Staff writer DYLAN JACK selects a backline from the individuals who have been impressive in the quarter-finals of the World Cup.
15 Beauden Barrett
Out the eight players who started at fullback this past weekend, there were simply none better than Barrett. The New Zealander has embraced his switch to the No 15 jersey and while he was impressive against lesser opposition in the pool stages, he shone against Ireland. Barrett made a total of 69 metres with ball in hand, while also making three clean breaks and beating three defenders. To go with his attacking play, Barrett applied plenty of pressure with the boot, making 10 kicks from hand to test the Irish back three.
14 Anthony Watson
The right wing was excellent in both attack and defence against Australia. Along with scoring an intercept try late in the match, Watson made 61m as well as two clean breaks while beating five defenders. On defence, Watson completed all seven of his attempted tackles as England effectively repelled the Wallabies’ attack. By comparison, Bok wing Cheslin Kolbe was less effective on attack.
13 Virimi Vakatawa
The only player to be picked from a losing side, Vakatawa was immense for France against Wales. The Fiji-born centre was a constant thorn in the Welsh defence, making significant headway whenever he got the ball. In total, Vakatawa made 52m, while sitting five defenders down on their backsides and scoring one of France’s three first-half tries to put them ahead at half time. Vakatawa also completed all eight of his tackles and won a turnover as France tried to hold on to their slim lead.
12 Damian de Allende
De Allende made a good case to be considered as man of the match in the Springboks’ victory over hosts Japan on Sunday. While he made a couple of errors, De Allende still made up for them with some typically strong carries and big tackles. De Allende finished as the game’s top tackler, making 17 and missing just one of his hits. He also managed to win three turnovers, two of them inside his own half, as the Boks effectively repelled the stylish Japanese attack.
11 Makazole Mapimpi
While it was tough to choose between Mapimpi and New Zealand’s George Bridge, the Bok wing gets the pick for his contributions in getting South Africa past Japan and into the semi-final. Mapimpi scored a try in each half, while in the process running 110m, with four clean breaks and five defenders beaten. That made him South Africa’s most effective player on attack. Despite missing two tackles, Mapimpi did not shirk his defensive responsibilities either, ending with 10 tackles and winning a turnover.
10 Owen Farrell
While England’s defensive game plan meant that Farrell did not enjoy the attacking opportunities that the other flyhalves did, he still showed why he is one of the best in his position by controlling the game against Australia with clarity and calmness. Farrell’s four conversions and penalties made him the top points-scorer of the quarter-finals with 20. He was also credited with a try assist after putting teammate Kyle Sinkler through a gap with a beautifully weighted, flat pass. Farrell’s defensive contributions are also worth a shout as he made a whopping 17 tackles (the same as flank Tom Curry) and only missed three.
9 Aaron Smith
The All Blacks scrumhalf looked at his best as he, along with Richie Mo’unga and Beauden Barrett, took control in the win over Ireland. Smith’s vision enabled him to spot the gaps and snipe over for a brace of tries to get the All Blacks on their way to a seven-try victory. Smith also made a total of 72 passes while making three accurate kicks from hand.
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