Team of the Week: World Cup

Date published: September 21 2015

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The World Cup is well and truly underway with eight games over the weekend and no question over the biggest surprise.

Given that they knocked off the Springboks on Saturday, it's no surprise that Japan's stars make it into our team of the week, while there are also three places for Georgia who upset Tonga.

The rest of the side is made up of players from Ireland, New Zealand, Wales and France, as well as a Canadian and a Fijian sneaking in.

15 Ayumu Goromaru (Japan): It seems wrong to leave out Mike Brown, who was England's best player by a country mile on Friday, but how can we leave out Goromaru? Followers of Japanese rugby are well-aware of his kicking ability, but he also proved hugely influential around the park, even finishing off the fine set-move for Japan's second try. A mention for Samoan standout Tim Nanai-Williams in what was probably the most tightly-contested position.

14 DTH van der Merwe (Canada): Shifting to the other wing, DTH van der Merwe was a shining light in a dismal Candian effort against Ireland in Cardiff. Racking up 141 metres with ball in hand, three clean breaks and scoring his side's only try, he was in a different league to his teammates. He'd have had another as well, had it not been for a knock-on in the build-up.

13 Cory Allen (Wales): Sadly his tournament is already over because of a hamstring injury, but Allen took his chance while he had it, running in a hat-trick against Uruguay at the Millennium Stadium. Granted the opposition left something to be desired but you couldn't have asked for much more from the 22-year-old in his 54 minutes on the pitch.

12 Sonny Bill Williams (New Zealand): The All Black centre came on as a replacement for Ma’a Nonu, who had looked flat all game. The rugby league star made an immediate impact, running good lines and getting away his freakish offloads. Nehe Milner-Skudder’s fumbled one on the line, but Williams put away Sam Cane for a crucial score later in the second half. That's enough to just edge out Juan Martin Hernandez who lived up to his nickname as El Mago with some magical flicks and passes.

11 Nemani Nadolo (Fiji): He'd been talked up all week as the man to watch for Fiji, and Nadolo didn't disappoint, making Anthony Watson look like a child as he soared over him to score Fiji's only try. His kicking could have been better, but after beating seven defenders, it's fair to say he's Fiji's biggest attacking threat.

10 Jonathan Sexton (Ireland): The opposition offered little, but Sexton was outstanding for Ireland, playing the perfect tactical game, while also enjoying the extra freedom granted by the holes in defence. One kick into touch five metres from the Canadian line was reminiscent of a peak Ronan O'Gara, but his try was all Sexton. Showing a remarkable turn over pace he raced nearly 40 metres for his first-half score.

9 Vasil Lobzhanidze (Georgia): The tournament's youngest-ever player wasn't overawed in the slightest for Georgia's opening clash with Tonga, marshalling his forwards magnificently. He wasn't afraid to try things, with a couple of sniping runs, and played a key role in helping them to their biggest World Cup win. Fumiaki Tanaka was excellent for Japan and a word for Aaron Smith, who came up big when the All Blacks looked to be under the cosh against Argentina.

8 Mamuka Gorgodze (Georgia): The Georgian giant turned in a match-winning performance for his country, leading from the front and scoring their first try. This was Georgia’s first win over Tonga since 1999 and Gorgodze made an eye-watering 24 tackles, along with eight offloads and five defenders beaten. He edges out Samoa’s try-scoring captain Ofisa Treviranus and France's Louis Picamoles, while Japan replacement Amanaki Mafi was massive off the bench against the Springboks.

7 Sean O’Brien (Ireland): One of Ireland’s many try scorers in Cardiff, O’Brien carried with his typical gusto by chipping in with 13 runs while also making 11 tackles on the other side of the ball. Has a key role to play in Ireland’s bigger games to come. 

6 Michael Leitch (Japan): Outstanding. Japan’s captain led from the front throughout their battle with the Springboks in Cardiff, with 17 tackles to his name along with 12 carries and a turnover. But it was his leadership that stood out, turning down the draw and going for the most famous of wins.

5 Sam Whitelock (New Zealand): The 2011 World Cup winner has subtly got better and better over the last four years and outshone his World Rugby Player of the Year partner Brodie Retallick in the All Blacks’ engine room. He finished with nine carries. A word too for 37-year-old Japan lock Hitoshi Ono who left everything out on the pitch in Brighton.

4 Iain Henderson (Ireland): The young Irish lock brings great physicality to their forward pack and scored his first international try in Saturday’s win over Canada in Cardiff. Two turnovers, 12 carries and an impressive 19 tackles rounded off a good day for the Ulster player.

3 Rabah Slimani (France): The French scrum was utterly dominant against Italy on Saturday at Twickenham, with Slimani also popping up for a try as he kept les Bleus on top in the set-piece and chipped in at the breakdown too.

2 Guilhem Guirado (France): Another key cog in France’s scrum, Guirado also made six carries for 30 metres, one leading to the opening try, and weighed in with nine tackles for Philippe Saint-André’s side – probably enough to keep him ahead of Benjamin Kayser and Dmitri Szarzewski in the pecking order.

1 Mikheil Nariashvili (Georgia): Dominance in the scrum was at the heart of Georgia’s win at Kingsholm with Nariashvili playing his part. The loosehead prop also made seven carries during an impressive 60-minute outing.

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