Staff writer DYLAN JACK selects a backline from the individuals who have been impressive in the round-robin stages of the World Cup.
When selecting this XV, I took into account consistency of games, quality of opposition and overall impact. For each position, I’ve also listed a couple of honourable mentions.
15 Elliot Daly (England)
The Saracens player has grown assuredly into his role as England’s first-choice fullback. He produced his best showing in the position in the key win over Argentina and looks like he will be important to England’s attack in the playoffs.
Honourable mentions: Jordan Larmour (Ireland), Beauden Barrett (New Zealand).
14 Kotaro Matsushima (Japan)
It was an incredibly tight call between him and Cheslin Kolbe. However, I have listed the Japanese flier as he played more games against better quality opposition. A brace against Russia, to go with tries against Samoa and Scotland, also gets him into the XV. Damian Penaud, who has been one of France’s most consistent players, must also be mentioned.
Honourable mentions: Cheslin Kolbe (South Africa), Damian Penaud (France).
13 Timothy Lafaele (Japan)
While I had England’s Manu Tuilagi in my XV after two rounds, Japan’s No 13 has done more than enough to displace him. Lafaele has been producing insane offloads in the first four weeks of the tournament and his link play with Japan’s wings has been entertaining to watch.
Honourable mentions: Manu Tuilagi (England), Jonathan Davies (Wales).
12 Damian de Allende (South Africa)
While he remains an enigma in his country, there is no doubting De Allende’s underrated influence on the Springboks’ attack and defence. De Allende is typecast as a ‘smash-and-bash’ centre but has shown small touches that definitely make him more than that.
Honourable mentions: Hadleigh Parkes (Wales), Samu Kerevi (Australia).
11 Kenki Fukuoka (Japan)
After his performances in the group stages, it was tough to award the No 11 jersey to anybody else. Fukuoka scored the crucial try off the bench in the win over Ireland and then a try either side of half time against Scotland. Special mentions do need to go to Fiji’s Semi Radradra, who has been sitting tacklers on their bottoms throughout the group stages, and the tournament’s current top try-scorer, Josh Adams.
Honourable mentions: Semi Radradra (Fiji), Josh Adams (Wales).
10 Felipe Berchesi (Uruguay)
Yu Tamura, the current top points-scorer, and George Ford could easily have had this position. However, Felipe Berchesi has simply been excellent for Uruguay as the South American team produced one of its best World Cup showings to date. Given that Uruguay have played teams all ranked above them, it says something that Berchesi is the second-highest points-scorer of the tournament. While Berchesi is not the strongest or fastest flyhalf, he is definitely among the smartest and most consistent.
Honourable mentions: Yu Tamura (Japan), George Ford (England).
9 Conor Murray (Ireland)
Ireland’s No 9 made an important return to form in their win over Samoa and was also excellent in controlling the game in their opening win over Scotland. Uruguay’s energetic Santiago Arata and Japan’s Yutaka Nagare also get a mention.
Honourable mentions: Yutaka Nagare (Japan), Santiago Arata (Uruguay).
Photo: Steve Haag Sports via Hollywoodbets