20 games into the 42 match event, and plenty of World Rugby’s superstars have shone. After gauging the results and performances, this is in Rob’s opinion, the outstanding XV players in the Rugby World Cup, so far.
1. Jefferson Poirot (France)
The French loosehead has started his campaign off with a flourish with an excellent performance against Argentina.
Dominating at the scrum and relentless in defence when Argentina came fighting back Poirot earns his spot with an all round game plan and superb execution.
2. Shota Horie (Japan)
A name that we certainly wouldn’t have expected on this teamsheet two weeks ago. The Japanese hooker has been a revelation thus far, throwing in awesome performances against both Russia and Ireland.
Holding their set piece to the highest level and utilised as a carrying option 21 times already.
His uncompromising attitude towards rugby is an inspiration for the hosts as they plough on in a bid for knockout rugby.
3. Tadhg Furlong (Ireland)
The destructive Irish tighthead lived up to his name when they kicked their campaign off against Scotland with a powerful display both at scrum time and at the breakdown.
Limiting Scotland’s go forward was down to players like Furlong who disrupted the Scottish ball and took away their set piece.
A good first half against Japan before they tailed off means he gets the tighthead shirt.
4. Guido Petti (Argentina)
The rock of the Argentinian lineout, he was vital in the Pumas second half fightback against France, despite the result not quite going their way.
Securing plenty of ball and holding the driving maul together that pushed their hooker Julian Montoya to a hat-trick in their second match against Tonga.
Disrupting the opposition ball at both the breakdown and lineout is something Petti relishes and that could be the difference in them finishing above France and qualifying for the quarter finals.
5. James Ryan (Ireland)
Having played two full games Ryan has cemented his place in the Rugby World Cup team of the tournament so far with some very impressive displays at the lineout.
A very mobile lock who gets around the park, adding to his strong work at the set piece is a commodity that Ireland are pleased to have.
Struggling with a lack of ball in the second half against Japan still saw the likes of Ryan defend well to keep Japan from scoring further points.
6. Aaron Wainwright (Wales)
His rise from amateur rugby to one of the players of the Rugby World Cup is a remarkable one. He looks at ease on the big stage.
Ripping opposition breakdowns apart and carrying over the gain line have allowed Wales two good wins to kickstart their campaign.
Quick out the blocks and supplying Wales with lineout options if and when required will be a boost to Gatland’s World Cup hopes.
7. Justin Tipuric (Wales)
The Welsh back row has been awesome so far and it can be largely down to this man. His breakdown disruption has been world class, slowing down both the Australian and Georgian attack.
Winning crucial turnovers to relieve pressure and defiant in defence when Wales have been under pressure, mainly during second half onslaughts.
8. Billy Vunipola (England)
England’s machine-like ball carrier. Defences have found it hard to stop Vunipola cross the gain line and send England up field.
He ties at least two defenders up every time he goes on a charge and that’s vital to creating an extra man out wide for England, who have some potent threats on their wings.
9. Gareth Davies (Wales)
Such a livewire in defence, as Will Genia found out. His speed off the line makes scrum halves think twice about their longer passes to a second and third receiver.
It also worries forwards who may want to try a quick offload.
His attack has improved massively as Wales develop momentum. He knows who wants the ball and when to mix up the hard yard gains and quick ball out the back.
10. Richie Mo’unga (New Zealand)
The All Blacks may have only played one game so far but this man pulled them back against the reigning Rugby Championship champions to a huge pool win.
He pulled the strings along with former fly half Beauden Barrett, now at full back, to overturn the Springboks solid start and get New Zealand to win.
11. Cheslin Kolbe (South Africa)
A lightning quick winger who physics apparently does not apply too. The All Blacks struggled to contain him and so will many other sides.
His ability to step around a player at a moment’s notice and with very little space whilst retaining such a high speed and the ball in hand is remarkable.
12. Hadleigh Parkes (Wales)
The Welsh midfield general, who has already found his try scoring form has marshalled the Welsh attack superbly in their two games.
His flat passes to get Wales crashing through the defence of their opposition is superb, as is his spatial awareness for knowing where his teammates are around him.
13. Jon Davies (Wales)
Sitting outside Hadleigh Parkes, Davies holds the 13 channel with little stress. The best defensive centre in world rugby has supplied Wales with a lynchpin to work around.
He’s released the wingers outside him to have two great games and taken plenty of prisoners when it comes to his own attack.
A hard ball carrying centre who can go around or through you, has implemented a strong kicking games thus far just to spice things up.
14. Alapati Leiua (Samoa)
The man who averages more merges per carry than any other player at the Rugby World Cup.
The try scoring Samoan has been a threat to both Russia, where he was man of the match, and to Scotland.
Always a potent threat and looks dangerous with ball in hand from anywhere on the park.
15. Beauden Barrett (New Zealand)
Having switched from fly half to full back in recent months Barrett has shone. His kicking game (out of hand) has strengthened as has his vision – if that was even possible.
His spark and raw edge has really driven New Zealand to fresh heights at the Rugby World Cup.
Two high-flying performances against both the Springboks and Canada have seen his stock rise.
Rob’s Rugby World Cup team of the Tournament
As the tournament progresses, more players will raise their hands, as the elite players find form in Japan.
Follow Rob and all of Last Word on Rugby’s writers, as we enjoy the next phase of Rugby World Cup matches.
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