It was another blockbuster week of action in France as the Rugby World Cup entertained us from Wednesday to Sunday with eight stellar fixtures.
New Zealand and Scotland lead the way with three players each nominated following their large victories over Italy and Romania respectively, while Japan and South Africa are next best with two players apiece.
Team of the Week
15 Lomano Lemeki (Japan): Grabbed his chance in the full-back jersey with both hands as he shone against Samoa, making 135 metres from his 11 carries. Lemeki’s boot also impressed as he sees off Scotland’s Ollie Smith, Fiji’s Ilaisa Droasese, Portugal’s Nuno Sousa Guedes and Uruguay’s Baltazar Amaya as our 15.
14 Darcy Graham (Scotland): He’s worth the entrance fee alone. Graham had fans on the edge of their seat throughout against Romania as his four-try showing was out of the top drawer. He easily sees off Will Jordan (New Zealand), Rodrigo Isgro (Argentina) and Kotaro Matsushima (Japan), with Graham’s ability to scorch through any defensive weaknesses a joy to behold.
13 Chris Harris (Scotland): Often known for his defensive work, it was good to see Harris recognised for his attacking game against Romania as he stood out with subtle handling and running lines. He got a try as reward for his efforts and gets in over Canan Moodie (South Africa), Izaia Perese (Australia) and Rieko Ioane (New Zealand).
12 Andre Esterhuizen (South Africa): A tough call to leave out both Jordie Barrett and Cameron Redpath, who excelled for the All Blacks and Scotland over the weekend. However, Esterhuizen was a battering ram for the Springboks with his 12 carries causing Tonga plenty of problems on Sunday. South Africa have two great options for their 12 jersey.
11 Mark Telea (New Zealand): A try and assist for Telea to go with his 117 metres from 12 carries against Japan. The All Black is such a slippery customer who has nailed down the 11 jersey this World Cup. He gets the nod over Georgia’s Davit Niniashvili and Australia’s Marika Koroibete, who emptied the tank against Portugal.
So deadly by the @AllBlacks 🔥
— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) September 29, 2023
10 Nicolas Sanchez (Argentina): An excellent way for the fly-half to mark his 100th cap. The competition was very tight, with Ben Healy (Scotland), Handre Pollard (South Africa) and Richie Mo’unga all impressing, but Sanchez rolled back the years with his display on Saturday. The 34-year-old has not had a great couple of seasons for Los Pumas but this was much more like it as he scored 20 points, which included a try, penalty and six conversions against Chile.
9 Aaron Smith (New Zealand): Continues to be one of the best scrum-halves around. Smith’s accuracy of pass, as well as his speed of service, is probably even better than Antoine Dupont and that allowed the All Blacks to put the Italian defence under consistent pressure. Granted, the Azzurri made it much easier for New Zealand than it should have been, but that should not detract from Smith’s performance. The experienced playmaker also showed his sniping instincts, crossing the whitewash three times, took the position from South Africa’s Cobus Reinach and Uruguay’s Santiago Arata.
8 Ardie Savea (New Zealand): We’ve gone for the All Blacks eight-nine combination after Savea enjoyed his evening against the Italians. He racked up the metres – exactly 100 in total – as New Zealand utterly dominated in Lyon on Friday. Savea also helped himself to a brace of tries and was a threat at the breakdown as he saw off Rob Valetini of Australia, Georgia’s Tornike Jalaghonia, Scotland’s Matt Fagerson and the always impressive Japan eight Kazuki Himeno.
7 Levani Botia (Fiji): There was once again plenty of competition here, with Hamish Watson (Scotland) Dalton Papali’i (New Zealand), Siya Kolisi (South Africa) and Fraser McReight (Australia) all impressing, but Botia continued where he left from the Wallabies clash. The Pacific Islanders certainly needed all of his qualities, given their struggles in the first half, and Botia stepped up after the break. Once again, he was excellent at the breakdown, earning two turnovers, while he also impressed in attack, setting up Vinaya Habosi’s try with a brilliant run and sumptuous off-load.
6 Michael Leitch (Japan): Like the Brave Blossoms in general, Leitch has struggled to produce his best since the previous Rugby World Cup, but his display against Samoa was much more what we have come to expect from the Japanese legend. The flanker was everywhere in both defence and attack and played a key role in keeping them in tournament. New Zealand’s Shannon Frizell, South Africa’s Duane Vermeulen and Australia’s Tom Hooper were the next best.
— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) September 28, 2023
5 Theo McFarland (Samoa): The Saracens utility forward continues to catch the eye in France and he came to the fore with an outstanding all-round effort in his country’s narrow defeat to Japan in Toulouse. The 27-year-old shone in the lineouts and also impressed as a ball carrier, gaining 33 metres from 12 carries which included three clean breaks and as many defenders beaten. South Africa’s Marvin Orie was next best.
4 Sam Skinner (Scotland): Scotland’s forwards laid an excellent platform for their backs in their one-sided win over Romania and Skinner was at the forefront of that effort. The Edinburgh player did what was expected of him in the lineouts but also took the fight to his opponents with a strong showing on attack as he gained 35 metres from 12 carries. He was also superb on defence as he made 13 tackles and beats out New Zealand’s Brodie Retallick, South Africa’s Eben Etzebeth and Australia’s Nick Frost.
3 Ben Tameifuna (Tonga): ‘Ikale Tahi were involved in a tough encounter against the Springboks and leading their charge was Tameifuna, who makes our team for the second successive week. The Tonga captain was involved in a fine battle with Ox Nche in the scrums but he also proved a handful to the Bok defence as a ball carrier and crossed the whitewash for one of his side’s tries. Elsehere, Fiji’s Luke Tagi also played well in his side’s win over Georgia.
2 Deon Fourie (South Africa): The experienced utility forward made his first start at hooker for his country in their hard-fought win against Tonga and delivered an excellent performance as he was walked off with the official man-of-the-match award after the game. Fourie was a willing ball carrier and was rewarded with a try for his efforts and also put in a big defensive shift as he completed 11 tackles. Beats out fellow veterans Dane Coles and Agustin Creevy, who played well for New Zealand and Argentina respectively.
1 Angus Bell (Australia): As mentioned already, Bok loosehead Ox Nche had a tight tussle in the scrums with Tonga skipper Tameifuna and the South African also shone in other areas. However, we’ve opted for Bell who was one of Australia’s heroes in their victory over Portugal. The 22-year-old did well with ball in hand, gaining 23 metres from nine carries, beating three defenders and he scored a try while also making 10 hits on defence.