Two Irish players and four Japanese heroes feature in Rugby World Cup team of the week
What a fantastic start it has been to the Rugby World Cup but who has been the most impressive. Here is the best XV from the first round of fixtures.
15. Mike Brown (England)
Stiff competition here from Japan’s Ayumu Goromaru and Samoa’s Tim Nanai-Williams but the Harlequin was a feisty and irrepressible presence on Friday night.
14. Nemani Nadolo (Fiji)
The giant Crusader was always a threat, forever probing and looking for work and showed his class when soaring high to take a cross kick to score against England.
13. Cory Allen (Wales)
This will be a fleeting appearance in such company when the 22 year old Cardiff Blues centre suffered a hamstring injury after scoring a hat-trick against Uruguay. He has been replaced by Tyler Morgan in the Welsh squad
12. Juan Martin Hernandez (Argentina)
Classy, imperious, aware, the Puma playmaker showed enough glimpses of his best form against New Zealand to suggest he is still a force.
11. Chris Wyles (USA)
Always battling in a losing cause; clever, fast and alert, Wyles scored one try in Brighton and pushed Samoa right to the wire.
10. Johnny Sexton (Ireland)
So much hope is invested in Sexton’s presence, the lynchpin of Joe Schmidt’s side, the coach’s brains on the field and after scratchy form in the build-games. Looked back to his best against Canada.
9. Fumiaki Tanaka (Japan)
Aaron Smith’s understudy at the Highlanders in Super Rugby and his team-mate, outstanding himself against Argentina, will not mind one jot ceding honours.
1. Campese Ma'afu (Fiji)
So often has the Pacific Islanders’ set-piece been derided but those days are long gone with Ma’afu ensuring that England had an uncomfortable ride in the scrum.
2. Guilhem Guirado (France)
The 29-year-old Toulon hooker showed all his fine qualities against Italy, was assured in the set-piece and a fiery asset in the loose, always available, coming close to scoring himself.
3. Kensuke Hatakeyama (Japan)
Never a backward step, never a blink in the face of the pressure from the renowned Springbok scrum, Hatakeyama helped give his side the platform on which they were able to profit.
4. Iain Henderson (Ireland)
The 23-year-old Ulsterman is a fine prospect and is on his way to being one of the stand-out performers of this World Cup, athletic and influential.
5. Hitoshi Ono (Japan)
Another Japan player to leave his mark on the rugby consciousness, this redoubtable, experienced performer certainly showed that his powers have not waned.
6. Michael Leitch (Japan)
The bold Brave Blossoms captain led from the front in so many ways, at no time more tellingly that when having the nerve to turn down a shot at goal to go for the win, a call that echoed round the rugby world.
7. Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe (Argentina)
The passion has not dimmed, the relish for the fight is still there as the veteran Lobbe hauled his side back into the fray against the All Blacks.
8. Mamuka Gorgodze (Georgia)
A well-known figure on the European club circuit, Gorgodze expressed himself in typical robust, all-consuming way to help secure a famous win over Tonga.