Find out who makes it into our Rugby World Cup pool stage XV as the standouts from the last month of Test action combine…
After a compelling schedule of World Cup pool games, we now know which eight teams will contest the quarter-finals and against who: England take on Australia, Ireland face New Zealand, Wales play France and hosts Japan will entertain South Africa.
But which players have stood out so far? See who makes our cut and have your say when it comes to the top performer of the pool stages with our vote below…
15. Beauden Barrett (New Zealand)
There were plenty who questioned Steve Hansen’s decision to hand Barrett the 15 shirt to accommodate Richie Mo’unga at fly-half, but the 28-year-old has so far justified the decision.
Barrett racked up nearly 200 metres as New Zealand topped Pool B, beating 14 defenders, making four clean breaks and providing two try assists, plus earning the man of the match award in the impressive 23-13 win over South Africa.
An honourable mention too for Liam Williams, who has put in several eye-catching displays to help Wales top Pool D.
14. Kotaro Matsushima (Japan)
The joint-highest try-scorer – along with Wales’ Josh Adams – with five so far in the tournament, Matushima has been one of the instrumental players in helping -c 3 9acc08ce-1a70-45fc-98d1-c5586eb59f10.ids.heibaidiguo.cn”associatedMedia”>
The back has proven a handful for defenders in all four games so far, beating 22 opponents, making 11 clean breaks and carrying for a whopping -c 3 9acc08ce-1a70-45fc-98d1-c5586eb59f10.ids.heibaidiguo.cn’s opener in their mammoth final pool win over Scotland – plus some wonderful creative breaks and running mixed into all of that – Matushima has had a World Cup to remember.
13. Timothy Lafaele (Japan)
Another player who has been ever-present for Japan in the pool stages, the Samoa-born centre’s offloading ability has been vital for his team.
Lafaele has come up with five offloads, including a slick one-handed effort which led to a try against Russia and another try-creator against Scotland, along with making three clean breaks and beating five defenders.
He has always looked a threat with ball in hand, brings stadiums to their feet, and is supremely talented.
12. Semi Radradra (Fiji)
Used at centre and wing by Fiji in the World Cup, we’ve had to squeeze Radradra into our team in midfield after several mesmeric displays.
The rampaging Bordeaux back has been one of the stars of the pool stages, despite Fiji failing to qualify for the quarter-finals.
Playing every minute of their four games, Radradra carried for 400 metres, beat 29 defenders, made eight clean breaks, provided four try assists for his team-mates and scored two tries. He was also named man of the match for Fiji’s dominant win over Georgia and in defeat against Wales, such was the quality he produced on the turf.
11. Cheslin Kolbe (South Africa)
One of the emerging stars of world rugby, the 25-year-old winger has carried on with the form he showed in the build-up to this year’s World Cup.
Electric pace, wonderful stepping -c 3 9acc08ce-1a70-45fc-98d1-c5586eb59f10.ids.heibaidiguo.cn”associatedMedia”>
Ford has played a part in four of England’s tries by providing assists, along with beating 10 defenders, making two clean breaks and crossing for two tries.
9. Yutaka Nagare (Japan)
The conductor of Japan’s ferociously pacy attack and error-free game, scrum-half Nagare has been in scintillating form.
The smallest player in the entire tournament, his service has been top notch, his fitness exemplary and decision-making spot on.
His speed of pass and foot has been critical in getting Japan on to the front foot within Tests. Indeed, he’s produced quick ball in every game, and will look to do so again against South Africa in the quarters.
1. Joe Marler (England)
Loosehead was a tough call in this team, but for his consistency and power in the set-piece and around the park defensively, England’s Marler gets the nod.
The prop so far has a 95 per cent tackle completion rate in the competition, while at the scrum he has performed particularly strongly.
Considering Marler actually retired from England Test duty in September 2018, his return to the top level has been seamless and he has ably filled the void left by the injured Mako Vunipola.
2. Shota Horie (Japan)
In terms of overall performances, Japan hooker Horie is up there for player of the tournament so far. He has been fantastic.
Horie featured in all four pool victories for Japan over Russia, Ireland, Samoa and Scotland, and accumulated some 266 minutes across the four Tests.
He earned the man of the match award for his remarkable 80-minute performance in victory over Ireland, while his energy and offloading prowess was key to Japan’s open try-scoring win over Scotland too. A superb player.
3. Tadhg Furlong (Ireland)
While Ireland have flattered to deceive in many ways during this Rugby World Cup – and in the year 2019 more generally – Furlong has once again established himself as the premier tighthead prop in the sport with his World Cup displays.
The Leinster forward has scored two tries: finishing strongly in Ireland’s opening win over Scotland, while also romping -c 3 9acc08ce-1a70-45fc-98d1-c5586eb59f10.ids.heibaidiguo.cn”associatedMedia”>
The imposing forward has performed outstandingly well for South Africa in his time on the pitch, picking up the man-of-the-match award in victory over Canada and very close to being the best player on the park against Namibia too.
He also came off the bench against Italy to make a significant try-scoring impact. His carrying ability, sheer physicality and lineout prowess mark him out as an exceptional option for the Boks.
5. James Moore (Japan)
Brave Blossoms second row Moore has been a standout for the hosts, and featured in all four pool victories so far for a phenomenal total of 291 minutes.
The Australia-born forward’s fitness in this World Cup has been incredible, and in victory over Ireland he made some 23 tackles, missing none, conceded no penalties and contributed 11 carries in a magnificent display.
He was the same force in the consequent vital wins over Samoa and Scotland, and will be a central man if Japan can pull off a shock quarter-final win over South Africa.
6. Michael Leitch (Japan)
Not only just an inspirational leader for Japan, back-row Leitch is a rugby player who possesses the full skill-set.
He emerged off the bench to change the game against Ireland, with his side 12-3 down before recording a memorable success, and has been a calming influence on the pitch for the hosts when he is on.
In terms of his individual abilities, Leitch is a strong carrier, deceptively fast, great offloader, superb tackler, a fantastic ruck forward, a key breakdown threat, and a more than capable lineout operator. He’s got the lot.
7. Justin Tipuric (Wales)
A really tight call here and very harsh on unheralded Russia openside Tagir Gadzhiev, who has been utterly brilliant in terms of his individual displays, but Wales flanker Tipuric earns the nod.
The back-row is a superb breakdown forward, while his hands and pace in open play often resemble that of a back.
Tipuric is also capable of executing some incredible offloads, and whatever way a Test pans out – whether open or tight – he seems to play well.
8. Kazuki Himeno (Japan)
What a find Himeno has been at this World Cup. The big No 8 has played every minute of Japan’s fabulous campaign to date, and has put in a series of outstanding performances.