It was another blockbuster week of action in France as the Rugby World Cup entertained us from Wednesday to Sunday with eight stellar fixtures.
There were victories for Italy, France, Argentina, England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, as well as the first draw of the 2023 edition of the tournament with Georgia and Portugal unable to be separated.
Planet Rugby writers have selected their Team of the Week after the action-packed weekend.
Team of the Week
15 Damian Willemse (South Africa): A standout in a rip-roaring Test match. He was cool under the high ball and got some real purchase from his brilliant footwork, while he was outstanding defensively, too. He did enough to beat the mercurial exploits of Marcus Smith (England) and Davit Niniashvili (Georgia) and the always-excellent Hugo Keenan (Ireland).
14 Damian Penaud (France): This seemed like a nailed-on selection on Thursday night, but there was no shortage of options as Argentina’s Emiliano Boffelli and Portugal’s Raffaele Storti were simply outstanding. In the end, Penaud was just too good to ignore, scoring three and assisting three tries, albeit against weaker opposition.
— Planet Rugby (@PlanetRugby) September 22, 2023
13 Pedro Bettencourt (Portugal): Os Lobos were always going to need a big performance from some of their best players, and they got that from centre Bettencourt against Georgia. Defensively, he was outstanding, snuffing out threatening attacking plays from Georgia, while he impressed with ball in hand, too. He did enough to beat Jesse Kriel and Garry Ringrose, who were excellent in a brutal Pool B battle.
12 Bundee Aki (Ireland): It just had to be him. Aki has been in sensational form this World Cup, and after standout games against Romania and Tonga, he stepped up again against his toughest challenge, the Springboks. He made an incredible break in the build-up to Ireland’s only try and was involved in a stellar head-to-head with one of our runner-ups, Damian de Allende. We can’t not mention France’s powerhouse number 12, Jonathan Danty, who was in a destructive mood on his return.
11 Henry Arundell (England): He played on the right against Chile, but he cracks the nod on the left wing in our team. We simply could not pick any other wingers besides England’s five-try superstar and France’s try addict. A few walk-ins for Arundell, but his last score was glorious, and he fully deserves the spot despite the efforts of France rookie Louis Bielle-Biarrey, Ireland’s James Lowe and Scotland’s world-class speedster Duhan van der Merwe.
10 Gareth Anscombe (Wales): Thrown into the clash against Australia early on following the injury to Dan Biggar, but Anscombe took his opportunity with both hands. He was imperious throughout, racking up a 23-point personal haul in the record victory, including six penalties, a conversion and a drop goal. The other excellent 10s this week include Italy’s Tommy Allan, Uruguay’s Felipe Etcheverry, England’s Owen Farrell and Scotland’s Finn Russell.
— Planet Rugby (@PlanetRugby) September 25, 2023
9 Antoine Dupont (France): Hopefully it was not the last we have seen of the outrageously sensational scrum-half. There is only a finite number of superlatives, and all apply to Dupont. Stats-wise, he scored a try, assisted three and was simply flawless in his 45-minute shift. He did not drop his standards even if it was against a team France were clearly better than. Behind the exceptional Les Bleus skipper is Gareth Davies, who set the tone for his and Wales’ performance when he scampered through to score his side’s opening try. He did not let up from then on, producing a superb, well-rounded performance.
8 Beka Gorgadze (Georgia): Another inclusion from the Pool C thriller between the Lelos and Os Lobos. The Georgian powerhouse was brutally effective on both sides of the ball in a brilliant all-action display. He did well to beat out some excellent shifts from Lorenzo Cannone (Italy), Steven Luatua (Samoa) and Taulupe Faletau (Wales).
7 Jac Morgan (Wales): A long list of candidates, but we have gone with the stupendous Welsh captain who racked up a match-high of 17 tackles, assisted his side’s opening try, kicked a stellar 50:22 and was relentlessly brilliant throughout. The runners-up include Rory Darge of Scotland, Italy’s Michele Lamaro and England’s Jack Willis, but perhaps the unluckiest player not to get the nod is Uruguay’s Manuel Ardao.
THAT 22:22 BY JAC MORGAN!!!!🚀🚀 pic.twitter.com/G2HAdN4UfL
— Jared Wright (@jaredwright17) September 24, 2023
6 Charles Ollivon (France): Like his skipper, Ollivon could have easily dropped his usual high standards against Namibia but didn’t. He became his country’s top try-scoring forward in a stunning performance where he grabbed a brace and tirelessly worked around the park. He beats the remarkable talent that is Portugal’s Nicolas Martins and now 100-Test cap back-rower Peter O’Mahony (Ireland).
😍 That pass from Jalibert.
— Planet Rugby (@PlanetRugby) September 21, 2023
5 Tadhg Beirne (Ireland): In a bruising battle akin to that of a Rugby World Cup final, Beirne was at the top of his game. Much of Ireland’s success in the win over South Africa was their work at the breakdown, and that’s where the second-rower thrived, while he also rolled the dice with the rolling maul at the end of the match and was rewarded. In the same match, Franco Mostert was superb, as was his replacement RG Snyman.
4 Jose Duarte Madeira (Portugal): Os Lobos notched up their first pool points in Rugby World Cup history this weekend in the draw with Georgia, and after picking up two for the result, we have included two of their stars in our team. Portugal had to front up against the Georgians in all facets, and none did so quite as well as Madeira, who made a spectacular 18 tackles, won two turnovers and nullified Georgia’s rolling maul, usually a crucial weapon for the side. He beats tier-one locks Adam Beard (Wales), David Ribbans (England) and Richie Gray (Scotland).
3 Ben Tameifuna (Tonga): It wasn’t a great weekend for tighthead props, in truth, but standing head and shoulders above the rest was Tonga’s captain, Tameifuna. The powerhouse 32-year-old scored a try, scrummaged well against the more fancied Scots and put in an impressive 66-minute shift.
— Planet Rugby (@PlanetRugby) September 24, 2023
2 Theo Dan (England): The Red Rose rookie made the most of his opportunity in the starting line-up with a rampaging performance on both sides of the ball. He grabbed two tries and did enough to beat South Africa’s bullish Bongi Mbonambi against Ireland.
1 Andrew Porter (Ireland): The loosehead prop produced a massive 75-minute shift in the bruising battle with the Springboks. He held his own in the scrums and edges the similarly excellent Thomas Gallo (Argentina) and Bevan Rodd (England).