Class acts at the Rugby World Cup

2011-10-22 18:03

Usually the finest crop of players in a tournament like the World Cup comes from the last two remaining teams.

But in this case, today’s finalists, New Zealand and France, are not the main contributors.

Fullback Mils Muliaina (31) has been a great servant of the All Blacks and it was fitting that he reached the milestone of 100 caps for country in the World Cup. But the guy who stepped into his shoes, Israel Dagg, has been a revelation in the last line of defence.

Dagg (23) has been rock-solid under the high ball and particularly devastating on the counter attack, with the ability to create havoc with ball in hand.

George North (19), the 105kg Welsh winger who made his debut at home in 2009 against South Africa, is one of the rising stars of the game, having scored nine tries in 14 matches.

His 110kg teammate Jamie Roberts is a world-class centre who has arguably been one of the stand-out players at this World Cup. He’s been a major weapon in the Dragons’ defence.

The experience, determination and strength of Ma’a Nonu (29), the All Blacks’ centre, makes him a formidable member of any team, earning him the nod ahead of the dynamic Sonny Bill Williams.

Australia’s wing player, Digby Ioane, has that rare ability to create something out of nothing, which makes him so dangerous.

With All Blacks’ flyhalves Dan Carter and Colin Slade injured and Wallaby Quade Cooper experiencing a nightmare tournament, there was no obvious choice for the flyhalf berth. But young Aaron Cruden slipped seamlessly into the No?10 jersey for the hosts.

Mike Phillips is arguably one of the world’s finest scrum-halves and proved it with a man-of-the match performance against Ireland in the quarter-finals. He scored an equally fine try in the semifinal against finalist France.

Imanol Harinordoquy, the French eighthman, has been a revelation. His size and athleticism make him a key attacking force for the French.

The incomparable captain Richie McCaw has been arguably the best open-side flanker in the world for nearly a decade. And teammate Jerome Kaino has not been nominated International Rugby Board player of the year for nothing.

The selection of South Africa’s Danie Rossouw at lock, ahead of his more illustrious counterparts Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha, probably came as surprise.

Owen Franks is undoubtedly the strongest tighthead prop at the World Cup and together with Tony Woodcock, the most capped prop in All Black history, forms a formidable combination.

And Bismarck du Plessis of South Africa simply has no peer in world rugby when it comes to the position of hooker.

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