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Rugby World Cup Team of the Weekend

The Rugby World Cup came to a brilliant close this weekend with two final games but who impressed the most over the last round

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(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

The Rugby World Cup finished on Saturday as South Africa lifted the Webb Ellis Cup for a third time with an impressive 32-12 win over England.

24 hours earlier and the All Blacks picked up their consolation bronze medals with a brilliant 40-17 victory over Wales in the third-place play-off. 

Across the two games there were some standout performances but who makes our last team of the weekend for this year’s World Cup and why did we pick them. 

Check out who we picked below and why we chose them. 

Backs 

15) Beauden Barrett –

Put the previous weekend’s defeat behind him to put on another fantastic show from full-back. Had tough competition in the team from Springboks Willie le Roux who saved his best performance of the tournament for the final. However, Barrett showed his dancing feet in for his try, his ability in the air dealing with everything that the Welsh threw at him, just on a different level. No matter who takes over as the new head coach this man will be key to the squad. 

14) Ben Smith – 

His last performance in an All Blacks jersey and he left fans wondering if he should have started in the semi-finals as he ran the show. Again, was pushed close by the Boks Cheslin Kolbe but the despite a wonderful try for the winger in green he just didn’t see enough of the ball unfortunately. On the other hand, Smith was everywhere, popping up with two wonderful tries before the half-time whistle to take the game beyond Wales. He will leave some big boots to be filled. 

13) Sonny Bill Williams – 

He started at 12 on what was also his final appearance in a New Zealand jersey but we had to fit him in as he was just simply incredible with his handling game. Age doesn’t seem to affect his skill, producing a wonderful offload for a try assist and unlucky not to set-up another. Splits opinion at times but his talent was on full show on Friday as he ended a glittering international career on a high. 

12) Damian de Allende –

An absolute animal! He seems to be able to carry and make metres with every touch of the ball no matter who is in front of him. Part of a brilliant defensive unit as well and capped off a brilliant tournament individually with yet another powerful performance. 

11) Makazole Mapimpi – 

Josh Adams deserves recognition for his try against the All Blacks which meant he finished top of the try scoring pile with seven. However, Mapimpi was second in the list and this weekend produced a brilliant all-round performance. His try was the highlight, showing great pace and imagination to tear open the England defence and score the Boks first-ever try in a World Cup final. We knew how good he was with the ball in hand but he won his aerial duals as well, in what was just a showing of true class. 

10) Handre Pollard – 

Once again he was steady from the boot putting an early miss behind him to go on a score 22 of his side’s points and finish top scorer at the tournament. He was brilliant with ball in hand as well and put in some big hits throughout the contest. When he’s in this kind form there aren’t many better than him. 

9) Faf de Klerk –

Aaron Smith put in a big shift for the All Blacks but de Klerk continued his rise as a contender to be named the best No 9 on the planet. He ran the show from minute one, passing well and putting up some inch perfect kicks for his teammates. Much like in the semi-finals he showed that he is not afraid to take on a bigger man in a battle, putting in some huge hits on some of the most powerful players in the game. He is just a joy to watch. 

Forwards

1) Tendai Mtawariria – 

In the scrum the Springboks dominated and he was at the front of it, putting Mako Vunipola to the sword. He gave his all and made some important hits throughout. Showing exactly why he is nicknamed ‘the Beast’. Possibly his last game for the country and what a servant he has been. 

2) Malcolm Marx – 

Thrown into action much earlier than expected but stepped up plate with ease. Line-outs were perfect, slotted into the scrum perfectly and carried well. Rose to the occasion when asked and demonstrated his class. 

3) Frans Malherbe –

Again, won penalty after penalty for the Boks from the scrum! Impressive from minute one until he was taken off and continued to develop as a top-class prop. 

4) Eben Etzebeth – 

A massive, massive shift from the Springboks lock! Won his line-outs, carried well, smashed the opposition in the tackle and led throughout. He is vital to the Boks system and showed the world just why on Saturday. 

5) Brodie Retallick – 

Missed the start of the tournament through injury, only playing 30 minutes before the knock-out stages but managed a full 80 come the final weekend. Moved him to five as he had to be in the team. For such a big unit his handling skills are up there with some of the best backs in the world and dominated this game from the off against some of the best opporaters around. 

6) Siya Kolisi – 

Captain fantastic! Deserves a spot in the XV for his speech after the game alone! Although on the pitch he was calm, leading his troops from the front-foot throughout and was impossible to get by from an English perspective. There isn’t a player in the world that deserved to lift the trophy more than this man on Saturday. 

7) Pieter-Steph du Toit – 

Won his title of men’s player of the year 24 hours later and this performance may have swayed the voters. A world-class flanker! He hits opposition attackers with such power and determination, but is equally as effective in attack when his side need to make the hard yards. If he can continue like this he will go down as one of the greatest in his position. 

8) Duane Vermeulen – 

Some call him ‘Thor’ and on Saturday it was as though a film script was written for him and he grabbed it with both hands! He may not have the cape but he has the power and sheer work-rate of any Avenger! Nobody could get past him and when called upon he took the hard hits himself for his team. Man of the match on the day and rightly so, a monster of a performance from the big man.

