It is time for Planet Rugby to pick out the XV players who stood out from the high quality crowd in November’s international action.
It’s time for Planet Rugby to pick out the XV players who stood out from the crowd in the past month’s Test action.
Team of November
15 Rob Kearney (Ireland) – No doubts here. The Leinsterman was on fire for Ireland in the Tests against Australia and South Africa. Supreme under the high ball and as potent a running threat as ever. Top marks.
14 Tommy Bowe (Ireland) – Tries against the Boks and Wallabies get Bowe into the side after a good few weeks for the veteran winger. Always consistent, Bowe looked back to his best after missing the Six Nations and June Tests earlier this year. Another Tommy caught the eye for Scotland, Tommy Seymour, while Yoann Huget was classy as ever for France.
13 Tevita Kuridrani (Australia) – Currently the best 13 in the world. So hard to stop and frighteningly still only 23, the Brumbies back is problematic to bring down. Especially good against Wales when he scored, Kuridrani is a real workhorse with 16 carries in Cardiff and 15 against France in Paris. A mention for Jan Serfontein, who has made the 13 shirt for South Africa his own.
12 Matt Toomua (Australia) – An all-Wallaby midfield combination despite the team going down to three straight defeats says so much about how gifted Kuridrani and Toomua are. While Jamie Roberts and Nemani Nadolo were impressing for Wales and Fiji respectively, Toomua was excellent against the Barbarians, Ireland and England. He ticks every box and should be looked after this year.
11 Julian Savea (New Zealand) – The world’s greatest. Dan Biggar didn’t have a prayer with Savea charging for the line in Cardiff, while he never fails to beat defenders with an average of four over two games against Wales and England. His record now stands at 30 tries in 33 Tests. Teddy Thomas rightly deserves a mention for his stunning solo effort against the Wallabies.
10 Jonathan Sexton (Ireland) – Despite both Finn Russell and Dan Biggar standing out, we can’t look past the Lions number ten. A masterclass of tactical and place-kicking against South Africa and Australia, Sexton has looked at the peak of his powers. Deservedly nominated for the IRB Player of the Year award.
9 Rhys Webb (Wales) – The only blot on his November copybook was that pass Israel Folau intercepted. Other than that Webb’s performances were excellent as he nails down the Welsh scrum-half jersey. Thankfully Warren Gatland has rewarded the in-form Ospreys half-backs by backing them on the international scene. The more games they play together in red the better they will become. Mentions for many others here as Conor Murray, Greig Laidlaw, Aaron Smith, Cobus Reinach and Nick Phipps also excelled.
8 Ben Morgan (England) – International rugby appears to suit Morgan. Three tries this November from the Gloucester number eight as he came off the bench strongly before starting – against Samoa and Australia – in the absence of Billy Vunipola. Elsewhere, Kieran Read was his usual high quality self while Taulupe Faletau‘s month, like his team’s, got better as the weeks went on.
7 Richie McCaw (New Zealand) – Very impressive months for respective England and Wales skippers Chris Robshaw and Sam Warburton, while Marcell Coetzee has stepped up for South Africa. But McCaw remains the best, topping the tackling statistics against England and the carrying against Wales while irritating opposition supporters all at the same time. And now 100 Tests as captain. Remarkable.
6 Peter O’Mahony (Ireland) – Such a great competitor in defence, O’Mahony’s work at the breakdown can’t be ignored either. 17 tackles against the Wallabies were the most by any Irish player in a heroic stand. Sees off improving French flanker Bernard le Roux and Jerome Kaino for this spot.
5 Paul O’Connell (Ireland) – We ran out of plaudits for the veteran lock after consistently strong performances in the Irish engine room. If Ireland have him playing like this next year then there is no reason why they can’t be dark horses for the World Cup. His performances belied his 35 years as only France second-row Yoann Maestri came anywhere near the Munster star’s Herculean efforts.
4 Jonny Gray (Scotland) – Gray helped to spearhead a new-look Scottish side that impressed throughout the month. Alongside his brother, Richie, Gray caused opposition problems at the set-piece and in open play. Courtney Lawes meanwhile was a rock for England.
3 Martin Castrogiovanni (Italy) – That was the form that put Castrogiovanni up there as one of the best tightheads in world rugby a few years ago. Brilliant alongside Leonardo Ghiraldini and Matias Aguero as he sees off Samson Lee and David Wilson.