Staff writer DYLAN JACK selects a pack of forwards 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 for each position.
8 Kazuki Himeno (Japan)
Himeno has simply been immense for Japan in this tournament so far. The No 8, who can comfortably double as a blindside flank, has more than done his part in one of the hardest-working loose trios in the World Cup. There is no surprise that he is being spoken about as a potential successor to Michael Leitch as Japan captain, given his ability.
Honourable mentions: CJ Stander (Ireland), Josh Navidi (Wales).
7 Sam Underhill (England)
One of the ‘Kamakazi Kids’, so labelled by coach Eddie Jones because he and teammate Tom Curry ‘hit everything that moves’. While he isn’t the biggest of flanks in the tournament at 103kg, Underhill has more than compensated with a number of massive hits. The 23-year-old shone in England’s win over Argentina, especially, topping his team’s tackle count with 16 in the match. Honourable mentions go to the workaholic Lappies Labuschagne and Italy’s defence demolition expert Jake Polledri.
Honourable mentions: Lappies Labuschagne (Japan), Jake Polledri (Italy).
6 Tom Curry (England)
Underhill’s other half, Curry, has been just as good as, if not better than, his England teammate. Curry made 16 tackles and won three turnovers against Tonga and followed that with excellent performances against the USA and Argentina. Ardie Savea gets an honourable mention for his excellent performance against South Africa, which should have earned him Man of the Match, but misses out as he only started that match at No 6 (the other was against Namibia at No 8).
Honourable mentions: David Pocock (Australia), Ardie Savea (New Zealand).
5 Alun Wyn Jones (Wales)
The Welsh captain was at his best in their crucial victory over the Wallabies, topping the tackle count with a massive 25 attempts while also winning two turnovers. He followed this up with another superb defensive effort against Fiji, again making the most tackles (16) in the match as Wales claimed a narrow 29-17 win. Honourable mentions go to England’s Maro Itoje, who has been just as impressive both defensively and with ball in hand, as well as Fiji’s Leone Nakarawa.
Honourable mentions: Leone Nakarawa (Fiji), Maro Itoje (England).
4 Guido Petti (Argentina)
In a tough campaign which disappointingly ended in an early exit for Los Pumas, Petti is one of few Argentinians who can leave with their head firmly held high. The 24-year-old showed that he will certainly hold on to the No 4 jersey for a while with impressive solo performances in the tournament. Petti was almost a one-man army in the opening loss to France, scoring a try while making the most metres (53) for his team while beating three defenders and winning eight lineouts. Defensively in that game, he is credited with a lineout steal, two turnovers and a 90% tackle completion rate. Meanwhile, Izack Rodda has been an underrated influence for the Wallabies, while RG Snyman has looked in top form for the Springboks.
Honourable mentions: Izack Rodda (Australia), RG Snyman (South Africa).
3 Kyle Sinckler (England)
It takes something to outshine Tadhg Furlong in a tournament, but that is exactly what England’s Kyle Sinckler has done. Not only has Sinckler been incredibly solid in the scrum in all three of England’s pool games, but he has also been pretty effective on attack as well, producing at least one offload in each of his appearances to keep his team’s forward momentum. Furlong does deserve a mention, despite his struggles in the loss to Japan. Georgian tighthead Levan Chilachava gets a shout out as well for his impact off the bench against Wales and Uruguay.
Honourable mentions: Tadhg Furlong (Ireland), Levan Chilachava (Georgia).
2 Shota Horie (Japan)
I bracketed both Horie and Argentina’s Julian Montoya in my team after two rounds, but the Japanese hooker gets the No 2 spot. While not as effective on attack as Montoya, Horie has been crucial to Japan’s defensive efforts in the World Cup. Horie completed 18 tackles against Russia, 17 in the upset against Ireland, nine off the bench against Samoa and 10 against Scotland. His work rate has been incredible to watch in the pool stages. South Africa’s Bongi Mbonambi also gets a mention for forcing his way above Malcolm Marx in the pecking order.
Honourable mentions: Julian Montoya (Argentina), Bongi Mbonambi (South Africa).
1 Isileli Nakajima (Japan)
It is crazy to consider that four months before he smashed the Irish scrum backwards, Isieli Nakajima had never played in the front row. The Tongan-born 30-year-old had been starting at the back of the scrum for Kobe Steelers in Japan’s Top League when he coaches convinced him to make the transition. In short, it has been a success. Despite playing as a replacement, Nakajima has been incredible for Japan. His impact has always been felt, no less when he made 20m in 24 minutes against Scotland, when his side was under pressure. Tonga’s Siegfried Fisiihoi, who gave French tighthead Rabah Slimani a torrid time in the scrum, gets a mention. England’s Eliis Genge, nicknamed the ‘Baby Rhino’, also deserves a shout-out for his effectiveness in the carry.
Honourable mentions: Siegfried Fisiihoi (Tonga), Ellis Genge (England).
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