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31st Oct 2023

Two Ireland players make the cut in alternative World Rugby ‘Dream Team’

Patrick McCarry

Dream Team

A little more balanced, taking some huge World Cup performances into account.

The World Rugby Dream Team of the Year was announced on Sunday evening, in Paris, and folks in the rugby sphere have been debating it ever since.

The Dream Team concept is a relatively new one for World Rugby, starting off in 2020 with a Team of the Decade for 2010-2019, then having annual awards since 2021. To date, only three players have made all three Dream Team selections – Tadhg Furlong, Antoine Dupont and Will Jordan.

Taking the whole year into account, including Six Nations, The Rugby Championship, World Cup, and warm-up matches before that, the judging panel came up with the following 2023 Dream Team:

1. Cyril Baille (France) 2. Dan Sheehan (Ireland) 3. Tadhg Furlong (Ireland) 4. Eben Etzebeth (South Africa) 5. Scott Barrett (New Zealand) 6. Caelan Doris (Ireland) 7. Charles Ollivon (France) 8. Ardie Savea (New Zealand) 9. Antoine Dupont (France) 10. Richie Mo’unga (New Zealand) 11. Will Jordan (New Zealand) 12. Bundee Aki (Ireland) 13. Garry Ringrose (Ireland) 14. Damian Penaud (France) 15. Thomas Ramos (France).

Dream Team

Alternative Dream Team selected

A few days out from the awards ceremony, we selected what we felt was a strong Dream Team and stated that only Bundee Aki and Hugo Keenan had a strong chance of making the XV. As it turned out, Keenan missed the cut but four other Irish players joined Aki in getting selected.

Over at Planet Rugby, Jared Wright gave his take on an alternative Dream Team after what he labelled a “farce” at the World Rugby awards.

He ended up making five changes to the final World Rugby judging panel selection. From an Irish perspective, three players – Tadhg Furlong, Caelan Doris and Garry Ringrose – were all cut to accommodate South African players.

1. Ox Nche (South Africa) 2. Dan Sheehan (Ireland) 3. Frans Malherbe (South Africa) 4. Eben Etzebeth (South Africa) 5. Scott Barrett (New Zealand) 6. Pieter Steph du Toit (South Africa) 7. Levani Botia (Fiji) 8. Ardie Savea (New Zealand) 9. Antoine Dupont (France) 10. Richie Mo’unga (New Zealand) 11. Will Jordan (New Zealand) 12. Bundee Aki (Ireland) 13. Jesse Kriel (South Africa) 14. Damian Penaud (France) 15. Thomas Ramos (France).

To our mind, Pieter-Steph du Toit was the Player of the World Cup, so he had to go in there. There is an argument, though, to keep Doris at No.8, have Ardie Savea at blindside and du Toit at openside. What a back row combination that would be.

Dream TeamDan Sheehan and Mack Hansen of Ireland celebrate victory over South Africa in Paris, France. (Photo by Franco Arland/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)

Selecting a World Cup ‘Best XV’

One of the comments we have received a lot of, since the World Rugby Dream Team of the Year was announced, was that the Best XV recognises the year as a whole.

There is merit to that, so we have decided – while we are all here – to select a Best XV of the 2023 World Cup. Have a look and let us know (on social media) what you think.

OUR RUGBY WORLD CUP ‘BEST XV’

15. Beauden Barrett (New Zealand)
14. Will Jordan (New Zealand)
13. Jesse Kriel (South Africa)
12. Bundee Aki (Ireland)
11. Damian Penaud (France)
10. Richie Mo’unga (New Zealand)
9. Aaron Smith (New Zealand)

1. Ox Nché (South Africa)
2. Peato Mauvaka (France)
3. Tyrel Lomax (New Zealand)
4. Eben Etzebeth (South Africa)
5. Scott Barrett (New Zealand)
6. Courtney Lawes (England)
7. Pieter Steph du Toit (South Africa)
8. Ardie Savea (New Zealand)

Replacements: Bongi Mbonambi (SAF), Ethan de Groot (NZ), Frans Malherbe (SAF), Brodie Retallick (NZ), Siya Kolisi (SAF), Faf de Klerk (SAF), Handré Pollard (SAF), Jordie Barrett (NZ).

Siya Kolisi

Bundee Aki sole inclusion in alternative World Cup XV

The gang over at Talking Rugby Union took a stab at their Team of the World Cup, too, and made a decent fist of it. They even included players from Tonga, Argentina and Fiji.

We agreed on eight of the 15 starter selections – Nche, Barrett, Etzebeth, du Toit, Savea, Mo’unga, Aki and Jordan. Here are the selections we differed on:

2. Julian Montoya (Argentina) – The fan favorite narrowly edged out Dan Sheehan with his relentless work ethic, effective turnovers, and dominant tackle count.

3. Ben Tameifuna (Tonga) – The Tongan giant may not have advanced as far as he hoped with his team, but he remained an inspirational force with epic performances in every pool match.

7. Siya Kolisi (South Africa) – Stood out as the inspirational leader, captaining his team to Rugby World Cup glory. His journey was not just a victory for South Africa but an inspiration to the entire rugby world.

9. Antoine Dupont (France) – The French captain carried his excellent form from the Six Nations into the Rugby World Cup, commanding and pivotal for Les Bleus, even though we wished we could have seen more of them.

11. Cheslin Kolbe (South Africa) – A Springbok firecracker picks up another Rugby World Cup winner’s medal, Kolbe remained a constant threat in attack and a resolute defender, securing his spot on the wing.

13. Waisea Nayacalevu (Fiji) – Providing fireworks in every performance with an abundance of power and pace, Nayacalevu propelled Fiji to their highest-ever finish in Rugby World Cup history.

15. Damian Willemse (South Africa) – Although Keenan and Ramos were close contenders, the Springbok playmaker impressed throughout the tournament, adding an extra creative dimension to their attack.

You can check out their full piece here. As you can see, definitely room for conjecture and debate.

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