By David O’Farrell
The Rugby World Cup concluded this month after South Africa lifted the trophy for the third time, following a dominant display over England. For the boys in green, it was a disappointing tournament after a near perfect 2018. Yet again, they stumbled at the quarter-final stage, and it’s hard to know when they will ever get past this hurdle. The only thing left to decide on is the ‘dream team’ of the tournament. TheCity.ie looked at who would make that ‘dream team’ if it was solely down to the statistics.
15. Beauden Barrett (New Zealand)
Three Barrett brothers ended up playing for the All Blacks at the world cup, but one stood out in particular. Beauden Barrett topped the runs made table with 86 at an average of 17.2 per game and managed second place in terms of clean breaks with 12 at an average of 2.4. He also managed to chip in with 18 points for his troubles and made a massive 460 metres in his five games. Barrett beat 24 defenders through the tournament and even though you could argue that the switch to full-back didn’t work as New Zealand only finished third, he is still the golden boy of his generation.
14. Makazole Mapimi (South Africa)
Normally a left winger but, such are his remarkable statistics, it’s impossible to leave Mapimi out of this team. He managed 30 points in total with six tries at just over an average of one per game. He also made 12 clean breaks, highlighting the sheer pace that this South African winger possesses. It was a tough call to leave out his teammate, Cheslin Kolbe, but going simply by the statistics, Mapimi was the much more clinical of the pair. He made a whopping 395 metres and also made 33 tackles at a success rate of 87%.
13. Manu Tuilagi (England)
It’s an all-England centre partnership with Tuilagi occupying the outside role, after his 15-point haul in his country’s run to the final. Tuilagi played five times in the tournament, making 191 metres through 41 carries. He was solid in defence with 30 tackles at a moderate success rate of 75%. The standout performer for his country in their semi-final win against the All Blacks, his performance set the tone in that game following his early try.
12. Owen Farrell (England)
A standout performer in the English backline scoring 58 points and the second highest in the tournament, Farrell wasn’t only influential from the kicking tee. He also made 59 tackles over 100 metres with his 36 carries. His penalty goal success rate was impressive at 86% and he also made 97 passes, showing his creativity in midfield. Undoubtedly, Farrell will be disappointed with his side’s performance in the final loss to South Africa, but he can be proud of how he performed individually in the tournament.
11. Josh Adams (Wales)
Adams performed exceptionally well on the statistics front and if we were solely judging it off the data, he should have been the player of the tournament. Wales’ standout performer on the left wing scored an impressive 35 points in his seven games and with those seven tries, he heads the tries scored table. Adams also averaged 2.57 clean breaks per game with a total of 18. He leads that account too. He made 60 runs across the campaign and made a total of 390 metres. Wales had a very good tournament overall eventually losing out to New Zealand in the bronze match, but they probably couldn’t have done it without the flair of this winger.
10. Handre Pollard (South Africa)
The ice-cool Pollard led his country to glory via his boot scoring an impressive 69 points across the tournament, and topping the points scored table. He averaged 11.5 points per game and his most impressive performance came in the game that mattered most; the final where the South African scored six penalties. He had an 80% penalty conversion rate and made 164 metres across his six matches. Without Pollard, South Africa would have been lost. The unlucky ones to miss out here were New Zealand’s Richie Mo’Unga and Japans Yu Tamura, who averaged an impressive 10.2 points across his five games.
9. Faf De Klerk (South Africa)
It’s an all-South African half-back partnership and it’s obvious why. Pollard and De Klerk performed exceptionally well through the tournament and were massive players behind their nation’s success. Klerk was unmissable with his long, blonde locks and was the king of the box kick, with 36 in the quarters and semis alone. His tactical kicking was so effective in what was, in truth, not a great tournament for the scrum-halves. He made 247 passes, 76 metres and managed to chip in for a try. An honorary mention must go to Japanese scrum-half, Yutaka Nagare, for his effort in keeping Japans game being played at 100mph.
