Planet Rugby

Planet Rugby Team of the Year

30th December 2010 06:57

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Planet Rugby team of 2010

Our picks: Muliaina, Smith, Steenkamp and Jauzion

You've had your turn, now it's ours. After hours of debate, name-calling and dummy-spitting, we've picked our best XV of 2010.

No, it's never easy to pick a 'best of' team and this year was no different. Unsurprisingly our team, like the side that you voted for earlier this month, is dominated by representatives from the southern hemisphere.

There are just three players from the north in our starting XV. Significantly, two of them are in the front-row.

The All Blacks dominate with six players while the Wallabies and Springboks have three each (although the Aussies also have three on the bench).

Six Nations champions France get two in the main team while the Home Nations have just a single representative and another on the bench.

There are five differences between your team and ours, most notable the props. As always, the toughest decisions concerned who to leave out but we tried our best to reflect on the whole year not just last month's Tests.

Without further ado, herewith Planet Rugby's Team of the Year:

15 Mils Muliaina
There were suggestions last year that Muliaina was past his best but he bounced back in 2010 to have one of his most successful seasons and was rewarded with an IRB Player of the Year nomination.

14 James O'Connor
After bursting onto the Super 14 scene last year, O'Connor's Test season in 2010 confirmed that he is set to become one of the biggest stars rugby has ever seen. Still only 20 and able to play just about anywhere in the back-line, the sky is the limit for the young Wallaby. There was a strong argument in support of Chris Ashton but O'Connor's contribution from the kicking tee gave him the edge.

13 Conrad Smith
A consistent performer for the Hurricanes and New Zealand, Smith hardly put a foot wrong all year. The perfect foil for a powerful inside centre like Ma'a Nonu or Sonny Bill Williams, his ability to find space on attack and cover space on defence is remarkable. Adam Ashley-Cooper also had a strong year and gets a spot on our bench.

12 Yannick Jauzion
The debate went on for hours here. How do you leave out Ma'a Nonu? Well, it went back to that whole 'year-long performance' issue. Jauzion was simply brilliant in helping Toulouse to the Heineken Cup and France to the Grand Slam and was consistently good all year while Nonu's start to the Super 14 was forgettable.

11 Drew Mitchell
You picked Hosea Gear as your left wing but we felt that decision reflected the month of November rather than the whole year. We felt compelled to go for the Super 14's top try-scorer who was pretty prolific in a gold jersey too.

10 Dan Carter
The best 10 ever? A Test points-scoring world record to cap another mesmerising year from Carter makes it to tough to argue against the tag of the planet's top fly-half. Quade Cooper was awesome in the Super 14, but Carter's near-flawless Test season made this choice easy.

9 Will Genia
The Genia-Cooper combination for the Reds was a pleasure to watch in 2010. Another of Australia's young guns (he's just 22), Genia showed real maturity when he took over the Reds reins in James Horwill's absence. Our Newbie of the Year, Ben Youngs will have to settle for a place on the bench.

8 Kieran Read
A unanimous choice amongst all the PR staff, Read was another All Black who raised his game this year. The Crusaders number eight was New Zealand's Player of the Year. Enough said.

7 Richie McCaw
The IRB Player of the Year....again. When King Richie retires from rugby he should run for Prime Minister of New Zealand. David Pocock was so good that we felt obliged to field an unbalanced bench and give him the nod ahead of Imanol Harinordoquy.

6 Juan Smith
Again, it was very difficult to overlook Harinordoquy, who was an IRB Player of the Year nominee, but we rate Juan Smith as the best blindside flank of his generation. They don't come any harder than the Free Stater, who once again proved invaluable to the Springboks on the end-of-year tour.

5 Victor Matfield
The only survivor from PR's team of 2009, Matfield once again set the benchmark for line-out play as he led the Bulls to another Super 14 title before marking his 100th Test cap in the Springboks' only Tri-Nations win of the year.

4 Brad Thorn
Thorn was seldom in the spotlight in 2010 but that's exactly what you want from a number four. At 35, the Crusaders hard man still keeps toiling away in the All Blacks engine room. On the bench, Toulouse and Pumas stalwart Patricio Albacete gets some just recognition.

3 Adam Jones
Not many tightheads stood out this year but Hair Bear was a top performer for Wales and is the kingpin in what has become of feared Ospreys scrum. His game has gone from strength to strength since the Lions tour and did just enough to get the nod ahead of Italy and Leicester powerhouse Martin Castrogiovanni.

2 William Servat
Both France and Toulouse had scrums that steamrolled over everything in front of them in 2010. Mr. Servat was the common element and is now the undisputed first-choice number two for the European champions (at both club and country level). There was some debate about who should be on the bench as Saracens try machine Schalk Brits' name was thrown into the hat but we felt that since the South African didn't have a chance to show his mettle at Test level, his countryman Bismarck du Plessis' return from injury was impressive enough to gain a spot in the 22.

1 Gurthr÷ Steenkamp
South Africa's Player of the Year, Steenkamp had a storming Super 14 with the Bulls and grabbed his chance in Green and Gold when Tendai Mtawarira was forced to miss the June Tests. The grin on Steenkamp's face as he flew over the line - like a Boeing 747 - to score against France at Newlands was priceless!

Replacements: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 Martin Castrogiovanni, 18 Patricio Albacete, 19 David Pocock, 20 Ben Youngs, 21 Quade Cooper, 22 Adam Ashley-Cooper.

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