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Team of the Year: Tight contest

As the world looks forward to a World Cup year and countries focus on penning plans to achieve glory, we take a look back at the stand-out performers of 2014.

In keeping with the famous rugby365 selections, Tauriq Ebrahim took the plunge into selecting an International Team of 2014.

The Southern Hemisphere dominates the selections with 11 players in the starting XV and a further 10 players narrowly missing out. It comes at no surprise that New Zealand leads the way with five starters and a further four players getting a mention.

Despite an indifferent year, Australia have managed to get three starters and one further mention while South Africa has a solitary representative in the starting XV and another player getting a mention. Argentina cracked the nod with two players in the front row while getting four mentions with players who narrowly missed out.

Six Nations champions, Ireland leads the Northern Hemisphere selections with two starters and a further two players gaining a mention while the rest of the team is made up of players from Wales, France and England.

Team of the Year:

15 – Israel Folau (Australia)

Started the year like a house on fire before hitting a slight slump in form but was handed the nod after regaining his form in the November Tests.

Bubbling under: Mike Brown (England)

14 – Yoann Huget (France)

Ben Smith would have strolled into the starting XV if he had played in one position.  However, Huget gets the nod as he was the standout performer in the French side's Six Nations campaign. He proved his value to the national side by making the most of every chance he got.

Bubbling under: Ben Smith (New Zealand)

13 – Tevita Kuridrani (Australia)

Devastating in midfield and stood-out throughout the year, despite some mediocre performances from the Wallabies.

Bubbling under: Brian O'Driscoll (Ireland)

12 – Jamie Roberts (Wales)

It's rare to find someone who puts his body on the line without picking up any major injuries but the Welsh's battering ram was consistently destructive in all facets of his game.

Bubbling under: Ma'a Nonu (New Zealand)

11 – Julian Savea (New Zealand)

The big debate is whether he is better than the legendary Jonah Lomu, as suggested by New Zealand media. Well, with his amazing strike-rate and devastating runs increased the hype and was the obvious choice.

Bubbling under: Manuel Montero (Argentina)

10 – Jonathan Sexton (Ireland)

Sexton will look back on his performances and have a huge smile on his face. He played a vital role in Ireland's Six Nations triumph which saw him earning a nomination for Player of the Year.

Bubbling under: Aaron Cruden (New Zealand)

9 – Aaron Smith (New Zealand)

His consistently good performances enhanced his reputation as being the best scrumhalf in the world.

Bubbling under: Martín Landajo (Argentina)

8 – Duane Vermeulen (South Africa)

With the likes of Kieran Read and Sergio Parisse to contend with, THORmeulen pipped the vote with his nomination as World Player of the Year. Mind you, putting in a man-of-the-match performance with a rib injury against the All Blacks gained him some extra brownie points.

Bubbling under: Kieran Read (New Zealand)

7 – Richie McCaw (New Zealand)

Michael Hooper would have been handed the spot had he not faded away towards the end of the year but McCaw kept putting in big performances, even if he pushed the envelope one too many times.

Bubbling under: Michael Hooper (Australia)

6 – Peter O'Mahony (Ireland)

His devastating efforts at the breakdown and breaking through tackles with ease helped the Irish claim Six Nations glory.

Bubbling under: Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe (Argentina)

5 – Paul O'Connell (Ireland)

Captain Fantastic was influential in claiming the Six Nations title as well as a successful November Tests campaign.

Bubbling under: Alun-Wyn Jones (Wales)

4 – Brodie Retallick (New Zealand)

World Player of the Year. Need we say more?

Bubbling under: Eben Etzebeth (South Africa)

3 – Sekope Kepu (Australia)

Plenty of contenders here with Jannie du Plessis snapping at Kepu and Herrera's ankles, but Kepu gets the nod for his ruthlessness in an otherwise bleak Wallabies team.

Bubbling under: Ramiro Herrera (Argentina)

2 – Agustín Creevy (Argentina)

The Pumas skipper inspired his side to their first victory in the Rugby Championship and continued putting in huge efforts throughout the year.

Bubbling under:  Dane Coles (New Zealand)

1 – Marcos Ayerza (Argentina)

The Argentine scrum has set the precedent for the world to follow and Ayerza was at the forefront in handing the South Americans the upper-hand.

Bubbling under: Gethin Jenkins (Wales)

Tauriq Ebrahim

@Tagels03

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