Twickenham stars dominate our Rugby World Cup warm-ups Team of the Week

France captain Antoine Dupont, Fiji captain Waisea Nayacalevu and Springboks Damian Willemse Credit: Alamy
France captain Antoine Dupont, Fiji captain Waisea Nayacalevu and Springboks Damian Willemse Credit: Alamy

The final round of Rugby World Cup warm-up matches produced some stunning results and stellar performances across the board.

Planet Rugby has selected our Team of the Week following an action-packed weekend of action, with South Africa and Fiji leading the way in representation.

Backs who lit up Twickenham

15 Damian Willemse (South Africa): The fleet-footed utility back was at his best at the home of English Rugby as he claimed the player of the match award in the Springboks’ historic victory over the All Blacks. He gained over 100 running metres and left several All Black defenders for dead with his silky footwork. Thomas Ramos was a close runner-up after an excellent game against Australia, which included 16 points from the tee.

14 Selestino Ravutaumada (Fiji): After Willemse took the spotlight on Friday evening, Ravutaumada stole the show on Saturday afternoon at Twickenham. The talented Fijian flyer assisted two tries in the Pacific Islanders’ first-ever win over England, including the five-pointer that sealed the result. He evaded eight defenders on the day and gained 82 metres; Ravutaumada is a man to watch during the World Cup. His performance sees him beat the stellar performances of Damian Penaud, Suliasi Vunivalu, Rodrigo Isgro and Ange Capuozzo to a place in our team.

13 Waisea Nayacalevu (Fiji): Another Fijian superstar, the inspirational skipper was another standout against England. He scored a key try after the break against the Red Rose and topped the running metres on the day while managing to keep Ollie Lawrence quiet. Springboks youngster Canan Moodie came in a close second place after his stellar first shift at outside centre for South Africa on Friday.

12 Andre Esterhuizen (South Africa): There was no shortage of options as France’s Jonathan Danty, Fiji’s Semi Radradra, Samoa’s Tumua Manu and Georgia’s Merab Sharikadze had outstanding games and were all worthy runners-up. However, Esterhuizen stood tallest after an all-action stunner against the All Blacks, who simply could not stop him from tearing through the defence.

Hat-trick hero and Les Bleus’ half-backs

11 Monty Ioane (Italy): Scotland’s man of the match and double hero Duhan van der Merwe is unlucky here, but Ioane gets the nod after grabbing a hat trick against Japan. It wasn’t all poaching efforts from the rapid winger as he also managed over 130 running metres and beat six defenders in a statement performance.

10 Matthieu Jalibert (France): The opportunity to nail down the starting number 10 jersey arose for Jalibert this weekend, and he grasped it with both hands. He linked up superbly with captain Antoine Dupont and set up a try with an accurate cross-kick. Fiji’s Caleb Muntz and South Africa’s Manie Libbok came close to nudging the Les Blues playmaker out of the side.

9 Antoine Dupont (France): Simply outrageous. France needed a bit of magic to crack open the Wallabies’ stubborn defence this weekend, and Dupont seemingly has that in an endless supply. He assisted two five-pointers for France before being given a standing ovation as he left the pitch on the hour mark to rest up for the World Cup opener. We do have to doff our caps to Italy’s Stephen Varney and South Africa’s Faf de Klerk, who were both excellent.

Big back-row shifts

8 Viliame Mata (Fiji): Another position where we had no shortage of options, with four notable standouts above the rest in Gregory Alldritt, Jack Dempsey, Tornika Jalagonia and the pick of the lot, Mata. The Fijian was another who put on a show at Twickenham, starring with the ball in hand and on defence. He regularly got over the advantage line, ripping through the English defence, and was robust on defence.

7 Fraser McReight (Australia): The Wallabies were vastly improved on Sunday evening compared to the rest of the year, and setting the example was the excellent McReight. Australia famously produces world-class openside flankers, and he is the newest off the production line. He was outstanding on both sides of the ball and was duly rewarded with a try. His opposite, Francois Cros, also had a great game, as did Italy skipper Michele Lamaro.

6 Pieter-Steph du Toit (South Africa): Although the flanker did spend 10 minutes in the sin-bin, he was the best blindside this weekend. The Springboks dominated upfront throughout the game, and Du Toit was paramount to their efforts both on attack and defence. Again, there were no shortage of options as Jordan Taufua, Charles Ollivon, Marcos Kremer and Peter O’Mahony impressed.

Samoan second-rowers

5 Theo McFarland (Samoa): The Saracens star forward was key cog in the Samoan pack on Saturday as they came within touching distance of a shock win over Ireland. A freak of an athlete, McFarland hit double digits for tackles and passes while also gaining 40 metres against the number one side in the world. Franco Mostert, RG Snyman and Grant Gilchrist were all amongst our candidates.

4 Taleni Seu (Samoa): Chris Vui’s injury shifted Seu into the second-row as he built on his strong start in the back-row, in the second half. He was real handful for the Irish defence as he gained 53 metres from just seven carries. Paul Willemse, Eben Etzebeth and Jean Kleyn were also in the mix for the tighthead lock role.


3 Frans Malherbe (South Africa): Both Springbok tightheads dominated the scrums on Friday, but Malherbe set the tone with a strong platform to kick off from. He was excellent in the mauls, too and showed some nice touches with ball in hand, something we have not seen much of from him. Samoa’s Paul Alo-Emile is really unlucky after his powerful showing, as is Australia’s Taniela Tupou.

2 Sam Matavesi (Fiji): Another hotly contested position, but the Fijian powerhouse Matavesi is our pick of the lot. He showed his full box of tricks with some huge carries, brilliant footwork, and accurate lineout throws. He beats Malcolm Marx, who was outstanding against the All Blacks, while Ireland’s Rob Herring produced a game-changing shift that steered his side to victory.

1 Angus Bell (Australia): While the Wallabies lost yet another Test, they get a second player in our team, and none as deserving as Bell. He fronted up against one of the best scrummaging tighthead props in the world in Uini Atonio and not only held his own but dominated the 145kg front-rower. The young loosehead impressed us enough to beat the excellent Samoan James Lay and Springboks Steven Kitshoff to this spot.

READ MORE: Five things we learnt from the final weekend of Rugby World Cup warm-ups

The article Twickenham stars dominate our Rugby World Cup warm-ups Team of the Week appeared first on