling under: Imanol Harinordoquy

7 David Pocock (Australia) – We emphatically go against the IRB Player of the Year, Thierry Dusautoir, who while good was some way off the performances that Pocock put in for the Wallabies and Western Force. When missing for either side – more so Australia – it was obvious how much of a role this openside plays. If he can remain injury free then we look forward to many more battles with Richie McCaw before the All Black hangs up his boots.
Bubbling under: Thierry Dusautoir

6 Sean O'Brien (Ireland) – There was a battle between northern and southern hemisphere staff at Planet Rugby for this jersey as O'Brien and Jerome Kaino had their hats thrown into the ring. But in the end, the performances of the Leinster flanker in both the then Magners League and on the way to Heineken Cup glory had to be recognised. What tipped the scales was the way he had those below the equator talking during the World Cup. An excellent year.
Bubbling under: Jerome Kaino

5 James Horwill (Australia) – Super Rugby and Tri-Nations silverware for the man elevated to Australia captain during the latter mentioned tournament. Despite missing out on the chance to make it a treble with the Webb Ellis, Horwill has enjoyed a fruitful year for the Reds and Wallabies, showing leadership qualities and ability throughout. Now he has a lot to live up to in 2012 as Australia have already targeted the world number one position.
Bubbling under: Victor Matfield

4 Brad Thorn (New Zealand) – What a way to bow out from rugby for someone who just kept on going in a season that saw the Crusaders do a great deal of travelling due to unfortunate events in Christchurch. Thorn was an immense carrier for the All Blacks and put the seal on an impressive career in both league and union with a RWC winner's medal in his cabinet. A mention for Courtney Lawes, whose agility and work-rate aided Northampton and England.
Bubbling under: Courtney Lawes

3 Martin Castrogiovanni (Italy) – Owen Franks was impressive for New Zealand while Nicolas Mas and Dan Cole also had good years for France and England respectively. But it was the latter's Tigers team-mate who stood out for