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Rugby World Cup Team of the Week: Nine countries represented in our line-up
Tuesday, 12 September 2023 - 11:38 | Views - 169

Now that everyone’s cooled off after an opening round of the Rugby World Cup that was played in sweltering conditions, here’s our Team of the Week.

There are four Frenchmen in the line-up with South Africa one behind with three players, while the rest of the team has a healthy spread of nations.

Rugby World Cup Team of the Week

15 Ben Donaldson (Australia): An incredibly tough call on the rock solid Thomas Ramos, who was unrelenting in his punishment of New Zealand off the kicking tee. Inaki Ayarza also impressed us over the weekend but it was just impossible to ignore the performance of Donaldson at full-back. A surprise selection to start but Eddie Jones was vindicated as Donaldson grabbed two tries, three conversions, three penalties and 117 running metres.

14 Damian Penaud (France): Wasn’t to be denied on the second occasion as, after Richie Mo’unga made an incredible try-saving tackle, Penaud would get a walk-in soon after for his score. He beat an impressive six New Zealand defenders on Friday and gets the 14 spot over Wales wing Louis Rees-Zammit.

13 Waisea Nayacalevu (Fiji): Is there a better outside centre in world rugby at the moment? It’s a genuine question as Nayacalevu is consistently outstanding as he pierces defences at will. That was again evident on Sunday against Wales as he was hugely unfortunate to finish on the losing side. With Semi Radradra alongside, Fiji boast a superb midfield combination and the former gets the nod as our 12, with Australia’s Jordan Petaia coming in second spot.

12 Bundee Aki (Ireland): One of his best games in a green jersey, Aki was a rock on Saturday as he scored twice against Romania. Granted, tougher opposition is set to come but in terms of fitness, power, skills and sharpness, the Connacht man looks at the peak of his powers which is great news for Irish fans. Wales centre Nick Tompkins picks up a mention for his efforts against Fiji that included a lovely try assist.

11 Josh Adams (Wales): We’d go along with what the TV commentator noted on Sunday that we don’t think Adams has celebrated a try as passionately as that tackle on Selestino Ravutaumada. With and without the ball the Welshman was excellent as he sees off two-try All Blacks star Mark Telea as our left wing.

10 George Ford (England): Plenty of fly-halves stood up and were counted over the opening weekend of the tournament with Johnny Sexton and Hinckley Vaovasa standing out in the same game. Others had their moments such as Matthieu Jalibert and Dan Biggar but there was little doubt in our mind who was the best number 10 of the round. Ford was in dazzling form with those drop goals out of the top drawer as he led England to an impressive first-up win.

9 Faf de Klerk (South Africa): His value to the Springboks is colossal and the nuggety scrum-half once again proved his worth with a full-blooded showing against Scotland. His hunger, defence, organisation, service and kicking were superb and De Klerk even showed what a gentleman he is off the pitch, too.

8 Gregory Alldritt (France): Fiji’s Viliame Mata came to the fore with an outstanding display in a losing cause against Wales but, after being named as the official man of the match in France’s memorable win over New Zealand, we’ve opted for Alldritt who was sublime in the tournament opener. The 26-year-old gained 71 metres from 14 carries, which included two clean breaks and three offloads. He was also superb on defence and completed a joint match-high 15 hits.

7 Siya Kolisi (South Africa): The Springbok skipper continued with his impressive form and led his troops superbly in a tricky assignment against Scotland in Marseille. Kolisi was in the thick of the action as a ball carrier but also did is bit on defence and at the breakdowns where he caught the eye with his counter-rucking and also managed to win a turnover. He comes in ahead of Francois Cros of France, Peter O’Mahony of Ireland and Manuel Zuliani of Italy.

6 Pieter-Steph du Toit (South Africa): He has regained the form which helped win the 2019 World Rugby Player of the Year award and worked well in tandem with Kolisi, with his ball carrying and defence superb throughout. Du Toit finished with 27 metres gained from seven carries and was rewarded with a well-taken try for his efforts and also made seven tackles. Ireland’s Tadhg Beirne, England’s Courtney Lawes, France’s Charles Ollivon and Japan’s Michael Leitch also played well.

5 Amato Fakatava (Japan): What a performance from the Brave Blossoms lock as he finished the game against Chile with a brace of tries as part of his six carries for 26 metres. Man of the match Fakatava was also solid defensively as he racked up 16 tackles and comes in ahead of France’s Thibaut Flament, South Africa’s Franco Mostert and Australia’s Will Skelton.

4 Maro Itoje (England): This was a difficult decision as Welsh enforcer Will Rowlands caught the eye with an impressive performance in his side’s triumph over Fiji but we couldn’t ignore Itoje, who was at the forefront of England’s forward effort in a memorable victory over Argentina. The 28-year-old showed his class as he delivered a strong all-round display in Marseille. Itoje did superbly in the lineouts and on defence where he eventually made 14 tackles.

3 Uini Atonio (France): There were fine showings from Dan Cole of England, Zander Fagerson of Scotland and Luke Tagi of Fiji but Atonio was the standout tighthead prop in the opening round as he did brilliantly in Les Bleus’ win against the All Blacks. Atonio dominated his scrum battle with the highly rated Ethan de Groot but also did his bit in other core duties during an impressive 53-minute stint in Paris.

2 Diego Escobar (Chile): Los Conderos caught the attention of the entire rugby world with a brave performance in their first ever Rugby World Cup match which ended in a gallant defeat to Japan in Toulouse and Escobar was arguably their best player on the field. The 23-year-old took the fight to the Brave Blossoms and eventually gained 30 attacking metres from 11 carries which included four defenders beaten. Also shone on defence with eight tackles made and beats out England’s Jamie George.

1 Reda Wardi (France): The La Rochelle strong man was elevated to Les Bleus’ starting line-up after first choice loosehead prop Cyril Baille was injured and taken his opportunity with both hands. Wardi was on the pitch against the All Blacks for 53 minutes and caught the eye with an impressive scrummaging performance while also doing his bit as a ball carrier and in the execution of his defensive duties. Meanwhile, Australia’s Angus Bell and Scotland’s Pierre Schoeman were next best.

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