Following a captivating month of international rugby union that saw plenty of thrills and spills, we have now settled on our Team of the Autumn Nations Series.
Planet Rugby features writer James While runs through those who made the side, which has a healthy mix of selections from the competing countries.
However, there is no representation or mention for an England player while Wales are the other home nation not to have a player named in this team.
Team of the Autumn Nations Series
15 Ange Capuozzo (Italy): It was a wonderful November for full-backs, with stellar performances across the board. Thomas Ramos and Willie le Roux were imperious at times, but we can’t think of another player that put so many smiles on the faces of the rugby public as the young Italian flyer.
14 Kurt-Lee Arendse (South Africa): Seven tries in his last six Tests shows the impact this tremendous prospect has made. In any other season one of Darcy Graham or Damian Penaud would have taken the shirt, but Arendse was monumental in every Test he played.
13 Rieko Ioane (New Zealand): Ioane was exceptional at times for the All Blacks, running the most metres in the autumn. Italy’s defensive mastermind Ignacio Brex also deserves a mention, whilst Ireland’s Garry Ringrose has bolted on powerful defence to an already high quality all-round game.
12 Jordie Barrett (New Zealand): OK, we admit it – Ian Foster has pulled a masterstroke in getting Jordie into inside centre. His ability to power up in the hit or distribute with boot has transformed the All Black midfield and has truly given them a multi-faceted attack. For the Scots, Sam Tuipulotu looks the perfect foil to Finn Russell’s antics whilst Damian de Allende was his usual reliable self for the Springboks.
11 Emiliano Boffelli (Argentina): We might have gone for Scotland’s superb Duhan van der Merwe but Boffelli continues to be one of the most valuable players in world rugby and once again, he was at the centre of Los Pumas scoring efforts, with his reliable boot always a talking point. A mention for impressive Wallabies newbie, Mark Nawaqanitawase, who looks right at home at this elite level.
A great entertainer
10 Finn Russell (Scotland): Considering that France’s Matthieu Jalibert, South Africa’s Damian Willemse and New Zealand’s Richie Mo’unga were absolutely outstanding all autumn, Russell’s performance had to be special to beat them – and it was! This is another one where we pick the player who puts the most smiles on the most faces and Russell is the consummate entertainer.
9 Aaron Smith (New Zealand): No competition here – Te Nug is as good as any other half-back in the world and profits from Antoine Dupont’s red card. Faf de Klerk was the heartbeat of the Springboks when fit.
8 Gregory Alldritt (France): It was monumentally hard to leave out the great Ardie Savea and we’ve therefore bent the Planet Rugby rules to accommodate both outstanding number eights with Savea sliding across to the openside. Taulupe Faletau was a beacon of light in a gloomy Welsh season while Caelan Doris impressed for Ireland. Given France’s unbeaten year, Alldritt is also our Player of the Tournament.
7 Ardie Savea (New Zealand): What can you say about Savea that hasn’t already been said? Well, he’s so good that we’ll select him out of his November position over a host of other brilliant opensides including Siya Kolisi, Michele Lamaro, Josh van der Flier and his own countryman, Dalton Papali’i. It might break with convention, but we know he’ll complete the best back-row we can pick.
6 Charles Ollivon (France): Ollivon made our Team of the Week three times and is back skippering France, a situation we think will continue as few players in the sport have his gravitas and intellect as a leader – plus it also takes some pressure off Dupont. Franco Mostert was an unsung hero for the Springboks whilst Scotland’s Jamie Ritchie showed his leadership credentials, with Wales’ Jac Morgan also impressive.
A fearsome competitor
5 Eben Etzebeth (South Africa): This is simple. Etzebeth is the most feared forward in world rugby bar none and has subsequently been moved to number five lock to accommodate him alongside another excellent performer. James Ryan and Sam Whitelock were both splendid at the coal-face against all comers and are our runners-up.
4 Tadhg Beirne (Ireland): Another superb season for the Munsterman as he proved his adaptability spending a month in the engine room. Another flank-cum-lock, France’s Cameron Woki together with New Zealand’s Brodie Retallick again impressed.
3 Frans Malherbe (South Africa): One of the hardest picks with Tyrel Lomax and Tadhg Furlong also outstanding, we simply thought ‘who would we least like to face?’ and on that basis, Malherbe wins by a rather thick neck.
2 Julien Marchand (France): When picking the best hooker in the world, the only certainty is that the player’s surname begins with the letter ‘m’ as any of Julian Montoya, Malcolm Marx or Marchand is a worthy selection. We just feel that the Toulouse man is the most complete of the trio, although we’d settle for any of them in our team.
1 Andrew Porter (Ireland): Ireland’s scrum completion is the best in the world, statistically, and Porter is at the heart of that. Nika Abuladze was huge for Georgia and Pierre Schoeman was one of Scotland’s many bright lights in a good November for the Scots. Honourable mentions for Steven Kitshoff and Ethan de Groot too.