Wednesday 21 February 2018

Only two players from the Six Nations make World XV despite final day flourish

Cormac Byrne

Cormac Byrne

We were treated to seven hours of enthralling rugby union on Saturday but the best of what the Northern Hemisphere has to offer is still trailing behind their southern cousins.

Ireland are the only Six Nations team represented in our World XV with inspirational figures Paul O'Connell and Jonathan Sexton making the side.

While a number of Six Nations stars have closed the gap, the team is still dominated by the SANZA countries.

15. Israel Folau (Australia)

Leigh Halfpenny's kicking exploits, the aerial prowess of Rob Kearney and Mike Brown, the speed of Stuart Hogg and the growing influence of Scott Spedding can't displace the Israel's, Dagg and Folau. The Wallaby's innate brilliance is almost impossible to eclipse.

Next best: Israel Dagg (New Zealand), Willie le Roux (South Africa) Leigh Halfpenny (Wales).

Israel Folau claims a high ball ahead of Rob Kearney. John Dickson / SPORTSFILE

14. Ben Smith (New Zealand)

Smith is one of the greatest finishers in the game. The ultimate assassin. George North has hinted at a return to his very best form in the Six Nations, while Yoann Huget also has to be counted among the world's best.

Next best: George North (Wales), Bryan Habana (South Africa)

New Zealand fullback Ben Smith is tackled by England's Manu Tuilagi and Chris Robshaw during the third Test in Hamilton. Photo: MICHAEL BRADLEY/AFP/Getty Images

13. Tevita Kuridrani (Australia)

This position would normally be preserved for Mr O'Driscoll but a very operator occupies it now. Kuridrani has the power and speed of Bastareaud but the subtleties to match. A bulldozer. Jonathan Joseph has been the best number 13 in the Six Nations for England.

Next best: Conrad Smith (New Zealand), Jonathan Joseph (England)

Australia's Tevita Kuridrani celebrates his try during their international rugby union friendly match against the Barbarians at Twickenham in London November 1, 2014. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh (BRITAIN - Tags: SPORT RUGBY)

12. Ma'a Nonu (New Zealand)

Nonu has been a permanent fixture in this lineup for quite some time. Robbie Henshaw has appeared as a blip on the radar.

Next best: Jamie Roberts (Wales), Robbie Henshaw (Ireland)

RUGBYU Engl_61.jpg
New Zealands Maa Nonu carries the ball against England

11. Julian Savea (New Zealand)

The most dangerous offensive weapon in world rugby bar none. Jack Nowell has announced himself for England with his performances over the past few weeks.

Next best: Jack Nowell (England), Henry Speight (Australia)

Julian Savea, New Zealand, is tackled by Sean OBrien, Ireland. Guinness Series International, Ireland v New Zealand, Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road, Dublin.

10. Jonathan Sexton (Ireland)

The Irish outhalf came back after a 12-week layoff in rude form. An off day against Wales showed just how important he is to Joe Schmidt. George Ford and Finn Russell have propelled themselves forward with their performances over the past eight weeks. Dan Biggar also had a very impressive tournament.

Next best: Aaron Cruden (New Zealand), Dan Carter (New Zealand), George Ford (England)

Jonathan Sexton put two misses in the delete bin and went on to kick amazingly for Ireland in the last few minutes when his body went into spasm

9. Aaron Smith (New Zealand)

Conor Murray, Rhys Webb and Ben Youngs are now breathing down the neck of Smith but need to find another 10pc to usurp the Kiwi.

Next best: Conor Murray (Ireland), Rhys Webb (Wales), Ben Youngs (England).

All Blacks.jpg
Aaron Smith of New Zealand reacts after missing a chance to score a try during the International Test match between the New Zealand All Blacks and England at Waikato Stadium

8. Kieran Read (New Zealand)

Billy Vunipola is a juggernaut, Jamie Heaslip is a rugby brain, Toby Faletau is a terror at the breakdown, Sergio Parisse is a leader... Kieran Read is all of them in one.

Next best: Billy Vunipola (England), Jamie Heaslip (Ireland), Duane Vermeulen (South Africa).

Kieran Read

7. Richie McCaw (New Zealand)

Sam Warburton was immense against Ireland, Chris Robshaw is a huge force in the loose and Sean O'Brien is beginning to look like the Tullow Tank of old. One of them is destined to take over from the legendary McCaw.

Next best: Michael Hooper (Australia), Sam Warburton (Wales), Chris Robshaw (England).

Paul OConnell, Ireland, congratulates New Zealand captain Richie McCaw after the game.

6. Jerome Kaino (New Zealand)

Peter O'Mahony is becoming a world class blindside, Thierry Dusatoir already is one and James Haskell is using his bulk to great affect but Kaino still rules supreme.

Next best: Peter O'Mahony (Ireland), Marcell Coetzee (South Africa), Thierry Dusatoir (France).

Jerome Kaino (R) of the All Blacks scores his sides second try as Leigh Halfpenny (L) of Wales challenges during the International match between Wales and New Zealand at the Millennium Stadium

5. Paul O'Connell (Ireland)

The Limerick man is playing better than ever. His try against Scotland and his line breaks against Wales were his standout moments of the tournament. He edges out his old pal Victor Matfield in the side.

Next best: Victor Matfield (South Africa), Johnny Gray (Scotland), Alun Wyn Jones (Wales), Sam Whitelock (New Zealand)

Paul O'Connell and Devin Toner have forged a great partnership with Ireland

4. Brodie Retallick (New Zealand)

An amazing lineout operator with the speed and power of a back rower and the soft hands of a flyhalf. Arguably, the greatest player on the planet.

Next best: Eben Etzebeth (South Africa), Luke Charteris (Wales).

New Zealand's Brodie Retallick is tackled by England's Mana Tulagi during the third Test in Hamilton. Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images

3. Charlie Faumuina (New Zealand)

One of the most gifted and athletic ball-playing props in the world game and at 28, he's just reaching his prime. Samson Lee's ruptured achilles is a devastating blow for a player who was on a steep upward curve.

Next best: Samson Lee (Wales), Dan Cole (England)


2. Bismarck du Plessis (South Africa)

Bismarck du Plessis thrives in every facet of the game. Players like Rory Best, Scott Baldwin, Dylan Hartley and the verteran Keven Mealamu have potential weaknesses.

Next best: Keven Mealamu (New Zealand), Rory Best (Ireland), Dylan Hartley (England).

Bismarck Du Plessis tackles Dan Carter during Saturday's game between New Zealand and South Africa in an incident which saw the Springbok hooker controversially sin-binned

1.  Tendai Mtawarira (South Africa)

The 'Beast' is a fans favourite the world over and we know why. He is so powerful in the loose and destructive in the scrum. Cian Healy is putting his injury concerns behind him and looks the best from the Northern Hemisphere.

Next best: Cian Healy (Ireland), Wyatt Crockett (New Zealand).

South Africa's Tendai Mtawarira falls short of the try line as Wales' James Hook tackles during their rugby test match in Durban

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