AP’s composite team of the Rugby World Cup
LONDON (AP) Imagine having Rugby World Cup stars Dan Carter, David Pocock, Fourie du Preez and Mamuka Gorgodze in the same side.
Writers who covered the Rugby World Cup for The Associated Press make it happen by selecting their composite team of the tournament, won by New Zealand in a 34-17 victory over Australia in Saturday’s final at Twickenham:
FULLBACK: Ayumu Goromaru, Japan
After 10 years in test rugby, finally became a global name with his effervescent performance in the Brave Blossoms’ stunning win over South Africa. Averaged 14.5 points a game and made 182 meters in just four matches.
RIGHT WINGER: Santiago Cordero, Argentina
Was an unlikely starter for the Pumas a few months ago, but had made more meters (514) and clean breaks (13) than any other player by the end of the semifinals.
OUTSIDE CENTER: Mark Bennett, Scotland
Since his debut less than a year ago, has become key cog in a backline with new verve. Had the match-winning intercept try against Australia in the semifinals until the last minute.
INSIDE CENTER: Ma’a Nonu, New Zealand
Scored the best try of the final, a diagonal 40-meter charge, and became the latest test centurion for the All Blacks in a perfect farewell to international rugby before heading to France for a spell with Toulon.
LEFT WINGER: Julian Savea, New Zealand
Furthered comparisons with the great Jonah Lomu by crossing eight times, including for two hat tricks, to finish as the top try-scorer in his first World Cup, take his overall tally to 38 in 41 tests, and close in on becoming the most prolific All Black ever.
FLYHALF: Dan Carter, New Zealand
Test rugby’s leading points scorer atoned for disappointments in his first three World Cups by steering the All Blacks to the title in his fourth and last, showing his composure to land momentum-shifting dropped goals in both the semifinal and the final.
SCRUMHALF: Fourie du Preez, South Africa
Took over the Springboks captaincy after Jean de Villiers’ injury and led the team’s recovery from the shock opening-weekend loss to Japan, including scoring the game-clinching try against Wales in the quarterfinals.
NO. 8: Mamuka Gorgodze, Georgia
The man nicknamed ”Gorgodzilla” encapsulated Georgia’s aggressive, physical approach with barreling carries and big hits. Establishing himself as a true rugby icon.
FLANKER: David Pocock, Australia
The flanker-turned-No. 8 who was perhaps the star player of the tournament, winning a World Cup-high 17 turnovers in just five games and scoring three tries to propel the Wallabies to the final.
FLANKER: Richie McCaw, New Zealand
Rugby’s ultimate leader got his hands on the Webb Ellis Cup for a second time and was an inspiration in the few tough spells the All Blacks endured. Moved onto a record 148 test caps, and it might not even be the end for perhaps the sport’s greatest ever player.
LOCK: Leone Nakawara, Fiji
One of the sights of the World Cup was the rangy Nakawara’s galloping runs while holding the ball in one hand and offloading at will. Nine turnovers in four matches showed he made a nuisance of himself in the dark arts, too.
LOCK: Sam Whitelock, New Zealand
Outshone his more esteemed second-row teammate Brodie Retallick, and was a key player in the final with his takes at the restart and fine work in the loose. Played all seven matches in the All Blacks’ run to the title and had 21 carries over the gainline.
TIGHTHEAD PROP: Ramiro Herrera, Argentina
The rising front-row star of Argentina recovered from mid-year knee surgery to play in all seven of their matches, and not only made sure the scrum was a weapon, but was a powerhouse carrying the ball, too.
HOOKER: Dane Coles, New Zealand
Typical Kiwi hooker who thinks he should be a winger, was at his set-piece best in filthy conditions in the semifinal win over South Africa, when he put to bed comparisons with Bismarck du Plessis.
LOOSEHEAD PROP: Marcos Ayerza, Argentina
Cemented his place as the top loosehead in the game by being a commanding presence in the Pumas’ indomitable scrum. Gave the Wallabies front row a lesson in the semifinal.
COACH: Steve Hansen, New Zealand
Guided All Blacks to perfection, using the pool stage to set them up for playoffs, where they defeated the only teams to beat them in Rugby World Cups: France, South Africa, and Australia.