Three SARugbymag.co.za staff members pick their World XV for 2018.
Simon Borchardt (editor)
Four of the five nominees for the World Rugby Player of the Year award – Rieko Ioane, Johnny Sexton, Faf de Klerk and Malcolm Marx – are in my team. The winner of the award, Sexton, is at flyhalf ahead of the other nominee, Beauden Barrett, based on his performances this year for Ireland, although the latter would definitely be used off my bench at some point of a match against Mars. Israel Folau, who impressed for a poor Wallabies side, is at fullback (his best position), with two All Blacks, Ben Smith and Rieko Ioane, on the wings. Kieran Read will be the first to admit that he wasn’t at his best this year after coming back from injury and Duane Vermeulen didn’t play in the Rugby Championship at all, so CJ Stander gets the No 8 jersey, with Pieter-Steph du Toit – the Boks’ best player in 2018 – at blindside flank and David Pocock at openside. There are three Irishman in my tight five, and while Malcolm Marx’s lineout throwing needs some work, he’s still the best hooker in the world.
Simon’s World XV – 15 Israel Folau (Australia), 14 Ben Smith (New Zealand), 13 Huw Jones (Scotland), 12 Owen Farrell (England), 11 Rieko Ioane (New Zealand), 10 Johnny Sexton (Ireland), 9 Faf de Klerk (South Africa), 8 CJ Stander (Ireland), 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit (South Africa), 6 David Pocock (Australia), 5 James Ryan (Ireland), 4 Brodie Retallick (New Zealand), 3 Tadgh Furlong (Ireland), 2 Malcolm Marx (South Africa), 1 Mako Vunipola (England).
Jon Cardinelli (chief rugby writer)
Ireland won the Six Nations Grand Slam, scored a historic series victory in Australia and then went undefeated in the November internationals. They were rightly named the World Rugby Team of the Year and I feel that it’s only fair that Irishmen dominate any World XV. Aphiwe Dyantyi impressed me in his breakout season for the Boks, but in the end, I felt that Jacob Stockdale made a bigger impact for Ireland over the course of the year. If we were picking the strongest international side based on form over the past three seasons, Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read and Brodie Retallick would make the cut. However, given Barrett and Smith’s fluctuating form in 2018, as well as Read and Retallick’s struggles with injuries, they are less deserving than the three Irishmen – and one Aussie – included in those positions. David Pocock started eight out of 11 Tests at No 8 this year, so there’s room for him and openside Sam Cane in my back row. Pieter-Steph du Toit cracks the nod ahead of Peter O’Mahony at blindside flank, although the latter’s contributions for Ireland deserve high praise. There are two more South Africans in the front row. Steven Kitshoff was the standout loosehead prop this season, whether outplaying tightheads at the scrums or testing defenders in the loose.
JC’s World XV – 15 Ben Smith (New Zealand), 14 Jacob Stockdale (Ireland), 13 Jonathan Davies (Wales), 12 Owen Farrell (England), 11 Rieko Ioane (New Zealand), 10 Johnny Sexton (Ireland), 9 Conor Murray (Ireland), 8 David Pocock (Australia), 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit (South Africa), 6 Sam Cane (New Zealand), 5 Sam Whitelock (New Zealand), 4 Devin Toner (Ireland), 3 Tadhg Furlong (Ireland), 2 Malcolm Marx (South Africa), 1 Steven Kitshoff (South Africa).
Craig Lewis (senior rugby writer)
It’s quite revealing that only three All Blacks make my selection for this team of the year, while four Irishmen crack the nod. Ben Smith is included in his best position at fullback, while I couldn’t help but find a spot for World Breakthrough Player of the Year Aphiwe Dyantyi on the right wing. The selection at outside centre was a challenging one considering that there is no clear-cut standout, but ultimately I’ve opted to back Israel Folau in his ‘second’ position ahead of Welshman Jonathan Davies. The Irish halfback pairing of Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton is relatively straightforward, while South African-born teammate CJ Stander is at No 8, with his immense work rate this year putting him just ahead of Duane Vermeulen or Kieran Read. The second-row selection was also rather tricky, with Franco Mostert and James Ryan quite worthy of selection, but Maro Itoje would offer plenty alongside industrious All Black Brodie Retallick. Tadhg Furlong and Mako Vunipola are both powerful props – earning selection ahead of Owen Franks and Cian Healy – while Malcolm Marx has little competition at hooker.
Craig’s World XV – 15 Ben Smith (New Zealand), 14 Aphiwe Dyantyi (South Africa), 13 Israel Folau (Australia), 12 Owen Farrell (England), 11 Rieko Ioane (New Zealand), 10 Johnny Sexton (Ireland), 9 Conor Murray (Ireland), 8 CJ Stander (Ireland), 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit (South Africa), 6 David Pocock (Australia), 5 Maro Itoje (England), 4 Brodie Retallick (New Zealand), 3 Tadhg Furlong (Ireland), 2 Malcolm Marx (South Africa), 1 Mako Vunipola (England).
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