Jacob Whitehead picks his dream team from the 12 countries who were knocked out after the pool stages
Best XV Who Didn’t Make the World Cup Quarter-finals
The pool stages of the 2019 Rugby World Cup have been and gone, and with it we sadly say goodbye to 12 teams and players who lit up the tournament.
What would a dream team of players who failed to look the quarter-finals look like? Well, there would be a pack to rival most nations still in Japan and outside backs who could outsprint you, outstep you or simply flatten you. Take a look at this XV…
15. Matteo Minozzi (Italy)
Minozzi missed out on the Six Nations due to a knee injury, so it was a joy to see him fit and firing in Japan, hitting similar heights to those we saw when he burst onto the international scene in 2018.
Italy’s key man as they dispatched Canada and Namibia, he was also a bright spark against South Africa in defeat. Possesses an incredible hitch-kick with which he can beat defenders from virtually a standing start.
14. Josua Tuisova (Fiji)
The player who has provided the finish of the tournament so far. Three minutes into Fiji’s game against Wales, he got the ball on the blindside direct from a scrum, he bounced Josh Adams, swerved Dan Biggar and dealt with a flying Josh Navidi to slam the ball down in the corner from an improbable angle. One of the only players in world rugby capable of such a feat.
13. Semi Radradra (Fiji)
If we had to pick a player of the tournament now it would be this man. Although Fiji’s World Cup didn’t go to plan, Radradra was unplayable at times, terrifying Wales for 80 minutes. In only four games he made 400 metres, beat 29 defenders and made eight clean breaks.
He was on the wing for Fiji, but we’ve moved him closer to the action at outside-centre, where he has played a lot of his rugby. A simply sensational player.
12. Siale Piatau (Tonga)
The Tongan captain set up his country’s late score against France, before scoring himself a week later against the USA in his farewell to international rugby. He also made 42 tackles in the pool stages – the most of any inside-centre in the tournament.
11. Jeff Hassler (Canada)
Poor Canada had a tough tournament, compounded by their final game against Namibia being cancelled due to Typhoon Hagibis.
However, one bright spark has been Hassler, who is a cult hero for Ospreys fans. He has outshone more established compatriot DTH van der Merwe and set up Canada’s consolation try against South Africa.
10. Felipe Berchesi (Uruguay)
It seems strange picking a pair of Uruguayan half-backs in a dream team, but Berchesi is the second leading point-scorer in the competition to date, behind only Japan’s Yu Tamura, and his game management is a large reason why los Teros triumphed over Fiji and ran Wales close.
9. Santiago Arata (Uruguay)
At only 23 years old, Arata was one of the breakout stars of the World Cup. The scrum-half’s jack-in-the-box antics propelled Uruguay to victory over Fiji, and the force of his sidestep could see him find his way into Super Rugby in the near future.
1. Mikheil Nariashvili (Georgia)
The anchor of Georgia’s pack – long the best-performing scrum of the supposed ‘Tier Two’ nations – the Montpellier man had a stellar tournament and captained his country in the first match against Wales. His carrying in that game revitalised the Georgians in the second half, whilst he won vital penalties at the set-piece against Australia in the final pool match.
2. Julian Montoya (Argentina)
Beginning the tournament as Argentina’s second-choice hooker behind captain Agustin Creevy, Montoya propelled himself into the starting jersey for the crunch England match. The reason? His try-scoring form, as he first dragged Argentina back into the game against France, before scoring a rapid hat-trick against Tonga a week later.
3. Titi Lamositele (USA)
The Saracens tighthead has played in plenty of big games over the past two seasons, and showed why at the World Cup. He held together a highly creditable USA scrum that could easily have crumbled after injury to the highly-rated young loosehead David Ainuu in the first minutes of the England game.
4. Federico Ruzza (Italy)
Ruzza has played for Italy for the past few seasons, but now appears to have firmly sealed his place after a string of rampaging performances. He seemed to pick out little pockets of space in the opposition forward line almost every other phase and was particularly impressive in the opening win over Namibia.
5. Guido Petti (Argentina)
Pumas lock Petti has a turn of pace to make Beauden Barrett look on enviously, and his performances were a rare highlight for Argentina – especially when contrasted to the madness of his second-row partner Tomas Lavanini.
6. Jamie Ritchie (Scotland)
Playing slightly out of position at blindside is Scottish flanker Ritchie. His form ensured Scotland scarcely missed the talismanic openside Hamish Watson, as Ritchie’s play in a losing effort against Japan was the outstanding Scottish performance of the tournament.
7. Tagir Gadzhiev (Russia)
I have lost count of the times a commentator has told us that major European clubs should be looking at Gadzhiev, but he truly does deserve the hype. Coming to rugby late from an MMA background, the openside’s strength, carrying and penchant for nuisance have been a joy to watch. I don’t want to have to wait at least four years to see it again.
8. Mamuka Gorgodze (Georgia)
Coming out of international retirement for this tournament, his fourth World Cup, the back-row showed why he was justifiably a legend of European rugby. His try against Tonga was a suitably apt moment for him to say goodbye to Test rugby – again!
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