8. Kieran Reed (New Zealand)
At 34 years old this was Reed’s third Rugby World Cup, and yet again he managed to show us why he is one of the best players of this generation. He made a massive 69 tackles at an average of 13.8 per game with a 90% success rate. As the third highest tackle maker of the tournament, he made a menace of himself in the middle of the pitch, carrying the ball 50 times while making 95 metres. The New Zealander captained his country in superb fashion and showed the world why he is one of the best leaders in the game’s history.
7. Pieter-Steph du Toit (South Africa)
The Stormers flanker had an exceptional 2019 and was recently crowned the World Rugby men’s 15’s player of the year and it is easy to see why. He was a key cog in the South African pack with an impressive 61 tackles at an average of 12.2 per game. With an 85% tackle success rate, he was part of the scrum that demolished the English pack in the final. His defence was really strong, and he managed one try from his 27 carries. He also made two clean breaks and stole a lineout for good measure. A brilliant all-round display with the stats to back up his performance.
“They are the 15 men that deserve to be on the ‘dream team’ for this year’s rugby world cup and it will be interesting to see how many of them actually make it.”
6. Pieter Labuschagne (Japan)
One of the hosts’ most consistent performers, Labuschagne was a pillar in the Japanese back row managing 68 tackles at an average of 13.6 per game. His tackle success rate of 94% made him a key figure of the Japanese defence and he also carried 39 times, making 169 metres. He was a standout performer for the hosts which saw them top Pool A after a couple of famous wins over Ireland and Scotland.
5. Alun Wyn Jones (Wales)
Another standout tournament for Wales’ most capped player. Wyn Jones led his country in style to a fourth-place finish and on a personal level, he didn’t do too badly either. He was the tournaments leading tackle maker with 79, averaging 13.16 per game. His tackle success rate is also one of the highest at 92%. He managed to win nine lineouts along with a couple of steals and made 36 carries. Another outstanding tournament for the Welsh lock.
4. Maro Itoje (England)
It’s an all Northern Hemisphere affair for the second row, as Itoje joins his Lions counterpart. Itoje made 71 tackles during the tournament, bettered only by Wyn Jones, but he had a higher match average at 14.2. His tackle success rate was also very impressive at 92%. Like Wyn Jones, Itoje was unable to get on the scoresheet but he did manage a respectable 31 carries while making 54 metres. He won a notable 22 lineouts, which included two steals, and highlighted himself, once again, as one of English rugby’s brighter prospects for the future.
3. Kyle Sinckler (England)
Although his final involvement ended after two minutes due to injury, Sinckler was certainly the standout prop of the tournament and not just on the statistics front. He was the key to his country’s scrum success in the early rounds, and when he came off in the final, the English scrum fell apart. Sinckler made 31 tackles with an 89% success rate. Displaying consistency in attack, the prop had 33 carries, making 43 metres while beating two defenders. He also managed to chip in with a try in the quarter-final against Australia.
2. Julian Montoya (Argentina)
Although Los Pumas would have been disappointed not to make it out of the ‘group of death’, hooker Julian Montoya can be proud of his displays at number two. He managed to score four tries, at an average of one per game while also having a 94% tackle success rate. He managed 13 carries and was a very solid performer for what must be said was a below par Argentinian team.
1. Keita Inagaki (Japan)
A real presence in the set-piece, Inagaki was one of the key performers in his nations run to the quarter-finals. Thriving on the fast-flowing rugby that Japan played, he managed 48 tackles with an 89% success rate. His attacking stats weren’t bad either carrying the ball 30 times and making over 40 metres. He also managed to score a try against Scotland, after a great team move, to seal his country’s place in the quarter-finals.
They are the 15 men that deserve to be on the ‘dream team’ for this year’s rugby world cup and it will be interesting to see how many of them actually make it. Unsurprisingly, there are no Irish players included after their disappointing campaign which ended in a quarter-final hammering to the All Blacks.