Rugby World Cup Team of the Tournament: Five Springboks make the cut as Eben Etzebeth claims top gong

James While
Springboks lock Eben Etzebeth celebrates after winning the Rugby World Cup 2023, All Blacks fly-half Richie Mo'unga and France hooker Peato Mauvaka.

Springboks lock Eben Etzebeth celebrates after winning the Rugby World Cup 2023, All Blacks fly-half Richie Mo'unga and France hooker Peato Mauvaka.

The Springboks are back-to-back world champions after a thrilling Rugby World Cup, which featured some of the best matches of all time.

With some stellar team performances jampacked throughout the tournament, Planet Rugby celebrates the individuals by picking our Team of the Tournament.

Finalists South Africa and New Zealand contribute five players apiece, with the final five players filled up by Argentina, France, Ireland, Fiji and Tonga.

Rugby World Cup Team of the Tournament

15 Beauden Barrett (New Zealand): An incredible rugby player, sometimes at 10, mostly at 15, his try in the Final was just reward for a fantastic tournament.
Runner-up: France’s Thomas Ramos is so near, yet so far, rather like France, but always a man that thrilled, but he’ll rue that moment against Cheslin Kolbe forever.

14 Will Jordan (New Zealand): So hard to choose between the All Black flyer and the French rocket Damian Penaud, but Jordan’s eight tries from six matches showed just how lethal this magnificent winger is.
Runner-up: Damian Penaud’s 13 clean breaks and seven tries made him the darling of the French crowd. Magnifique.

13 Waisea Nayacalevu (Fiji): An absolute giant as both a leader and outside centre, Nayacalevu showed the world what the Flying Fijians were all about, delivering some absolutely epic performances, none better than his towering display against Australia.
Runner-up: Ireland’s Garry Ringrose is a Rolls-Royce centre, the most balanced of runners, and his partnership with Bundee Aki was a feature of their side’s play.

12 Bundee Aki (Ireland): Five tries from the barrelling Irish centre and 10 clean breaks saw him dominate the pool stages. He also made the most runs by a back (81) and took his game to new levels in what’s likely to be his last Rugby World Cup.
Runner-up: Jordie Barrett gave the All Blacks so much go forward in his direct running and edges out Damian de Allende to second spot.

11 Cheslin Kolbe (South Africa): Without Kolbe and his charge down the Boks would not have made the final. He might have been light on tries, but the little man was a giant in green, taking his aerial and support game to new heights.
Runner-up: All Blacks flyer Mark Telea played like an openside flank in the final, and it was his work that set up the try for Beauden Barrett.

10 Richie Mo’unga (New Zealand): Almost set up the greatest try ever seen in a Rugby World Cup final as his coruscating run shredded the Bok defence, but it wasn’t to be. His ability to attack the line with ball in two hands to create options is peerless.
Runner-up: The Boks’ replacement hooker, Handre Pollard, simply has ice in his veins and didn’t miss a goal kick all tournament.

9 Aaron Smith (New Zealand): In his final moments, Smith almost did the job for the All Blacks. His speed of pass is mesmeric, and he leaves the New Zealand nine shirt in the best place possible as arguably their greatest half-back of all time.
Runner-up: It might not have been the tournament France captain Antoine Dupont expected, but his bravery and skill were evident for all to see. An astonishing player.

Back-five forwards

8 Ardie Savea (New Zealand): The World Player of the Year made the most runs in the tournament (82) and was the epitome of physicality in defence. He has taken his game to new heights and still has so much more to give to the sport.
Runner-up: Not the biggest eight, but England’s Ben Earl was an absolute revelation and was very unlucky not to get the Player of the Match award in the Bronze Final, scoring an explosive try while he recorded the second most tackles of the competition (80).

7 Marcos Kremer (Argentina): OK, we know Argentina play left and right, but given he broke the record for the most tackles in a Rugby World Cup tournament and was arguably, alongside Eben Etzebeth, the most physical player around, he’s a shoo-in. 27 of his 92 tackles were marked as ‘dominant’, a testimony to his power.
Runner-up: Siya Kolisi’s press conference post-match had seasoned journalists in tears. He is an icon; it’s as simple as that. Future President of South Africa? Stranger things have happened.

6 Pieter-Steph du Toit (South Africa): He delivered the greatest individual performance of all time in a Rugby World Cup final. Is there anything more we need to say? Absolutely phenomenal.
Runner-up: A fitting swansong for Courtney Lawes, an English all-time great and one of the main reasons for England’s turnaround.

5 Franco Mostert (South Africa): The unsung hero of Springbok rugby racked up the third most tackles in the competition with an incredible breakdown work rate. He goes under the radar for many.
Runner-up: All Blacks veteran Brodie Retallick had another stellar tournament; he always rises to the occasions in his brutality on either side of the ball. He was immense in the final game, dismantling the Boks’ set-piece. A word for South Africa’s RG Snyman, who was huge in every way and rose to the occasion in the semi-final to score a match-winning try.

4 Eben Etzebeth (South Africa): Simply immense, our Player of the Tournament and a man who has calmed his aggression to offer a complete lock package. An all-time great.
Runner-up: Maro Itoje is back to his very best, the England lock is a menace in every aspect, getting better and better as the tournament progressed.


3 Ben Tameifuna (Tonga): One of the characters of the tournament, he excelled in every aspect of the tighthead’s role, adding new-found mobility to his massive frame.
Runner-up: An immense performance in the final pushes, All Black Tyrel Lomax came in ahead of his Springbok counterpart Frans Malherbe as our runner-up. He nullified one of South Africa’s deadliest weapons on the biggest stage.

2 Peato Mauvaka (France): He almost won the quarter-final for his country and he contributed three open play tries as he filled the boots of the world class Julien Marchand. Spectacular and France’s best performer.
Runner-up: Portugal’s Mike Tadjar, like Tameifuna, was another Rugby World Cup character. Who can forget his 50m touch finder? Cristiano Ronaldo might learn a thing or two from his fellow countryman!

1 Ox Nche (South Africa): The reason the Boks won both the quarter and semi-final, this explosive yet gentle man is everything that’s good about South Africa. And always remember, ‘salads don’t win scrums’.
Runner-up: Joe Marler was absolutely huge in the semi-final, and England were on top until he went off. A massive shift from one of rugby’s most notorious personalities.

Impact Player of Tournament: Kwagga Smith is a tiny flanker who packs a massive punch. Like Nche, his impact in every match was monstrous.
Runner-up: If you’d have told Deon Fourie at the start of the year he was going to play 78 minutes as a hooker in the Rugby World Cup Final, he’d have probably had you certified. The heartbeat of his team and an unbelievable story.

READ MORE: Planet Rugby’s Alternative Dream Team of the Year after World Rugby’s farce