Home Rugby World Rugby XV – Who Have Been The Most Consistent Performers Of 2015?

World Rugby XV – Who Have Been The Most Consistent Performers Of 2015?

Ozer McMahon picks the World rugby XV of 2015….

As 2015 creeps to an end, there is plenty for rugby fans to reflect upon with fondness in the year that was. New Zealand lost their Rugby Championship crown to Australia, but became the first team to retain the World Cup, while Kiwi franchise the Highlanders won a first ever Super Rugby competition. In the northern hemisphere Ireland won a second consecutive Six Nations title and French side Toulon won an unprecedented third European Cup on the bounce.

There were many marvellous moments but here is a XV of players who maintained the highest standards of form over the calendar year of 2015.

 

  1. Ben Smith (New Zealand & Highlanders)

He may not get create the headlines or garner the column inches of some the players he lines out beside, in both his club and international back threes, but the 29-year-old was imperious in 2015. He has an innate in-game intelligence and despite his relative lack of bulk is rarely found wanting in the physical stakes. He runs great angles and has an uncanny knack of being in the right place at the right time. He may have only scored two tries at the World Cup, but his composure and all round game anchored the New Zealand backline.

  1. Nehe Milner-Skudder (New Zealand & Hurricanes)

The breakthrough star of 2015, the diminutive winger won the hearts of rugby followers new and old with his performances in the autumn. He debuted for the All Blacks in this years truncated Rugby Championship and finished the year with 8 tries in 8 games. The 25-year-old’s elevation to the New Zealand team is all the more impressive given this was also his first season as a Super Rugby starter. The Hurricanes fell at the final hurdle, but they were a captivating watch all season, and Milner-Skudder was a prime reason for this. He crossed for 4 tries but danced past 44 defenders, and made 24 clean breaks.

  1. Ma’a Nonu (New Zealand & Hurricanes)

While usually a different beast in the All Black jersey, the 33-year-old enjoyed one of his most consistent Super Rugby campaigns for the Hurricanes this year, before leaving all his rivals in the dust at the World Cup. A freakish combination of pace and power, with an often overlooked subtle side, the centre smashed holes for fun in opposition defences through the entirety of 2015. Agreed a big money move to Toulon before the World Cup and left his 103 cap international career behind in some style by scoring the decisive try in the final as New Zealand retained their title.

  1. Matt Giteau (Australia & Touon)

Australia v South Africa - The Rugby Championship

The man who broke the Australian rugby unions selection policy on overseas players proved to be worth his weight in green and gold. Having guided Toulon to a third straight European crown he slipped seamlessly into a Wallaby midfield for the first time in four years with a calmness and precision that brought the best out those around him. The 33-year-old took the pressure off Bernard Foley, which enabled the out-half to thrive inside him. Having excelled in Europe, stepping back into the international arena after so long in the wilderness showed there is no way to dilute sheer talent.

  1. Nemani Nadolo (Fiji & Crusaders)

The complete antithesis of the winger selected opposite him, the 6 foot 4 inch Fijian smashed his way into the public consciousness with a barnstorming year. He topped the charts for the Crusaders with tries scored {9}, try assists {7}, carriers made {112} and clean breaks {26}. He carried this form into the World Cup where he was one of many impressive Islanders who pushed each of the top three seeds in their pool all the way. He contributed two tries and left 16 defenders crumpled in his wake. Amazingly the 19 and a half stone behemoth has a sweet left foot, and is Fiji’s primary goal kicker.

  1. Dan Biggar (Wales & Ospreys)

The most consistent pivot in world rugby over the past 12 months, whose kicking technique attracted as many comments as his stellar showings did, stepped into a leadership role with the Welsh following a glut of unfortunate injuries. The 26-year-old is an old school out-half who kicks with precision from the hand and the tee, and distributes excellently from first receiver. He may not carry the same threat with ball in hand as most of his contemporaries, but he marshalled a largely second string back line, to a narrow quarter final defeat in the World Cup in impressive fashion.

