Best XV from the Southern Hemisphere Tours
The northern hemisphere giants were sent packing winless from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa this summer.
It was sobering to see them all beaten in every contest. Ireland may have had success in Argentina but the nine defeats suffered by England, Wales, France and Scotland to the bit three don’t make for good reading ahead of the 2015 World Cup.
We saw some fine performances from the key men for the big boys from down south.
Here is the team of the summer.
15. Israel Folau
Folau continues to impress in his second season in union. He scored three tries in three tests against a poor French outfit and created much more with his well-timed raids from deep.
There might be other, more technically sound full-backs out there but Folau as an attacking threat has no equal.
14. Willie Le Roux
Le Roux played in the No. 15 jersey in the last three weeks but he has to be in this side based on those performances. He scored one and made four more in the first test against Wales and scored again as South Africa took Scotland to the cleaners.
11. Julian Savea
Savea plundered four tries in the last two tests of England’s tour. He can finish the chances his back line puts on a plate for him but also has the pace and power to do the job himself. He is in scintillating form right now.
13. Conrad Smith
Smith was the man on the spot to snatch the victory in New Zealand’s first test against England and oozed class in the second. During that first 20 minutes after half time when the All Blacks took the game away from the tourists, Smith comfortably created space for the danger men around him to do the damage.
12. Ma’a Nonu
Nonu posed a threat to England every time he had the ball during their three-test series. The kicking game he has added to his power makes him a complete No. 12 who can manage a game as well as break it open.
10. Aaron Cruden
Cruden grew into New Zealand’s series and was majestic in the third test. He was the pick of the fly-halves of the big three Southern Hemisphere sides. His kicking, passing and all-round game management were impressive as the All Blacks slipped into top gear in patches of the second and third tests.
9. Fourie du Preez
Aaron Smith might have a bit more pace than the veteran Springbok, but Fourie du Preez’s first five yards are in his head. He makes this team tick, acts as its brain and is still sharp enough to do damage to the opposition.
8. Ben Morgan
In New Zealand, the Gloucester No.8 was more effective than Billy Vunipola when he started in the England side. There were some eye-catching runs and great handling from Morgan. He is going to make his much-fancied rival work hard to earn that place.
7. Michael Hooper
Hooper had the Australian captaincy foisted on him after five minutes of the Wallabies’ series against France, and he reveled in it. Hooper has pace to burn and an eye for the try line and had made himself indispensable to Ewen McKenzie’s team.
6. Jerome Kaino
The most complete back-row performer of the summer. Kaino started at No. 8 in place of the recuperating Kieran Read and put his size and power to good use both with and without the ball. He was just as effective when he reverted to the blindside flank.
5. Brodie Retallick
Retallick was the most consistent performer of all the locks on both sides in England’s 3-0 defeat to the All Blacks. The young Chiefs man was dangerous around the ruck, dominant in the lineout and effective with ball in hand.
4. Victor Matfield
Matfield looked as though he had never been away as the Boks romped to three wins from three. He locked the scrum well and ran the lineout as well as he always has.
3. Owen Franks
Franks went toe to toe with the aggressive Joe Marler and came out on top. He scrummaged well and proved to be a threat around the fringes for the All Blacks.
2. Bismarck du Plessis
The big Springbok hooker remains the best in the world. A brutal scrummager, strong lineout thrower and hugely useful in attack and defence. There is no one better in the No. 2 shirt at the moment.
1. James Slipper
Slipper had an outstanding series for Australia, spearheading their domination of the French front row to the point where seasoned props Thomas Domingo and Nicolas Mas were dropped after the first Test. Slipper has done a lot to extinguish the talk about this Wallaby pack lacking scrummaging ability. He was useful in the loose, too.