The year and the decade has come to a close and the worlds media has hammered us all with their best of’s over the last month. I wrote this a month ago but was overwhelmed by the repeat content thrown around along the same lines. Now we are preparing for the new 2020 season, it’s always nice to look back and see what we enjoy at the peak of 2019. The World Cup holds a huge amount of weight in this for me, but I am always interested to know what everyone else things on the topic too. Comments below everyone! Let’s take a look at my best fifteen from 2019…..
1. Tendai Mtawarira – South Africa
The Beast goes out on a high, announcing his retirement just days after winning the Rugby World Cup and destroying England’s pack in the final. Sentiments aside, his World Cup perfectly tracked with his team, peaking at the ultimate showdown in the final.
2. Shota Horie – Japan
The Japanese hooker has been a leader of this side for years now, often leading a pack that doesn’t always get its way in the game. His ability to develop his game into a strong open field player with a dangerous running game and power at the breakdown. Nothing is too much for Shota.
3. Kyle Sinckler – England
His big stage grand final appearance was spoilt by a very early injury but that doesn’t stop him getting him my team of the year. England as a team played their year against New Zealand at the World Cup but Sinkler was phenomenal throughout. Class scrummager, powerful runner and just a big brute all around the field. An absolute powerhouse that rugby will be lucky to see for years to come.
4. Maro Itoje – England
You want the superstar of global rugby for years to come? Here he is. Maro Itoje is the complete forward and he’s still only 25 years old. Pick an area of the game and you know Maro will excel. So good at defusing mauls, ruck turnovers, defensive structure, set piece and open play. The man is a machine and will dominate for years to come. Will definitely be a future World Player Of The Year.
5. James Ryan – Ireland
It was a year Ireland will be happy to forget, failing to pass the quarter finals in the World Cup yet again. James Ryan however, was a constant standout in the side. Like we have said about all the above forwards, power to burn, yet still nails his core rolls extremely well. A force in the lineout, for or against the throw and like his Irish back row partners, gives his side constant gain line ball.
6. Pieter-Steph du Toit – South Africa
Could easily just write “World Player Of The Year” and leave it at that. Dominating the tackle so well he was the driving force that destroyed the English game plan in the World Cup Final. We really noticed it in the biggest stage, but he did it all year. So quick around the field, punishing in defence and destructive in the breakdown. His defensive tracking of opposition playmakers was a perfectly executed game plan, played so well throughout the World Cup.
7. Tom Curry – England
Tom Curry and Sam Underhill are two names that will lead headlines in the north for years to come. At such a young age, Curry has become one of the world leading flankers. Just a menace around the pack, you can constantly see his boyish face popping up multiple times each phase. He’s the ultimate team player who is never out of the play and has ridiculous stamina.
8. Kazuki Himeno – Japan
Here’s a man who was a big part of getting Japan to the top of Pool A and into the quarterfinals for the first time at a Rugby World Cup. Japan had a very high quality group of backrowers in their squad but no one else had a look past Kazuki. Himeno was in outstanding form and much like Curry, was always open for a carry. His performance at six against Ireland in the World Cup where he was able to nullify the effectiveness of their powerful backrow and give his side the assentive such a pivotal area has to be a highlight display.
9. Faf de Klerk – South Africa
It was a kickers World Cup and for a player who is always an attacking delight, it must have been tough for Faf to contain that style. The Springboks played their game plan best throughout the tournament and the box kicking ability of Faf following his packs lead was crucial. He’s in here for more than that however. Defence wins tournaments. Faf de Klerk seemed to have a free reign to disrupt the opponents attack anyway he saw fit. Often blasting out of the line to spot tackle a carrier or cutting off options for the fly halves. Added to this, he was unshakable, never backing down to anyone who tried to step up. Just ask Jake Ball, not even the bearded Welsh giant could get one over Faf….
10. Handré Pollard – South Africa
A simple selection this one, after a World Cup of, in my opinion, disappointing performances from most of the tens. Whens games got tight, the situation became simple. Turn over the scoreboard. Kick the threes, drop goals, whatever was available. The leading points scorer grabs this place mainly for his cool calm ability to kick goals. That’s not enough for me though, we saw Handré run the ball a little more later in some games and THAT is the real joy of this guy and what I would love to see more of.
11. Josh Adams – Wales
Leading try scorer at the World Cup and just an out and out finisher that can make things happen from any position on the field. Josh Adams makes things happen. No space, no time, no support? No problem. Consistently beats defenders of the best sides and puts points on the board in a way few teams in the World Cup could say their players did the same. At just 24, expect to see more fireworks from this guy. George who?
12. Damian de Allende – South Africa
As the World Cup went deep into the finals, the tactics of teams had one major thing in common. Rock solid defence. Damian de Allende often copped a fair bit of criticism throughout 2019 for his inability to pass the ball and predictable running style with ball in hand. What no one noticed is how water tight that midfield channel was on defence. As the tournament wore on, his carry game got more secure and took some attention off his monster pack. Its Damian to thank that they made it into the World Cup Final.
13. Jonathan Davies – Wales
Another Welshman in this backline just goes to show how exciting they were to watch during the main event of the year. Often felt sorry for Jonathan Davies for how little support he got from his midfield partner. He could have been even more deadly with with someone to play off inside. Regardless, he was still so hard to predict and shut down. Davies is a guy who so easily beats defenders on their outside with acceleration and power, creating line break chances for the finishers outside and the guy I have already named on the left wing has a lot of thank Jonathan for.
14. Kotaro Matsushima – Japan
My third Japanese player in the fifteen so far and you can’t argue it. The World Cup host nation was spectacular on and off the field and Matsushima was one who took this World Cup by storm. Kenki Fukuoka suffered an unfortunate knock in the build up against South Africa which may have cause reason for concern. Not for Japan, step up Kotaro! His electric pace was devastating and the ability to stand up defenders, get into open space and keep his support in the play was outstanding. Japan needed a hero and they got the flying fro of Kotaro Matsushima. Here I was worried they moved a great fullback before their first match, how wrong was I.
15. Beauden Barrett – New Zealand
For such a important position, its a bit sad to be saying I’ve picked the best of the worst. For years now fullbacks and fly halves have been the be all for a sides points scoring chances. Attacking at all costs, counter attacking, scything running lines… It was all hard to find in the Rugby World Cup. Beauden Barrett is a class player and alone can make things happen. His side was rarely at its best the World Cup but he still took games by the scruff, like the quarter final against Ireland and throughout Super Rugby. Barrett was his devastating best in that Irish game for the All Blacks. Not enough times we saw his best, but there wasn’t much else from other fullbacks either.
The Rugby World Cup was the main event from 2019 and has been 90% of the reasons why these players have made my team of the year. With so many of these about over January, I’ve held this back a little while to look back on before we get into the new 2020 season of Super Rugby. Who were your standouts and who do you look forward to seeing more of in 2020? Make sure to follow the site as a new season gets underway and as always, thanks for stopping by Behind The Posts!