Planet Rugby

Planet Rugby's Team of the Year

17th December 2013 19:29


Planet Rugby XV 2013

Best in the world: PR's XV

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 2013.

Five players were brought in from the cold by our panel of journalists while the remaining ten you named receive a further pat on the back from us.

So without further ado, here comes our offering - be sure to send in your own 15-1 team line-ups.

Planet Rugby's Team of the Year

15 Leigh Halfpenny (British and Irish Lions/Wales/Cardiff Blues) - It was a two-horse race for our opening spot as Halfpenny faced off with Australia full-back Israel Folau. Folau was outstanding in his debut season in rugby union, both for the Waratahs and Wallabies, but the performances of Halfpenny for region, country and the Lions saw him edge the jersey. Man of the Series, Player of the Six Nations. Outstanding.

14 Ben Smith (New Zealand/Highlanders) - He has always been an outstanding player for Otago and the Highlanders but largely on the cusp of nailing down a place in the All Blacks side because of injuries and other players' form. This year Cory Jane's absence led to Smith finally being on the right side of some luck and boy did he take his shot. Eight tries in the Rugby Championship and excellent Super Rugby form make him an easy pick.

13 Jonathan Davies (British and Irish Lions/Wales/Scarlets) - Outside centre was by some distance the hardest selection we had to make and it was incredibly difficult to leave Conrad Smith out. We were split down the middle with neither side willing to budge but after almost a week of heated debate, we decided that even though Smith hardly put a foot wrong, Davies' contribution for Wales and the British and Irish Lions tipped the scales.

12 Jean de Villiers (South Africa/Stormers) - There is no doubt Wesley Fofana is an outstanding centre for both Clermont and France and will continue to grow as a player in the coming years. De Villiers though has got better by the match in 2013, particularly for his country, with his leadership in the Rugby Championship and November hugely impressive. De Villiers deals with the media and pressure of the Springbok captaincy superbly.

11 George North (British and Irish Lions/Wales/Scarlets/Northampton) - Not since Jonah Lomu have we seen wingers like North and his closest rival to this jersey, Julian Savea. 2013 memories include Folau being carried backwards and that try against Australia to name but two as North has shone for the Scarlets, Northampton, Wales and the Lions. Recently we saw him play at 13 for Saints which shows his versatility. A special talent.

10 Jonny Wilkinson (Toulon) - You might have thought Aaron Cruden was a shoo-in for this position, but it would be wrong to forget about last season's Heineken Cup and Wilkinson's starring role in guiding Toulon to a first ever European title. Wilkinson didn't miss a single kick at goal during the knockout stages, a run that included kicking six penalties against Leicester, seven against Saracens and then finally three against Clermont, not to mention the winning conversion after Delon Armitage's try. That's before mentioning his playmaking skills and leadership. Even at 34, Wilkinson remains an incredibly special player. As he weighs up retirement again at the end of this season, it already feels difficult to watch him go.

9 Aaron Smith (New Zealand/Highlanders) - It was a tough call on Rory Kockott to leave him out of our nine slot after starring in the Top 14 as his Castres side won the French title. He was named Player of the Year in that domestic league but just misses out to New Zealand scrum-half Smith, who has nailed down his position for the All Blacks this past year. Excellent service and solid a partnership with either Dan Carter, Aaron Cruden, Beauden Barrett or Tom Taylor in black means he sneaks in. Tawera Kerr-Barlow and TJ Perenara have a job displacing him.

8 Kieran Read (New Zealand/Crusaders) - Let's hope Kieran Read doesn't get bored of accolades, because he's more or less picked up every one under the sun in 2013. Read is simply everywhere on the field - one of the top tacklers and carriers. With a try every 0.46 games in 2013 as well, you couldn't take your eyes off him.

7 Michael Hooper (Australia/Waratahs) - It's now more or less impossible to label Hooper as David Pocock's understudy. The Waratahs openside has blossomed over the last two seasons and continues to pester top sides at the breakdown with his fine work over the ball. Hooper is also a phenomenal athlete, quick enough to play in the centre which he had to during the first Test against the British and Irish Lions. How the Wallabies use Hooper and Pocock when both are fit and healthy is a conundrum. A hat-tip to Francois Louw, who nearly made the team just on the basis of his offload against the All Blacks at Ellis Park.

6 Liam Messam (New Zealand/Chiefs) - The inspirational co-captain behind the Chiefs sealing back-to-back Super Rugby titles, Messam was the winner of our Super Rugby Player of the Year award for his phenomenal work-rate. Then, if that wasn't enough, he went on to have a brilliant season with the All Blacks - scoring two tries in that Ellis Park thriller and continued his fine form in November. Jerome Kaino might be coming back to the Blues and Steven Luatua looks a top prospect, but good luck to them both displacing Messam.

5 Sam Whitelock (New Zealand/Crusaders) - Has grown in stature and cemented his place in the All Blacks team after being dropped from the world champions' starting XV in 2012. Whitelock's prowess at the line-outs is unmatched and his general play has also been impressive for the Crusaders and New Zealand throughout 2013. The 25-year-old formed a fine partnership with Brodie Retallick and has already played more than 50 Tests for his country despite making his debut just three years ago.

4 Eben Etzebeth (South Africa/Stormers) - The 22-year-old continued where he left off - in Super Rugby and at Test level - last season and has become one of the Springboks' stalwarts in 2013. Etzebeth enjoys the physical nature of the game and has thrived as the Boks' enforcer. Does his core duties well but recently suffered an ankle injury, which will keep him out for most of Super Rugby. His stature has grown to such a level that his absence will be a major setback for Cape Town-based franchise the Stormers.

3 Juan Figallo (Argentina/Montpellier) - We are big fans of Figallo at PR. He proved with his performances for Argentina throughout the Rugby Championship what an effective scrummager he is, especially against the All Blacks, while his absence was sorely felt during the November Internationals. Still only 25, the fact that Figallo saw off Adam Jones and Dan Cole for this award proves how good a year he's had. By the Rugby World Cup in 2015, he will be a star.

2 Stephen Moore (Australia/Brumbies) - Mr Consistent this year, Moore has got through some minutes in 2013 due to the absence of Tatafu Polota-Nau. Jake White made sure to manage his workload in the early-season but during the Super Rugby run-in and Test commitments, Moore was a workhorse for Australia and sees off Adriaan Strauss for this jersey. Meanwhile, Bismarck du Plessis came in third due to a lack of Super Rugby games for the Sharks.

1 Marcos Ayerza (Argentina/Leicester) - Outstanding for the Pumas all season, Ayerza capped off a fine 12 months for club and country with the final pass for Niki Goneva's winning try as the Tigers saw off Montpellier in France. Combined with the Argentinian's excellent work at the scrum all year, you get a pretty good idea of Ayerza's all-round talent. At 30, he still has plenty left in the tank.

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