Full-back: Ayumu Goromaru (Japan)
One of the stars of the tournament, Goromaru’s attacking intent and near-faultless goal-kicking provided some memorable moments as Japan produced their best World Cup finish in their history by finishing third in a group containing South Africa, Scotland and Samoa. Narrowly beating All Black Ben Smith to this position, Goromaru gets the nod for his overall contribution to Japan’s tournament, scoring one of the tries of the tournament against South Africa, while proving ever-reliable with the boot.
Wing: Santiago Cordero (Argentina)
A breath of fresh air, Argentina’s pocket-rocket was almost impossible to stop throughout the tournament with his wonderful jinking runs leaving many defenders on their backsides. A throwback to a bygone era, Cordero is a winger built in the same mould of the likes of Shane Williams, and was a key performer in attack as Argentina thrilled everyone with their more expansive brand of rugby.
Outside Centre: Ma’a Nonu (New Zealand)
Moved to outside centre to accommodate his new club-mate in this team, the man who has dominated the All Black 12 jersey for over a decade proved once again why he is arguably the most complete centre in world rugby. His shuddering strength and power and burst of pace has never been in doubt, as seen with his tries against Tonga and Australia, but it is his intelligence and suttle handling skills which separate him from the rest as shown when assisting Beauden Barrett’s score against South Africa. Having passed the 100-cap milestone during the tournament, Nonu retires as a two-time World Cup winner and All Black legend.
Inside Centre: Matt Giteau (Australia)
How glad Aussie fans are that Michael Cheika brought in the overseas-based duo of Giteau and Mitchell! The Toulon playmaker turned back the clock to provide the creativity needed to unleash a devastatingly-strong Australian backline. Giteau’s ability to dictate the pace of a game through his kicking and passing game was pivotal in pushing Australia all the way to the final.
Wing: Adam Ashley-Cooper (Australia)
A player who never seems to get the attention he deserves, Ashley-Cooper proved instrumental in Australia’s march through the tournament, finishing the tournament with four tries. Only the second player to score a hat-trick in a World Cup semi-final, Ashley-Cooper once again proved he is the man for the big occasions. One of the most intelligent backs in the game, at the age of 31, this may prove to be his last World Cup and if so he has gone out with a bang.
Fly-half: Dan Carter (New Zealand)
The toughest pick of the lot with Nicolas Sanchez and Dan Biggar also excelling at this World Cup, however it had to be the mercurial talent of Carter. The greatest fly-half in the history of the sport bowed out in fashion by lifting the Webb Ellis Cup, and provided some wonderful moments throughout, from his wonderful offload for Julian Savea’s try against France to his audacious drop-goals against South Africa and Australia. A worthy winner.
Scrum-half: Gareth Davies (Wales)
New Zealand’s Aaron Smith once again showed people why he is the best No.9 in the world, but for sheer impact it has to be the Welshman who gets the nod. Thrown in at the deep end following Rhys Webb’s injury on the eve of the tournament, Davies scored four tries in the competition – including key scores against England and South Africa – and brought an aggressive edge from scrum-half, not seen from Wales since the days of Mike Phillips.
Loosehead Prop: Scott Sio (Australia)
A key component in an Aussie pack that surprised everyone with their dominance at the scrum, Sio has developed into one of the best scrummagers in the world learning under the expert guidance of Argentinian legend Mario Ledesma. Sio laid the foundations for Australia’s emphatic victory over hosts England by dominating Dan Cole in the scrum and his importance in this Wallabies side was underlined in the semi-final victory over Argentina, where his absence through injury saw Australia struggle at times in the scrum. Honourable mention must also go to Argentina’s Marcos Ayerza who was excellent throughout the tournament.
Hooker: Agustin Creevy (Argentina)
The heartbeat of an Argentinian side that lit up the tournament with their wondrous style of play, captain Creevy was crucial to the Pumas success. Strong in the scrum and an effective ball-carrier, Argentina’s No.2 led from the front as Argentina made it to the semi-finals.
Tighthead Prop: WP Nel (Scotland)
Somewhat of a surprise package, South African-born Nel was one of the main reasons why Scotland made it out of their pool and came agonisingly close to beating the Aussies in that epic quarter-final. Having torn Scott Sio to shreds in that match, Nel laid the foundations for Greig Laidlaw to kick the points that so nearly pushed Scotland into the last four.
Second-row: Alun Wyn Jones (Wales)
Without doubt one of the best lock forwards in the world, Jones continues to pull out excellent displays consistently for his country. A battle-hardened leader of men, Jones has developed into a highly-skilled second-row with his handling skills having improved dramatically over the last few years and was once again crucial as Wales made it out of the pool stages at the expense of neighbours England.
Second-row: Leone Nakarawa (Fiji)
It seems ridiculous to leave Brodie Retallick out of any sort of rugby team at the moment, but the big Fijian gets the nod. Drawn in the group of death alongside England, Wales and Australia, Fiji bowed out of the competition at the first stage with their heads held high after some hard-fought battles which could have resulted in victories over the English and the Welsh. A nightmare at line-outs for opposing teams, it was Nakarawa’s influence with ball-in-hand that proved most effective with his ball-carrying and his expert offloads.
Blindside Flanker: Scott Fardy (Australia)
Again a difficult decision to choose between him and his final rival Jerome Kaino, however Fardy has been one of the standout performers of this World Cup as part of an Australian back-row that has been truly immense. With Pocock and Hooper both seeming to get all the attention, Fardy has slipped under the radar slightly, but his impact on Australia’s march to the final was there for all to see with his tackling and intelligent work at the breakdown.
Openside Flanker: Mamuka Gorgodze (Georgia)
A tough call given the fine form of McCaw and Hooper, but it is impossible to leave out Georgia’s inspirational captain. A more natural blindside, Gorgodze moves to No.7 to accommodate others in this team. Having led the way in Georgia’s opening game of the tournament by scoring a try in their shock victory over Tonga, ‘Gorgodzilla’ has been instrumental in Georgia producing their best World Cup performance in history by finishing third in their pool. A truly talismanic leader who seemed to tackle anything and everything at this tournament, the reaction inside the Millenium Stadium after he was announced as man-of-the-match against New Zealand was another reminder of just how good he has been.
Number Eight: David Pocock (Australia)
Surely the undisputed player of the tournament, David Pocock continues to astound everyone with his faultless work at the breakdown. Having won countless turnover ball for his side throughout Australia’s campaign, Pocock has proven the difference in many games at this World Cup, with his exceptional displays against England and Argentina being particular highlights. His form remains all the more incredible given that he has twice had to come back from serious knee injuries and his absence against Scotland was one of the main reasons why the Scots came so close to knocking the Wallabies out at the quarter-final stage.