  1. Aaron Smith (New Zealand & Highlanders)

Possibly the most influential player in the world in 2015, the scrum-half led his club side to a first ever Super Rugby crown before directing an All Black side to a second straight World Cup triumph. The spikey and sprightly 27-year-old is the perfect mixture of fiery aggression and cool headed decision maker. He is a brilliant link man who dictates supremely to his pack and his backs as to who should be doing what with the ball. While his constant chirping to referees often earns him the benefit of the doubt in any close calls.

  1. David Pocock (Australia & Brumbies)

Argentina v Australia - Semi Final: Rugby World Cup 2015

What happens when you have two of the best openside flankers in world rugby at your disposal? Shift one to number 8 and revolutionise how the battle of the breakdown would be won and lost. That was Michael Cheika’s response to the aforementioned question as he picked a team that won a first Rugby Championship since 2011 and made a strong run to the World Cup final. No player completed more turnovers at the World Cup {17} than Pocock. The 27-year-old also emerged as the most competent maul director in world rugby, registering 8 tries from the back of it during the Brumbies Super Rugby campaign.

  1. Richie McCaw (New Zealand & Crusaders)

There was times in 2015 when you wondered if it was a year too far for one of the greatest rugby players of all time. Yet when push came shove, McCaw produced his “A game” during the knockout stages of the World Cup to become the first captain to ever lift consecutive Webb Ellis crowns. The 34-year-old was relentless in the World Cup, leading the charge to stymie Australia’s two pronged open-side attack. May not have been the best year of his career, but still better than any other rival.

  1. Michael Leitch (Japan & Chiefs)

Japan certainly made waves at the World Cup in the autumn, and that was in no small part down to the presence and experience of Leitch in the backrow. The 27-year-old captained the Brave Blossoms during their wonderful autumnal run, but it was his form for the Chiefs in their Super Rugby campaign that leaves a lasting impression. He excelled from the number 8 role, where he was prominent both offensively and defensively, averaging 8 carries a game, where he crossed for three tries, while his also recorded an average of 6.5 tackles and 1 turnover a game.

  1. Alun Wyn Jones (Wales & Ospreys)

A totem of northern hemisphere rugby, the 32-year-old continues to be the shining light in the Welsh pack. He may not wear the captains armband but is the player all those in red look to for inspiration in difficult moments, and there were plenty of them for Wales this year. Shorn of most of their key backs, Wyn Jones led a pack, who took on even more responsibility during a quite testing time, to an impressive World Cup campaign given the circumstances.

  1. Brodie Retallick (New Zealand & Chiefs)

The perfect modern day second row has raised the bar as to what is now expected of all those in the engine room. It’s no longer acceptable to just rule the skies, the Chief is powerful with ball in hand, aggressive and eager in defence and a solid scrummager. Scarcely believable he is only 24, he is set to dominate this position for the majority of the next decade. Head and shoulders above every lock forward in world rugby.

  1. Sekope Kepu (Australia & Waratahs)

It wasn’t a vintage year for tight heads, but the 29-year-old gets the nod because of the role he played in stabilising a rickety Australian scrum. More mobile around the field than most tight heads of his generation, he completed 40 tackles at the World Cup, Kepu’s work rate was vital in a miserly Australian defensive system. He also crossed for a try, and provided one of the moments of the World Cup with a delicious out the back offload in a crucial pool clash against England that led to a Bernard Foley try.

  1. Dane Coles (New Zealand & Hurricanes)

New Zealand v England

It took a while for the mobile hooker to shake off the impact player tag and make the starting jersey his own, but 2015 was certainly the year the 29-year-old Hurricane proved himself to be a key cog in the Kiwi machine. He added bulk to solidify his presence at scrum time, yet manage to retain the dynamism that makes him a real threat with ball in hand. No Hurricane forward scored more than his three tries last season, while his 62 tackles and 8 turnovers for the ‘Canes prove his defensive worth. He also presided over the most accurate lineout at the World Cup.

  1. Scott Sio (Australia & Brumbies)

It’s not long since the scrum was a well-regarded weak link in the Australian game. The emergence of the 24-year-old has consolidated the set piece and helped Australia become on the most solid scrummaging units at international level. His worth to the national side was made all the more evident when the Wallabies toiled to victory in the World Cup quarter final over Scotland when Sio left the field early through injury and Australia capitulated up front. The loose head always empties the tank, and his Super Rugby average of 6 tackles a game is a decent return for a prop.

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