Rugby World Cup Team of the Week: Nine teams represented after thrilling pool finale

Planet Rugby
Portugal hooker Mike Tadjer, Ireland full-back Hugo Keenan and France fly-half Matthieu Jalibert.

Portugal hooker Mike Tadjer, Ireland full-back Hugo Keenan and France fly-half Matthieu Jalibert.

Following a thrilling final round of the 2023 Rugby World Cup pool stages, we have had a discussion and settled on our Team of the Week.

France lead the way this time around with three players making the cut while Ireland, Tonga, Argentina and Portugal each have two in our side. The rest of the team is completed by one apiece from Samoa, England, Japan and Fiji as nine nations are represented.

Rugby World Cup Team of the Week

15 Hugo Keenan (Ireland): The Irishman was outstanding again and is fast becoming one of the premier full-backs in the world. He scored two tries against Scotland but was sublime in the backfield and a joy to watch as a key component of a well-oiled machine. Several others had a great game in this position including Damian McKenzie (New Zealand), Marius Simionescu (Romania), Duncan Paia’aua (Samoa) and Lomano Lemeki (Japan).

14 Damian Penaud (France): Could well be the best wing in the world right now and showed that with a brace of tries against Italy. Don’t forget his sumptuous cross-kick assist to his wing partner Louis Bielle-Biarrey. He leads the tournament with six tries after another show-stopping effort. Louis Rees-Zammit is unlucky to lose out after scoring a hat-trick whilst Portugal’s Raffaele Storti impressed once again.

13 George Moala (Tonga): A really good rugby player who only returned from suspension against Tonga and marked it with a try. He also gained 137 metres with ball in hand as he threatened almost every time he touched the ball. Not far behind was the influential duo of Garry Ringrose of Ireland and Portugal star Pedro Bettencourt.

12 Santiago Chocobares (Argentina): Took just over a minute to score a stunning try as he burst through the defensive line and skinned the last defender. It was his best game of the tournament as he battered up the midfield all game long in a solid win for his side. He will be important for Los Pumas in the knockouts. Ireland centre Stuart McCloskey was blockbuster in his cameo against Scotland.

11 Mateo Carreras (Argentina): It had been a quiet campaign thus far for the hot-stepper but when it mattered most he produced a sublime performance complete with a hat-trick of tries against Japan. The third try was a remarkable moment of brilliance. All Blacks star Leicester Fainga’anuku also impressed as did Portugal’s Rodrigo Marta.

10 Matthieu Jalibert (France): One of the performances of the round, Jalibert was outstanding against Italy as he set up tries and got one of his own on the night. Such a talented and exciting playmaker, he has taken over from the injured Romain Ntamack and not looked back, edging out Lima Sopoaga, who was excellent for Samoa against the English and Johnny Sexton, who helped drive Ireland to victory over Scotland before getting a well-earned rest.

9 Jamison Gibson-Park (Ireland): A tough call to leave out Jonathan Taumateine, who has been outstanding throughout the pool stages, and Danny Care after moments of attacking and defensive brilliance late on. Romania’s Florin Surugio and Portugal’s Samuel Marques also earn praise, but we plump for Gibson-Park after a fine showing at scrum-half before backing that up with a scintillating performance on the wing in the second period.

8 Gregory Alldritt (France): Player of the match in their win against Italy as he was everywhere on Friday night, making 20 carries in that victory. Rafael Simoes (Portugal), Caelan Doris (Ireland) and Taulupe Faletau (Wales) had solid games but Alldritt was the standout number eight of the round.

7 Nicolas Martins (Portugal): Another player of the match makes the cut on the openside as Martins was excellent in their famous win over Fiji on Sunday. Eight carries for 54 metres plus 16 carries sees him get in ahead of Samoa’s Fritz Lee and Josh van der Flier, who was in decent form for the Irish.

6 Theo McFarland (Samoa): A truly special talent who has taken the Rugby World Cup by storm. What’s even more impressive from a player equally at home at either lock or flanker is that McFarland only recently recovered from a serious knee injury. He was brilliant against England with 11 carries causing the Red Rose plenty of problems. Ireland stalwart Peter O’Mahony also impressed in his 100th outing with a typically industrious showing against Scotland.

5 Ollie Chessum (England): The Leicester Tiger was one of the Red Rose’s best players as they sealed a narrow victory over Samoa. The 23-year-old gave his side an early lead when he crossed the whitewash for a deserved try in the ninth minute. He continued to work hard on attack and eventually gained 40 metres after completing five carries and he beat one defender. He also put in a big defensive shift as he made 11 tackles.

4 Amato Fakatava (Japan): The 28-year-old was part of the Brave Blossoms’ losing cause against Argentina but he can hold his head high as he delivered an excellent performance. Fakatava left his stamp on the match early in the opening half when he crossed the whitewash for a try of the tournament contender. He finished with 48 metres gained from seven carries which included a clean break and three defenders beaten but also shone on defence with 11 tackles made. Beats out Portugal’s José Madeira.

3 Ben Tameifuna (Tonga): ‘Ikale Tahi finished their Rugby World Cup campaign on a high with a solid victory over Romania and, once again, their skipper was one of their star performers as he makes our team for the third week in a row. The 151 kilogram front-row put in a solid scrummaging display but also impressed with ball in hand as he gained 28 metres from five carries which included one clean break and three defenders beaten.

2 Mike Tadjer (Portugal): There were fine performances from Samoa’s Sama Malolo, Wales’ Dewi Lake and Ireland’s Dan Sheehan but we’ve opted for Tadjer, who retired after helping Os Lobos to a historic first Rugby World Cup victory when they defeated Fiji. The 34-year-old was solid in the implementation of his core duties but also did well with ball in hand and he made his biggest contribution on defence with 10 tackles made.

1 Eroni Mawi (Fiji): A tough decision as Francisco Fernandes and Joe Marler also caught the eye with impressive shifts for Portugal and England respectively but Mawi gets the nod after a superb all-round performance in the Pacific Islanders’ narrow defeat to Os Lobos. The 27-year-old stood up well in the scrums, was a willing ball carrier and also did his bit on defence during a 61-minute stint.

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