The 2016 autumn internationals shook the world order. Ireland announced themselves as rugby royalty, England secured an unbeaten year and South Africa went into free fall. How do these developments shake up the world XV?
To provide context, I have also named the players who would have made my XV before the autumn international season.
1. Mako Vunipola
The loosehead continued his excellent Saracens form and is now the premier man in his position.
Previous incumbent: Mako Vunipola
2. Rory Best
Dane Coles and Agustin Creevy are ahead of the Ireland captain across the whole of 2016, but Best’s set piece and willingness to carry meant that he is showing some of his finest form in the twilight of his career.
Previous incumbent: Dane Coles
3. Tadhg Furlong
A rock at the scrum, and a menace in the loose. There wasn’t a tighthead who got near him in the autumn.
Previous incumbent: Sekope Kepu
4. Jonny Gray
Relentless in the middle of Vern Cotter’s pack, the Glasgow lock is making a fine case for Lions inclusion in one of Warren Gatland’s strongest positions.
Previous Incumbent: Maro Itoje
5. Brodie Retallick
Missing from Chicago, what a difference he made in Dublin. There are plenty of challengers, but for now he remains the standout lock in world rugby.
Previous Incumbent: Brodie Retallick
6. Chris Robshaw
At long last, Chris Robshaw makes a world XV. The England workhouse was exceptional in the autumn, ensuring England didn’t miss James Haskell as much as was feared.
Previous Incumbent: Jerome Kaino
7. David Pocock
Not a shoo-in ahead of Josh van der Flier and CJ Stander, but Japan-bound Pocock was crucial to Wallaby wins against Wales and France.
Previous Incumbent: Michael Hooper
8. Billy Vunipola
Big Billy simply had a much bigger impact on matches than any other No. 8 this autumn.
Previous Incumbent: Billy Vunipola
9. Ben Youngs
Youngs edges out the excellent Conor Murray and TJ Perenara. His box kicking has improved dramatically, and his speed of thought is the best of any scrum-half in the world.
Three killer dummies made fools of Pieter-Steph Du Toit (twice) and Nick Phipps.
Previous Incumbent: Will Genia
10. Beauden Barrett
Previous Incumbent: Beauden Barrett
11. Jonny May
Two tries in three matches after three-quarters of a year on the sidelines. Not only was May’s finishing strong, but the way he covered the back field against Argentina after Eliot Daly’s red card was superb.
Previous Incumbent: Julian Savea
12. Garry Ringrose
Ringrose was asked to fill in at inside centre when Robbie Henshaw was injured against the All Blacks, and despite being in many people’s eyes an out-and-out No. 13, he was a great asset for Ireland against New Zealand and Australia.
Previous Incumbent: Owen Farrell
13. Tevita Kuridrani
Four tries in five matches for the outside centre mean he edges Jonathan Joseph to the jersey.
Previous Incumbent: Anton Lienert-Brown
14. Israel Dagg
— Fox Sports Lab (@FoxSportsLab) December 5, 2016
After a couple of seasons in the doldrums, Israel Dagg is back. With Ben Smith not hitting his usual high notes, and Australia still not making the most of Israel Folau’s copious gifts, he is currently the best back three player in the world.
Previous Incumbent: Israel Dagg
15. Stuart Hogg
What would we think of him if he were wearing all black? A devastating attacker and the heartbeat of the Scottish team.
Previous Incumbent: Ben Smith
Daniel Rey, Pundit Arena
Heineken Rugby Club celebrates and rewards real supporters who make the game what it is.
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