World XV: The #2023 World Cup headliners
OPINION: As the different nations start preparations for a World Cup year and teams are solely focused on securing the Webb Ellis Cup, @rugby365com takes a look at the stand-out performers of 2022 and those who will continue to shine at the global showpiece.
The year 2022 had been accompanied by loads of upsets and with very little separating the top teams.
Therefore selecting a World XV was a very challenging task, so we rather look at those that could leave their mark at #France2023.
World Cup headliners:
15 Ange Capuozzo (Italy)
The 23-year-old has been outstanding for Italy. His brave and lethal runs were no match for defenders, scoring tries against Wallabies and Springboks. He was also the man behind Italy’s famous over Wales. For his impressive season, he deservedly was named World Rugby’s ‘Breakthrough Player of the Year’. The Italian will hope to continue with his amazing form this year.
14 Kurt-Lee Arendse (South Africa)
Playing in his first international season for the Springboks, the South African has been phenomenal. He was incredible with the ball in hand scoring seven tries in his seven Tests, while his defence was also top-class. One can not deny he will definitely be a vital component of the Springboks.
13 Reiko Ioane (New Zealand)
Most fans would probably want to see Springbok Lukhanyo Am in this spot. However, the All Black star Ioane gets the backing. The wing-turned-centre gradually settled in the midfield with each game despite having to run out with different partners for the majority of the season. Whether he partners with David Havili or Jordie Barrett, Ioane will be an integral part of the All Blacks at next year’s World Cup.
12 Damian De Allende (South Africa)
He had a few cameos in the No.13 jersey. Nonetheless, the centre stood out for the Springboks and on a couple of occasions reminded us why he deserved the Springboks 12 on his back. He was solid in the midfield, despite missing his partner Lukhnayo Am. The Boks will again depend on his physicality as they defend the World Cup title.
11 Emiliano Boffelli (Argentina)
There were a couple of contenders for this spot, Caleb Clark, Marika Koroibete and Mack Hansen could have easily scooped up the accolade, but Boffelli’s superb showing for Los Pumas made him the best choice. He is a devastating finisher, and his goal-kicking was of utmost importance for Argentina’s memorable campaign. There is no doubt the star will again have an important role in Michael Cheika’s side.
10 Johnny Sexton (Ireland)
Despite producing a mixed bag, the Irish veteran stood head and shoulders above the rest. His closest competition was France flyhalf Romain Ntamack, but the 37-year-old’s impressive campaign which includes a masterclass against the Boks showed why he gets the nod. The flyhalf could bid farewell to his international career in style should his team secure the long-awaited World Cup trophy.
9 Antoine Dupont (France)
If there is one thing the rugby fraternity agrees on then it is that Dupont was the best No.9 in 2022. He was unbelievable for his country, and while his red card during the year-end Test against Springboks leaves a stain, he made up for it in other areas. He steered France to a Grand Slam and helped the team to a flawless 2022 season. France will hope for another season of consistency from the zippy scrumhalf.
8 Ardie Savea (New Zealand)
The loose forward, who missed out on a nomination for World Rugby’s Player of the Year, has been consistent, despite the mediocre performance of the All Blacks as a team. Savea has been a vital component in the New Zealand side and helped them record an unbeaten November Nations Series. He is a menace at the breakdown and his strong carries will yet again be important for the All Blacks.
7 Josh van der Flier (Ireland)
Crowned the World Rugby Player of the Year, there is very little to add to this flank’s incredible season. He has been a menace in all areas of the game and Ireland will hope that his great form will continue as they seek World Cup glory.
6 Siyamthanda Kolisi (South Africa)
He had a slow start to the season but quickly got back into the thick of things as he lead the Springboks to some important wins. He proved to be a major asset on defence and his overall workrate is just relentless. The Springboks will need him to repeat that form this season.
5 Cameron Woki (France)
The lanky lock has really added a different dynamic to France. Known for its expansive brand, the second row has also added structure to its set piece, especially the line-outs. Woki has played a lead role in France’s 2022 season and the team will want him to be that brute force up front for this upcoming year.
4 Eben Etzebeth (South Africa)
No one came close to South Africa’s enforcer. Not only loved by millions of South Africans but the lock is respected by opponents. During the year-end Tests, the lock made 170 metres and carried like a machine. There is no doubt that his physical presence is always an extra boost for Springboks. Another player that should have been nominated for the World Rugby Players of the Year award.
3 Frans Malherbe (South Africa)
There were other names like Zander Fagerson of Scotland and Tadhg Furlong (Ireland). However, Malherbe gets the nod. The tighthead prop has mastered his craft and had been solid at scrum time despite the Springboks management’s rotation policy upfront. Part of starting XV or the Boks’ famous bomb squad, the prop will again be an important feature for the Boks at this year’s World Cup.
2 Julian Montoya (Argentina)
Many would want to see Malcolm Marx take the jersey and with good reason. However, how Montaya led Argentina in the 2022 season was impressive. The team was somewhat more disciplined under his leadership and he inspired his side to a 25-18 win over the All Blacks in Christchurch.
1 Steven Kitshoff (South Africa)
Similar to his teammate Malherbe, Kitshoff has continued putting in huge efforts throughout the year. He always gets his hands on the ball and was impressive in open play. His workrate is immencce. The loosehead prop narrowly edges the likes of Pierre Schoeman (Scotland), Cyril Baille (France) and Andrew Porter (Ireland) for the spot.
*Please feel free to share your team of the year in the comment section!