The Rugby Blog “Team of the Pool Stages” – Official & (In)disputable

It’s a pretty tedious 3 hour ferry ride from the South Island to the North, even if, after some successful blagging from Hutch, you are sitting in the comfort of the luxury lounge. So what better way to make time pass rather quicker than to pick a Team of the Pool Stages. So after much heated discussion, here it is.

Barring Ireland and Australia being on the other side of the draw and Tonga beating France, the World Cup has panned out much as everybody would have expected. This could be seen as a bit of a shame but there have still been some stirring performances from the so-called smaller teams and many of the players involved. This is reflected in the fact that four of the team will be watching the remainder of the tournament from the comfort of their own homes.

This number increases to five if you count the desperately unlucky Dan Carter whose absence makes the tournament poorer, whatever your allegiance. He makes the cut by virtue of a peerless display against the French. Samoa contribute two players and Tonga one after their stirring contributions to some of the finest games to date. This includes Paul Williams who was outstanding throughout and had it not been for his outrageous red card could have helped his team take a notable scalp against the Springboks.

Some of the more established teams have disappointed despite going through which explains why England, France and Australia do not have a single representative between them. New Zealand, Wales and Ireland however contribute three players apiece with South Africa adding two. These have been the best teams on display so far. Ma’a Nonu has been my player of the tournament causing havoc wherever he has gone allied to much improved distribution. He forms an enormous back line with compatriot Richard Kahui and the Welsh duo of the outstanding George North and the rejuvenated Jamie Roberts.

In the front row Cian Healy has scrummaged more powerfully than we have seen before to add to his already excellent work around the park and Castrogiovanni has shored up the Italian team all on his own at times. Bismarck Du Plessis meanwhile looks to have consigned John Smit to ending his international career on the bench, something which in truth should have happened some time ago.

The other area worthy of note is the back row. It seems most of the Man of the Match awards in the tournament have gone to ‘loosies’ with the Georgian, Tongan and Namibian back rowers taking plenty of plaudits. But Sean O’Brien and Sam Warburton have been simply outstanding and would have to rate next to Nonu as players of the tournament thus far. Granted O’Brien has been playing at 7 but he has played a lot of rugby at 6 and you would get short odds on these two packing down together in Australia in 2013 in the red of the Lions. Warburton is also skipper of the team for the way in which he seems to have inspired his young charges to finally perform on the world stage. They are joined by Tongan Viliami Ma’fuu who has been frightening around the park and had Frenchmen diving out of the way in a manner not seen since The Duke of Wellington shouted ‘Charge!’.

So here is the team. I don’t expect a single person to agree but frankly, it’s my article. Deal with it.

15. Paul Williams, 14. George North, 13. Jamie Roberts, 12. Ma’a Nonu, 11. Richard Kahui, 10. Dan Carter, 9. Khan Fotuali’i, 1. Cian Healy, 2. Bismarck Du Plessis, 3. Martin Castrogiovanni, 4. Danie Roussouw, 5. Paul O’Connell, 6. Sean O’Brien, 7. Sam Warburton, 8. Viliami Ma’afu

by Stuart Peel

50 thoughts on “The Rugby Blog “Team of the Pool Stages” – Official & (In)disputable

  1. Tuilagi the only player who has stuck his hand up for England, but I wouldn’t pick him over your two. What about an over 35 team. Shaw would make it!

    1. I agree. Good team but no way would I have Williams ahead of Dagg or Beale. Nonu at 13 instead of Roberts and Sonny Bill at 12.

      1. It’s not a world 15, it’s team of the tournament. Beale has hardly played, Williams has been outstanding.

        Are you a Kiwi by any chance?

  2. I think charteris or richie gray could be in at second row instead of roussow and I’m unsure of carter at 10. Can’t think of a replacement mind. Not really been a fly halfs tournament so far.

  3. Danie Roussouw?????
    hes been useless. quite a few who have played better.

    Id rather have Faasavalu (samoa) instead of warburton.If Warbers was immense for Wales,Faasavalu was a warrior for Samoa. unbeileveable unit (112 kgs) but with a serious engine.

    Kahui hasnt done anything special for me, Tuilangi better.

    1. Got to disagree! Roussouw has been immense for the Boks. Warburton has been the best flanker in the tournament alongside O’Brien. Kahui is debatable.

      1. ben – we must have been watching different tournaments.

        one big tackle v wales aside, all rossow has done is lumber around slowly , fall of tackles, knock on and look knackered. plus hes to heavy to lift in the lineout.

        Mooggys suggestion of Gray is a good one. Or Lawes.

        Re Warburton, hes been immense for wales but Faasavalu is s human wrecking ball who can also win the ball on the ground.

        I would rather have Faasavalu, kaino and Stowers than against Sean O’Brien, Sam Warburton, Viliami Ma’afu.

        1. In the loose he’s been brilliant, especially at the rucks. You need to watch in real time mate, he’s far from lumbering!

          Gray didn’t play as well as he could have done. Although he was good against England, he failed to live up to his potential and was too quiet against Argentina, whilst Lawes only played two group games so picking him doesn’t work and he wasn’t exactly awesome in those.

          And what, you would not have Sean O’Brien?!

      2. Ive been surprised by Roussouw. Been miles better than i have ever given him credit for.

        Despite being an all black, i think Kaino is hugely underrated. Him and O’Brien certs for my back-row

        1. Often gets forgotten about with Bakkies and Matfield in front of him.

          Kaino, as always, has been fantastic.

