Staff writer DYLAN JACK selects a pack of forwards from the individuals who have been impressive in the World Cup quarter-finals.
8 Kieran Read
The All Blacks captain unsurprisingly played a big role in their hammering of Ireland, making more passes (7) than centre Anton Lienert-Brown, while also making 24 metres from his carries. Given the All Blacks’ dominance up front, Read was allowed to play his game and act as a link between the backline and forwards. That’s not to say he did little defensively as he completed all 14 of his tackles and won a turnover. The clash between him and England’s Billy Vunipola will be one to watch in the semi-finals.
7 Sam Underhill
Underhill took his impressive form for England to the next level against Australia as he, along with loose-forward partner Tom Curry, hit everything in a gold jersey in their quarter-final win. The 23-year-old was the second-highest tackler for the weekend, with 18 hits to his name, missing just two of his 20 attempts for a success rate of 91%. He may not have been active in the carry, but Underhill did his job as the openside flank and stopped the Wallabies in their tracks.
6 Ardie Savea
Savea had a very different game to Underhill as, unlike the England flank, he was incredibly active in attacking play. Savea made 42m and beat four Irish defenders while also making two linebreaks as he typically cut through Ireland’s defence. The blindside flank also did his part defensively, completing all 12 of his tackles and winning a turnover.
5 Lood de Jager
The Springbok lock looks like he has finally escaped the ‘Bomb Squad’ (as the Bok bench call themselves) and solidified a place in the starting lineup ahead of Franco Mostert. Not only did De Jager help the Boks keep their proud record of losing none of their 57 lineouts in the tournament, by winning all five of the lineouts thrown to him against Japan, he also did some enforcing – making 14 tackles (the second most of any Springbok in the match) without missing a single hit. Along with this, De Jager also managed to poach a lineout when the Boks were under pressure and controlled their driving maul effectively.
4 Maro Itoje
An expert at the dark arts of forwards rugby, Itoje was unsurprisingly up to his tricks against the Wallabies. His superb defensive effort (15 tackles, none missed) underpins his role in England’s win. His contribution to one of Jonny May’s two tries deserves a mention. He smartly let the Wallabies cleaners drive past the breakdown, before launching himself at Will Genia and disrupting the Australian scrumhalf’s pass to David Pocock, who threw a pass that was intercepted and ended up with May scoring. It was just one such example of why Itoje, at 24 years old, is already one of the brightest rugby players in the world.
3 Kyle Sinckler
Sinkler is building a reputation for what he can do with ball in hand and his efforts against Australia would have enhanced that. The tighthead prop bounced back from what was initially a tough start against Scott Sio in the scrum and that seemed to only fire him up. He ran an excellent line on to a flat pass from Owen Farrell and, to his own surprise, broke through the Australian defensive line to score. On defence, Sinkler made nine tackles, missing just one of his attempts.
2 Guilhem Guirado
In his final game for his national side, the French captain left it all out on the park. Guirado was inspirational and possibly should have been left to play longer than the 49 minutes he got against Wales. In just over one half of action, Guirado made nine tackles, missing none, and won a turnover in his own half. To go with this, he made 21m from his carries and beat two defenders. It was unfortunate that he ended up on the losing side and will retire on a disappointing note, but Guirado left his mark on the French No 2 jersey.
1 Mako Vunipola
In his first start of the tournament since recovering from injury, it’s fair to say that Vunipola emptied the tank. The loosehead prop topped the quarter-final tackle stats with an incredible 20 hits, missing none of his attempts. By comparison, David Pocock and Michael Hooper only made 18 tackles between them. It was a superb effort from the 28-year-old, given that he also had to contend with the Wallabies’ Allan Alaalatoa in the scrum.
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