The 2015 Rugby World Cup has come to a fitting conclusion, with the All Blacks being crowned champions for the third time. While the New Zealanders were the undisputed dominant force at the business-end of the tournament, there were some incredible performances throughout the competition from both newcomers and big-name stars alike. Here are the ten best players from the Rugby World Cup:
Lood de Jager (South Africa)
South Africa had an incredibly inconsistent Rugby World Cup campaign. While the team endured a shock-loss at the hands of the Japanese and an underwhelming performance against the All Blacks, one player was unanimously effective in every appearance. 22-year-old lock Lood de Jager showed that he doesn’t just belong on rugby’s biggest stage, but thrives on it. The big second-rower entrenched himself as a powerful ball-carrier, strong defender, imposing line-out jumper, and, unexpectedly, great in open-space. Lood de Jager showed that he, alongside Eben Etzebeth, are a pivotal part of the future of Springbok rugby.
Sonny Bill Williams (New Zealand)
If there was a Spirited Player of the Tournament award, Sonny Bill Williams would win it, and probably an abundance of other accolades as the All Black superstar proved to be the most effective substitute in the competition. On the field, Williams was immense, showcasing his trademark offloads, powerful runs, and devastating skill to full effect, getting the All Blacks over the gainline every time he touched the ball. It’s hard to top Ma’a Nonu’s starting impact, and somehow he managed to do it in all the do-or-die games. Off the field, he was stellar. Putting the team above his own performances during interviews, showing admirable sportsmanship by comforting Jesse Kriel in the win over the Springboks, and most spectacularly, giving his winner’s medal to a young boy who was tackled by a security guard when jumping on the field to get up close to his hero. This is a man who, despite all his fame and achievements, epitomises the spirit of rugby, and that has to be admired.
Louis Picamoles (France)
While the French can be utterly brilliant at their best, Les Bleus lived up to their cliché and the worse version of their double-sided nature showed its ugly face. The team was lacklustre, but if anything was positive to mention, it usually came from big No. 8 Louis Picamoles. The rampaging loose forward was frighteningly powerful in his ball-carrying, running over numerous defenders and always racking up the metres in every game. He was devastating on defence too, and put in the big hit which took Ireland’s Jonny Sexton out of the tournament. Picamoles is a man playing with enthusiasm greater than those around him, which is a disappointing result for French supporters and fans of rugby alike.
Agustín Creevy (Argentina)
Argentina’s courageous captain Agustin Creevy is easily considered one, if not the, best hooker in world rugby. Creevy’s input and leadership was outstanding, and like any good captain, he led by example, full of powerful surges and loads of defence. The only blemish on Creevy’s World Cup CV could be his decision for a shot-at-goal against the All Blacks when the New Zealanders were down to 13 men, but Creevy’s role in the team and impact he delivers cannot be understated. Some outrageous pieces of skill were also shown to in open play, and his emotion and passion on the field is endearing to say the least.
Santiago Cordero (Argentina)
While Argentina hold some pretty big attacking threats in their forward pack, their most potent strike-weapon in the Rugby World Cup was their smallest winger, Santiago Cordero. The 78kg flyer has some of the best footwork in world rugby, and tore apart every single defence he came up against. Cordero showed he has the pace, kicking ability, and pure evasion techniques to bamboozle the best of defenders in the world. Argentina have found themselves a star in Cordero, and his two breathtaking tries against Georgia showed what the 21-year-old speedster can do in open-space.
Damian de Allende (South Africa)
Another of the Springboks’ positive extracts from the Rugby World Cup campaign was that of Damian de Allende. The Stormers centre continued his robust performances from the Rugby Championship in the World Cup. De Allende added a new dimension to the attack of the Springboks’ usual crash-ball game plan in the centre. De Allende’s footwork and tackle-breaking ability got him through some gaps to gain some ground or even deliver some try-scoring passes. His performance against the USA has immense and his Man of the Match award was right reward. De Allende is set to be a stelwart in the Springboks and his RWC contribution was evidence of that.
Nehe Milner-Skudder (New Zealand)
In August, Hurricanes winger Nehe Milner-Skudder made his debut against the Wallabies; fast forward three months later and he’s getting a World Cup winner’s medal draped over his head. The fairytale that was Milner-Skudder’s meteoric rise to stardom was one of the most enjoyable aspects of New Zealand’s campaign. The flamboyant outside back dazzled, awed, and entertained rugby fans throughout the tournament, and his humble nature off the field made his success even more pleasurable to watch.
Dan Biggar (Wales)
While Dan Biggar may be more known for his unusual kicking routine these days, the Welsh flyhalf produced some masterclass performances in his side’s progression to the quarter-finals. Biggar played a game-changing role in the spirited wins over Fiji and England, and was influential against Australia and South Africa, despite facing losses in the latter two games. Even admist massive injury issues with players inside and outside of him, his pinpoint goal-kicking, attacking mind-set, and all around skill in the air were on all show throughout the Welsh campaign and he has become somewhat of a talisman for the side. Dan Biggar’s consistency in big games is something to truly marvel.
Daniel Carter (New Zealand)
What a better finish to an illustrious international Test career could Daniel Carter have asked for? Winning the Rugby World Cup and playing a decisive role in the final was the icing on a brilliant tournament for the veteran playmaker. Whether it was with moments of tactical brilliance, goal-kicking, or pieces of awe-inspiring flair, Carter exhibited exactly why he is considered the world’s greatest No. 10 in the history of the game, rounding off a brilliant tournament swansong without stepping a foot wrong.
David Pocock (Australia)
Ahead of the tournament, Pocock was talked-up as the Wallabies’ shining tactical edge at the breakdown, and the Zimbabwean-born flanker didn’t disappoint. Pocock was devastating against Fiji, England, and Wales, and made the All Blacks’ job in the final that much harder. Pocock is an unstoppable force at the breakdown and an integral part of Michael Chieka’s Wallabies squad going forward.