The dust is settled, and as we look back at the 2015 Rugby World Cup, it is fair to point out that it was the best one yet. We speak for the entire Rugby community in saying we miss the top class action day in, day out.
Some of Pundit Arena’s rugby writers have pitted their heads together to review what was a cracking tournament, and here are the results. Naturally, they could not agree on a huge amount.
Player of the Tournament:
Ozer McMahon: David Pocock. The Wallaby openside wore the number 8 jersey throughout the tournament, and his dominance on the floor guided them to the top of Pool A and a final appearance.
Brian Barry: David Pocock. The Australian came into 2015 with many question marks surrounding whether he could do it at the top level following some severe injuries. He led the Australians all the way to the final, and showed that he is one of the best breakdown specialists of all time.
Simon Van Ryn: David Pocock. This guy has been all class both on the field and off it aswell. Turnover after turnover, Pocock was a menace at the breakdown all tournament, re-establishing himself as the best ball poacher in the game. He was crucial towards Australia’s final run and he will be vital to their growth next year.
Jonathan Fitzpatrick: David Pocock. The standout performer and the most consistent player throughout the entire Rugby World Cup. Played an instrumental role in Australia’s run to the final, and the Wallabies are nowhere near as effective without their talismanic back-row forward.
Tier 2 Player of the Tournament:
OMcM: DTH Van Der Merwe. The Llanelli Scarlets winger scored four tries in as many games, and these were the highlights of a winless Canadian campaign.
BB: Mamuka Gorgodze. The Toulon flanker was immense throughout Georgia’s four games in Pool C. The 31 year-old scored two tries and was awarded man of the match on two occasions, including their tie against the All-Blacks.
SVR: Nemani Nadalo. One of the most destructive ball carriers in the game at the moment. He started the tournament with a bang before injury ruled him out. Many would disagree with this decision but when a player can take high balls with ease, kick penalty goals from halfway and bust through defenders like Sam Burgess then he must be doing something right.
JF: Ayumu Goromaru. Japan’s fullback was a huge part of their star turn this World Cup. Whether it was the 24 points he scored against South Africa, or that try saving tackle against Tommy Seymour, Goromaru was central to Japan’s good fortunes.
Player we wished we saw more of:
OMcM: Simon Zebo. The Munster man looked sharp against the also rans, but never got his chance against the bigger teams. He ran at defences and punched holes, and this is something Ireland could have done with in the second half of their loss to Argentina.
BB: Beauden Barrett. The fly-half made a big impact each time he was introduced, and the try he scored in the final was the icing on the cake. He will battle it out with Aaron Cruden for the starting berth following Dan Carter’s retirement.
SVR: Nehe Milner Skudder. This bloke has been lighting up world rugby all year with his mesmerising footwork and his infamous ‘Skudder Step’. He’s such a laid-back character off the field but you would be silly to take him lightly on it. For a small guy he punches well above his weight and I can’t wait to see what he has in that bag of tricks next year.
JF: Leone Nakarawa. Some will have taken note of Leone Nakarawa’s all-action displays for Glasgow in the Pro 12, and the Fiji second-row certainly lived up to his billing on the global stage. 10 offloads and nine turnovers from the rampant lock, who does it all with ease. A tough draw for Fiji meant we didn’t get to see Nakarawa beyond the group stages, which is a shame. A big game player.
Match of the tournament:
OMcM: Wales vs Fiji. It may only have ended 23-13 to the Welsh, but it ebbed and flowed from end to end, with offloads aplenty.
BB: The South Africa versus New Zealand semi-final was by no means an aesthetically beautiful game of rugby, but was a war of attrition. It was remarkable to see two giants of the game going toe to toe, with just two points separating them at the death. Wales’ victory over England is also worth a mention.
SVR: Ireland vs Argentina. This game was a perfect illustration of running rugby. Argentina came out of the blocks with a hiss and a roar scoring two scintillating tries, before Ireland surged their way back into it with some outstanding team play. Unfortunately the luck of Irish ran out with the Pumas pulling away, booking themselves a Semi Final spot against the Aussies.
