2015 will go down as perhaps the greatest Rugby World Cup to date, with thrills, spills, and plenty of upsets throughout the month in England.
As we look back at the tournament, the debate as to whom performed the best is raging, so naturally we compiled our team of the World Cup, taking every game into account with equal weighting.
15 Ayumu Goromaru
Japan had an historic tournament, and Goromaru was instrumental throughout, making hit after hit, and scored 24 points as Eddie Jones’ side pulled off the biggest shock in the history of the Rugby World Cup. His try-saving tackle on Scotland’s Tommy Seymour will go down as one of the best moments of the tournament.
14 Nehe Milner-Skudder
One year on from playing ITM Cup, NMS has been tearing up opposition defences on an international stage. Perhaps overshadowed by Julian Savea on the other flank, the Hurricanes flyer has nonetheless been in imperious form, and was on hand to give New Zealand their first try in the final.
13 Mark Bennett
The sole Scotsman on the team is fully deserving of his place, sneaking ahead of Conrad Smith and Jesse Kriel. He was nominated for Breakthrough Player of the Year, and his late try against Australia in Twickenham looked like it was going to secure the Scots the most unlikely of victories.
12 Matt Giteau
Ma’a Nonu certainly won the battle of the inside centres in the final, but on the balance of seven games played, Giteau just shades it. Michael Cheika has been lauded for his decision to allow overseas players to line out for the Wallabies this year, and this has been one of the main reasons for their upturn in fortunes. Giteau has been immense in the midfield, acting as a second master distributor to the outside backs who have been causing all sorts of problems.
11 Julian Savea
With as many tries ever scored by one player at a Rugby World Cup, Savea has impressed throughout. His tries against France will go down as one of the great World Cup performances. His physicality gave the Kiwis a real edge in the decider. Should not be too much debate here.
10 Dan Biggar
Dan Carter has rolled back the years over the past few weeks, while Nicolas Sanchez and Bernard Foley also have staked claims for inclusions to this team. But Biggar had an amazing tournament, helping the Welsh to an unlikely victory over England, and leading the charge as they agonisingly fell short against South Africa.
9 Aaron Smith
This is the toughest call of all to make. Gareth Davies scored five tries in the tournament for Wales. Greig Laidlaw led the Scots as they narrowly missed out on a semi-final spot. Fourie Du Preez took over the Springbok captaincy following the injury to Jean De Villiers, and led by example throughout. However, for us, Aaron Smith gets the nod for a consistent and rapid level of distribution.
1 Marcos Ayerza
The Argentinian loose-head was one of the stories of the tournament for the Pumas, with display after display, adding to what was the best scrum in the competition. He was the stand-out performer in his position.
2 Dane Coles
Coles scrummaged well throughout the tournament, while his throwing and ball-carrying was up there with the best. Going into the final, perhaps Stephen Moore shaded it, but the All-Blacks line-out thwarted him time and time again.
3 Sekope Kepu
The Australian scrum exceeded all expectations this tournament. Mario Ledesma has made some obvious adjustments, but it was up to Kepu and Co. to do the business on the field. His performance against England provided a springboard for their success in Twickenham.
4 Lood De Jager
Eben Etzebeth was seen as the main man for the Springboks at second row, but it was De Jager that received the plaudits. In both ball-carrying and aerial fielding, the 22 year-old who took the plaudits and announced himself on the world stage.
5 Brodie Retallick
Kane Douglas has also had an impressive tournament, but the 2014 IRB Player of the Year has picked up right where he left off last season. His try against France showed his versitality and all-round football ability. South Africa and Australia struggled at the line-out against New Zealand, and Retallick had a lot to do with that.
6 Francois Louw
Louw put in one of the great back row performances against the All-Blacks in the semi-final, and retained a consistent level of performance throughout. Dan Lydiate also makes a case here.
The Georgian talisman scored two tries and was also awarded man of the match twice in the four group games. At the breakdown and with ball in hand, the Toulon flanker was everywhere. He gets the nod ahead of Michael Hooper and Richie McCaw.
8 David Pocock
It couldn’t be anybody else, could it? Pocock put on a clinic in the semi-final victory over Argentina, in what was arguably the greatest back-row performance of all time. He has been instrumental to the Aussies’ success.