          1. Kaino was very close but SW and SOB have just been incredible. Richie gray got debated, as did Charteris in the row but Roussouw has been outstanding, not sure which bit you were watching with that analysis Jimmy

      1. Hyperbole! You could make a case for Ashton. To be fair he has delivered. England look solid as always, nothing new, nothing that’ll blow you away but they’re always solid. Same for SA.

  4. Some interesting choices there. Just for his leadership of the lowest scoring, and lowest ranked team in the tournament, (and being a Sarries fan) I would have put Burger in at 7. And personally I would pick Sonny-Bill Williams ahead of Jamie Roberts.

      1. Fancy seeing you here Brighty!

        I like North but not yet entirely sold. Tuilagi elder is a beast of a player though

        1. I wasn’t sold on North until this tournament but in the last 2 games he has been unstoppable. Tuilagi hasn’t been that great I don’t think, he’s been so obsessed with sitting people down rather than going round them he butchered a few chances. Ashton is top try scorer so got debated but he has done little else. Also we did Ashton Cam at the Georgia match for 10 mins and he just moped around like a sulky kid which annoyed me and counted against him. Rational? Probably not. But it’s my team.

      1. Ben you know what I meant, I would say Parrise has been his reliable marauding best and deserves a mention!

    1. Did you see the Australia game? The man was everywhere. He would have been maybe my first name into that team.

      1. Ah, but have you seen the other Ireland games? One purple patch may not a tournament make… He was subbed off for another Donncha in the last game I watched, and you can’t tell me it’s to protect him!

  5. Stu, I’m sure England would rather 15 players in the quarter finals than any in your drunken ramble. :-) p.s. Your tips are woeful.

    1. You know I’m at my most lucid after a few jars Cramps. Which Aussies would you have in there? The team’s falling apart at the seams, it’s sad to see a once great sporting nation in terminal decline what with the Ashes debacle and everything. Feel for you guys.

      1. I don’t think there’s an Aussie worthy of a place in the ‘best of the pool stage XV’. Since the Italy match, we’ve not had our first team on the paddock and it’s showed. Two dads has been the only player of any consistency.

        As to your dream of the terminal decline of Australia as a sporting nation; Yes, gravity is a harsh mistress and the heady days of our global sporting dominance (in all codes that matter) at the turn of the century may (for now)be cherished memories. Yet, our participation in this tournament is not yet done, and even if we do crash out against the Yarpies, I take heart in the fact that this team, averaging at 23 years (even including Radike), has already won the tri nations and is likely to peak in 2015 once Ewan McKenzie takes over as national coach.

        I wouldn’t worry about us until England has won an ashes series 5-0 and/or not lost an ashes series in, was it 16 or 17yrs? Or in the unlikely event that you win a second RWC before we win our third.

        Speaking of coming apart at the seams, is there any truth to the rumour that the reason the numbers slid off the England jerseys earlier in the tournament was due to the fat content of Nick Easter’s sweat after he and Steve Thompson ate all the pies?

  6. interesting that not one australian, englishman or frenchman is in. but not really a surprise – the thing with team of the pool stages or whatever, is it’s about individual performances, when any team sport (esp. a WC) relies on a) playing together and b) doing it when it counts. although I’m not discounting moments, or even games, of individual brilliance, they are few and far between when determining winners. england have been poor, indisciplined and boring, but faced two top 9 sides, which no other top tier nation had to do, and despite playing badly, won every game. though i’m sure i’ll enjoy SA Aus the most out of the QFs. can’t really argue with your selections – but would like to add that every team who got through, even argentina, have a shot at this. their final just comes earlier than everyone else’s. england france may be the wooden spoon type battle on form, but I’m delighted how it’s turned out, one underdog against NZ (i believe argentina do have a slight chance if they can keep the ball in the pack), the rest is 50/50, doing it when it counts in my book. with the bookies i’d back the underdogs for value for money on all of these 2 horse races. Argentina to lif thte trophy at 275-1…

  7. Isreal Dagg deserves to be there ahead of Paul Williams at 15 and Sergio Parrise instead of Mafu at 8 otherwise that is a good selection.

    1. I still think Jamie Heaslip is a better 8 than Parisse, marginally. Seemed to shine ahead of him in that game.

  8. Mamuka Gorgodze – honourable mention
    Jacques Burger – world cup hero
    Todd Clever – smashing machine
    Paul Emerick – one unbelievable game – was it against Italy?

    Let’s hear it for the minnows!

    1. Agreed Spike, we were going to do a minnows team of the tournament as well. Still might, unless you want to take it on. Keen?

      In addition to your ones who all got discussed, James Arlidge nearly won a controversial nod at 10. Mu’a, the Tongan scrum half come prop, Taumalolo, the Tongan prop purely for laughing at the French front row, Marius Tincu and that huge unit if an American 6 whose name I can’t remember all also got talked about. Have loved watching the minnows, been more enjoyable than England

      1. I didn’t watch enough of the minnow games to make a proper assessment but i agree the Japanese 10 Arlidge was excellent in adversity. Who was the Japanese 10 last world cup? Same bloke? i remember him being pretty handy too.

        Just seen the England team…have i missed something or are Haskell and Lawes really the two players who’ve been causing us to play so badly? I’d say they’re two of the most dynamic players on the pitch.

        Glad Flood’s in, hopefully he’ll take the ball at 1st receiver a fair bit.

  9. yea i’d add in Ashton on the wing. If wingers are meant to score tries and finish, he’s at the top atm.

  10. Balon is right Heaslip is just coming back to his best form, expect a big game from him on Saturday. The Irish back row have been on fire in their last three games
    in fact the Irish pack have been fantastic

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