JF: It’s a testament to the World Cup that you could argue many games, but I’ll say New Zealand vs Australia. Finals struggle to live up to their billing, but this year’s decider was a fitting end to an excellent World Cup. Australia’s revival in the second-half added the necessary drama and suspense to make the game an epic encounter.
Try of the tournament:
OMcM: Adam Ashley-Cooper v Argentina. He did the easy part after Drew Mitchell’s meandering 60 meter run beat six defenders. It killed off the Argentinian challenge, and sent Australia to the decider.
BB: Nemani Nadolo vs England. The Fijian giant soared the highest to field a cross-field kick, showing that Fiji are willing to expand their style of Rugby. Were they not drawn in such a difficult group, the Pacific Islanders could have been a real threat to progress.
SVR: Ma’a Nonu’s spectacular solo try against the Wallabies in the final is my pick. There were plenty of pieces of creative brilliance throughout the tournament to choose from but this try – off a masterful Sonny Bill Williams offload came at a crucial time in the final and essentially gave the All-Blacks the ascendancy to claim their third World Cup.
JF: Ayumu Goromaru’s try for Japan against South Africa was remarkable. After 60 minutes when South Africa went 29-22 up, it looked like the end for the valiant Japan. But flawless play from the Japanese back-line stunned the Springboks, and set up for an enthralling final 10 minutes.
Shock of the tournament:
OMcM: Japan. Their self-confidence in victory over South Africa was remarkable but two further triumphs over Samoa and USA proved they were no flash in the pan.
BB: It goes without saying that Japan’s victory over South Africa was the standout. However, a mention must be given to Georgia’s win over Tonga in the opening weekend. It was a big result against a side who turned France over four years ago, and made a real case for Georgian inclusion in the Six Nations.
SVR: The shock of the tournament or should I say shocking call of the tournament (from a Scottish perspective) would have to be Craig Joubert’s decision to rule against the Scots in a last minute penalty that ultimately cost them a semi-final spot. Was Joubert’s excuse for running off the field after the match believable? I guess we will never know.
JF: Aside from the Japan vs South Africa game, the Scotland vs Australia quarter-final warrants a mention. Scotland have shown promise without reward under Vern Cotter, but nobody saw the Six Nations Wooden Spoon winners running the Rugby Championship winners that close. It had all the drama and controversy to create a memorable and shocking World Cup Quarter Final.
Disappointment of the tournament:
OMcM: Ireland failing to reach their first semi-final. Missing five key starters, they were ruthlessly picked apart by the Argentinians, following a promising run in the pool stages.
BB: Scotland failing to reach the semi-final. From a neutral perspective, it was sad to see the Scots lose out in such a manner. It looked like they were finally going to pull off the result they have been threatening for years, but it was not to be.
JF: France. Everyone expected a different France to turn up in the Rugby World Cup, but it was the same dismal side that have phoned in poor Six Nations campaigns since 2011. Rudderless against Ireland, and utterly dismantled by New Zealand. For all the talent and individual flair they possess, it was hugely disappointing that France couldn’t even show a fraction of that on the rugby world’s biggest stage.
Moment of the Tournament:
OMcM: Sonny Bill Williams giving his winners medal to a young fan who was ruthlessly tackled by a steward after making his way onto the field. It was a gesture of real class.
BB: Dan Carter’s drop goal versus South Africa. The last time New Zealand came to a World Cup in the Northern Hemisphere, their reluctance to take on a drop goal when it was on was their downfall. This time, their ability to slot one when it wasn’t on saw them over the line. When Carter took a step back against the Springboks, it changed the momentum of the game.
SVR: Without a doubt the moment of the tournament was Japan’s courageous last gasp defeat over the Springboks. The ‘Brave Blossoms’ played rugby the way it should be played with their passion, do or die attitude and willingness to have a crack. They will go down as everyones second favourite side for 2019.
JF: Feasibly the shock of the tournament and match of the tournament featuring the try of the tournament – Japan’s upset of South Africa is the biggest upset in rugby union history. The ultimate underdog story, where the courageous outsiders finally achieved. An incredible moment, and one that will fill pages of books and screens for decades to come.
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