Rugby

Gatland Explains England RWC Final Comments

Warren Gatland has come out to explain his comments around England’s Rugby World Cup final as well as looking back on one vital mistake he made in his career

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(Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

Former Wales head coach Warren Gatland has given his reason for predicting England’s fall in the Rugby World Cup final while talking to Off the Ball.

The coaching great, who stepped aside from his 12-year stint with Wales following the conclusion of their World Cup campaign was promoting his new book ‘Pride and Passion’ and explained how the emotional toll of England’s semi-final win over New Zealand was hard to follow up. 

“At the very elite level of sport, it is the emotion that counts. And sometimes when you have a great performance and you are emotionally charged right on the edge, it is difficult to repeat that,” he said. 

It proved to be the case for England as they failed to find another gear in the final, being dominated by South Africa who ran out 32-12 winners. He drew on past experiences in his career to back up his point, including a discussion about the 2013 British and Irish Lions Tour.

“When I look back at my time coaching, there are two examples that really strike out for me. One was in London coaching Wasps, and we played Leicester in the last round. Martin Johnson’s last game and Neil Back’s last game at Welford Road. I completely underestimated the emotion of that. They beat us 45-24 or something like that. Then in the final, I didn’t think they could bring the same level of emotion so we put 40-points on them in the final. It was the same scenario with Australia in the second test in 2013. James Horwill, tears running down his eyes, the effort and energy they put into that, I didn’t think they could bring the same the following week,” he added. 

That Lions tour threw up some major complications for Gatland including a decision to drop Irish legend Brian O’Driscoll for the third test, which caused huge backlash and the Kiwi regrets how he went about the decision that week. 

“The biggest mistake we made was on the Sunday after the second test we put Brian up for media. That was a huge mistake because everyone just assumed with Sam Warburton getting injured that Brian was going to play and going to be captain the following week. So we made the decision and I said to the other coaches ‘there could be a big falling out over this’. I didn’t realise quite the extent,” he finished. 

Gatland’s experience is easy to see and he will take charge of yet another Lions tour in 2021 as he leads his charges to South Africa as he completes the full cycle of tours having also managed them to a series draw with New Zealand in 2017. In the meantime Gatland has taken up a role with Super Rugby franchise the Chiefs as he returns to his homeland looking to add further success to his CV.

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International

Steyn’s Rugby Career Could be Over

Double World Cup winner Frans Steyn could be set to call time on his career early following his latest triumph

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(Photo by PASCAL GUYOT/AFP/Getty Images)

Springboks great Frans Steyn looks likely to at least pull the curtain down on his European career in order to return to his homeland.

The two-time Rugby World Cup winner, who managed to pick up medals from the 2007 edition of the tournament and this year’s one, beating England in both finals, is currently contracted to French Top 14 giants Montpellier. 

However, it is believed that he has held discussions with the club about ending his contract come the end of January instead of when it is supposed to expire in July and speaking to South African news-outlet Volksblad, he seems keen on settling down in his homeland. 

“Rugby has always been an inspiration for the Afrikaners, especially for farmers. If we had a bad week, if we watch good rugby on Saturday, then everything is better again. Only good rain, a good rugby weekend gives us the power to face Mondays again. It is a privilege that many farmers do not have. We know what to do in the future and what we need to have in place. We want to raise our children here and are attached to the rural feel that Bloemfontein offers. We want our children to have a good experience here as my wife and I had when one grew up here,” he said. 

The 32-year-old has a family farm in Bloemfontein and it is understood this is not the first time he has made the suggestion to return to the area, but it now looks more likely than ever that he will get what he likes. 

Steyn is expected to return to the French club next week, where he would play until January before his possible move back to South Africa. 

At this time it is unknown whether the back would continue his rugby career with local professional side the Cheetahs, who play in the PRO14, or whether he will end his career early, having played at the top level for such a long time already.

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International

Scots End Row with World Rugby

Scotland and World Rugby have been unhappy with one another for the guts of a month, but they have finally sorted their differences out

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(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

World Rugby have confirmed this morning that the Scottish Rugby Union has accepted the punishment received for comments made during the Rugby World Cup in Japan last month.

The punishment of a £70,000 fine and a meaningful apology was handed to the union following comments made by their chief Mark Dodson, who suggested sueing World Rugby as his team’s clash with Japan came under threat by Typhoon Hagibis. 

In what was a must-win game for the Scots to progress to the knock-out stages, he also criticised the running of the competition by the hosts. Eventually the match was played and Scotland lost 28-21, leaving them heading home, but World Rugby were not happy. 

Having announced the punishment last week, World Rugby have now released a statement to confirm that Scotland have accepted the decision. 

“World Rugby can confirm that the Scottish Rugby Union has expressed its regret and has confirmed it will not challenge World Rugby further on this matter. The Scottish Rugby Union has agreed to pay a donation of £70,000 to World Rugby and the matter is now closed. There will be no further comment from either party,” the statement read. 

It puts and end to a dragged out argument between the organisations which will be a relief to fans. The fine will be donated to the Childfund Pass it Back programme, which is continuing to help the areas affected by the typhoon last month. 

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