With the Rugby Championship now over it’s time for us to sit down and select our dream team from the tournament.
Nine players from competition winners New Zealand make our XV, while Australia, South Africa and Argentina each provide two representatives.
Read on to see who made the cut.
Rugby Championship: Team of the Tournament
15 Ben Smith – (New Zealand): The elusive full-back made another strong case for being named as the world’s best in his position. After six rounds of the Rugby Championship the number 15 is ranked number one in the competition statistics for tries scored. But it is his linking which makes him so effective as he always seems to be put his team mates into space in the final phases of a move.
14 Israel Dagg – (New Zealand): Hansen’s Dagg-on-the-wing experiment has been a eureka decision from the coach and has paid dividends for the team as Dagg continues to impress no matter where he is on the field. He blends intelligence in open play with defensive genius and has cemented his place in the 14 jersey. In his last game alone Dagg ran 91 metres, beat six defenders and scored two tries.
13 Anton Lienert-Brown – (New Zealand): The youngster’s selection turned some heads earlier in the year but the 21-year old has been excellent for the All Blacks as he is reminiscent of Rugby World Cup winner Sonny-Bill Williams. The centre is valuable in gaining momentum for his side as he uses his electric footwork to bring in defenders before utilising his long arms to offload in the tackle. He has also grabbed plenty of five pointers himself in his short stint with the All Blacks.
12 Ryan Crotty – (New Zealand): The calm and cool head of Crotty provides his team with a solid platform to work off in the midfield while he also remains a points machine in the midfield. Crotty has been a solid attacking option for the All Blacks all year after leading the scoring and line breaks while being placed second tries scored with four.
11 Julian Savea – (New Zealand): The winger’s drop in form is all but history after another excellent showing the Rugby Championship. Savea dominates the tournament’s attacking statistics after finishing fourth in defenders beaten, second in line breaks and third in metres run. He also finished the competition stats as joint-second in tries after scoring four.
10 Beauden Barrett – (New Zealand): Arguably the player of the tournament after delivering several impressive performances for the world champions. Barrett has made the number All Blacks number 10 jersey his own, finishing the tournament with 81 points which included four tries, five penalties and 23 conversions.
9 Will Genia – (Australia): Returned to the international arena after a spell on the sidelines with a knee injury and brought a calmness to Australia’s cause. Genia caught the eye with his slick service at the base of the scrum and proved a superb link between the Wallabies’ forwards and backs. Genia varied his play well and his combination with fly-half Quade Cooper showed signs of rediscovering the form which made them household names a few seasons ago. Edges out All Blacks number nine Aaron Smith.
8 Facundo Isa – (Argentina): Another candidate for the player of the tournament award, Isa has come in to his own in this tournament with numerous barnstorming showings for los Pumas and his presence was sorely missed in their final match of the tournament, against Australia at Twickenham. Isa gave his team much needed momentum from the base of los Pumas scrum and proved difficult to contain once he build up a head of steam. Still only 22, his best years are still ahead of him.
7 Michael Hooper – (Australia): Another outstanding overall tournament for the Wallaby tearaway, Hooper’s value to his team’s cause is best illustrated by the fact that he played a full 80 minutes in all six of their matches. As usual, he proved his worth at the breakdowns, but also made a big impact on defence and finished with the most tackles made (72) by any player in the competition.
6 Jerome Kaino – (New Zealand): The 33-year-old showed that he still has plenty to offer at Test level and came to the fore with some solid displays at the coalface of the world champions’ forward effort. Kaino was his usual belligerent self on defence, putting his body on the line with some big hits and also caught the eye with several powerful runs on attack.
5 Pieter-Steph du Toit – (South Africa): Du Toit has now firmly established himself as South Africa’s first-choice five lock. His lineout work has been impressive with one steal and winning 22 lioneout on his own throw – the second best in the tournament. His work-rate is exemplary and his discipline can’t be faulted with only two penalties conceded in the whole competition. Du Toit’s 45 tackles is also an impressive return. The Boks should invest in his partnership with Eben Etzebeth.
4 Brodie Retallick – (New Zealand): He’s probably the best four lock in the world at the moment. Retallick made 45 tackles during the tournament, made two line-out steals and made a try-assist. Retallick is always a tiresome force at the breakdown and has always maintained an incredible work-rate.
3 Vincent Koch – (South Africa): Koch didn’t do anything spectacular but he was solid at scrum-time and made 36 tackles. The blonde prop is still trying to establish himself as the first-choice tighthead but his performances would not have done any damage to his reputation. He will be judged primarily on his scrumming and it is here where he did well throughout the tournament.
2 Dane Coles – (New Zealand): He is the player people refer to when they say what makes the All Blacks special is that their forwards have the same skill set as their backs. Coles is fast establishing himself as the best hooker in the world. His scrums well and his lineout throwing is good. A total of 10 clean breaks, 11 defenders beaten and four try-assists is not the sort of stats you would normally associate with a hooker.
1 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro – (Argentina): The loosehead is a future star for Argentina and should feel pleased with his performances in the competition. He made 26 tackels in total and conceded only three penalties which is impressive for a prop. Chaparro is sure to continue Argentina’s long history of having a strong scrum.