Another Rugby World Cup has come to an end. And what a tournament it has been. We've seen upsets, controversy, heartbreak and success. Yes, this tournament had it all.
And just like the previous six World Cups, there were some players who rose above all and stamped their authority on the Cup, those who will go down in history as legends of the Rugby World Cup.
This article honours those men by naming a World XV based on how the players played at the tournament.
Picking such a team is no easy task, particularly with the quality that was on display. So when reading, remember that this is just one man's opinion.
One of the key things to determine before we start this article is the criteria by which players were chosen, as this greatly influences who made the final cut.
The first thing to consider is that this was based purely on form at the World Cup. Not how good a player has been over his career, or how good he was leading up to the Cup. Pretend you've never seen any of these players play before and you're judging them based on the games they played at the World Cup; that helps remove any prejudices for and against certain players.
Obviously to be considered, good rugby was a prerequisite. But not just one good game; consistency is important in teams like this too. Although in saying this, the quality of opposition must also be taken into account, so a big game later in the tournament will have greater influence than one against a minnow in the pool stages.
Being on a winning side helps, but is not essential. While the teams that do better will naturally have more players in the team as there was a reason they did better in the tournament, players from all teams were considered.
And finally, due to some very hard decisions, a second team is named too, with the players in this team appearing at the bottom of each slide.
While there were many hard choices in this team, Israel Dagg was something of a shoo-in at the fullback position.
After making his test debut just last year, Dagg found himself thrust into the spotlight this year after a stellar performance against the Springboks pre-tournament. Up until this point, Mils Muliaina was the clear choice at the back for the All Blacks.
But an injury to Muliaina gave Dagg his chance and he took it with arms wide open, playing some electrifying rugby.
He was the most dangerous runner of the tournament, constantly making incisions in his opponents' defensive line. He seems to have a knack for spotting gaps he can go through and runs perfect lines, creating weak shoulders on his defenders.
But it wasn't just his flair that impressed. He was also very solid under the high ball and put in some brilliant touch finders.
His best performance came against Australia, where along with Cory Jane, he took all that the Australians kicked at him.
Other fullbacks to impress were Kurtley Beale, whose tournament was cut short with injury; Paul Williams of Samoa, who stood out in every game he played; and Vasily Artemyev of Russia, who looked comfortable playing against top opposition.
But Dagg's closest contender comes in Leigh Halfpenny, who played exceptionally well all tournament for Wales.
Second Team: Leigh Halfpenny
There were some good finishers on display for the duration of the tournament, but it is hard to go past the tournament's equal leading try scorer, France's Vincent Clerc, on the right wing.
Clerc was dangerous running and proved an adept finisher, dotting down six times during the Cup. Perhaps the most crucial of these came against England, where he hit a gap and broke four tackles to score what would be the decisive try in France's quarterfinal win.
He had a quiet final and eventually left the field injured, but that was more indicative of how tight the game itself was. Overall, he had a very good tournament.
As was stated above, there were some good finishers on display, and Clerc had a lot of competition.
George North received much praise throughout but failed to really shine against a top team. Tommy Bowe was dangerous for Ireland while the Scottish wing, Max Evans, proved to be his team's only real attacking threat.
Overall though, Cory Jane gets the second team spot as he very nearly made the top team. He has to settle for second place after a quiet start to the World Cup, but outstanding performances against Australia and Argentina see that he gets the nod as Clerc's backup.
Second Team: Cory Jane
Possibly the most intelligent player in the world, Conrad Smith makes the team after a very good tournament that saw him a key part of the All Blacks' success.
While he didn't flourish on attack the way he has in the past, he played a smart game, taking good options and looking to put his outside men in, rather than bust through himself.
But it was defensively where Smith really stands out from the rest. He made tackle after tackle all tournament, missing very few, as has come to be expected of him.
He was outstanding in the final, making some must tackles and even putting some big hits in—something he's not renowned for.
As for Smith's competition, Welsh centre Jonathan Davies looked lively at times, while Ireland's Brian O'Driscoll was generally good.
But the backup position has to go to South Africa's Jacque Fourie, who was a constant threat to the opposition while also being sound on defence.
Second Team: Jacque Fourie
The most dominant back of the tournament, Ma'a Nonu wins the No. 12 jersey in relatively easy fashion. That's not to suggest there weren't other good second five-eighths; it just shows how good Nonu really was.
It seems crazy that less than 12 months ago many were suggesting that Sonny Bill Williams, not Nonu, should be the starting 12 for the All Blacks. It was something I never bought into, and Ma'a showed just why he was still the man for the job with some dominating performances.
He was such a handful with the ball the whole tournament. In the same way defences used to target Jonah Lomu a decade ago, the defences of this tournament were stacked to stop the All Blacks' great destroyer.
Every time he got the ball he would go forward and give the All Blacks the sort of momentum that made them so hard to stop. His performance in the first pool game against France was stuff of legend, the way he had the whole French team concerned with where he was and what he was doing. This was seen clearly when the defence drifted early to shut down Nonu, allowing Cory Jane to saunter straight through the gap where Thierry Dusautoir would have otherwise been.
Defensively he was a rock, showing just how far he's come in the past few years, with almost no trace of his old habit to rush up remaining.
Others to contest for this position came in Samoa's Seilala Mapasua and South Africa's Frans Steyn, whose tournament was tragically cut short by injury.
But the backup position could only go to Jamie Roberts, who was instrumental in Wales' success throughout the tournament, performing a similar role as the one Nonu performed for the All Blacks.
Second Team: Jamie Roberts
At the start of the season Richard Kahui was a fringe player for the All Blacks who didn't get much game time.
But after he received his chance in South Africa before the year, he played a blinder and was subsequently given a start in the All Blacks' first World Cup match on the wing.
He would go on to play another blinder. And another. And another. So much so, that he was the consensus pick to start on the wing for the All Blacks come crunch time.
While he may lack a yard of pace, Kahui is a skillful player, something that was crucial in the All Blacks campaign.
He was safe under the high ball and very strong on defence, while also creating plenty. To go with this, he scored four tries.
What else could you want out of a winger?
The second team left winger spot goes to Digby Ioane, who, despite not being his absolute best at the World Cup, was still one of the most dangerous runners, cutting through defences on multiple occasions.
Second Team: Digby Ioane
At the age of just 24, Rhys Priestland was outstanding until his tournament got cut short at the semifinal stage. His absence in this game showed just how important he was to the Welsh team, as they struggled for direction in their one-point loss to France.
One of the major blights on first five-eighths during the tournament came in the amount of poor kicking that came from many of them. This didn't seem to affect Priestland, though, and it ultimately was what separated him from his contenders.
But he was more than just a kicker. He provided his backs with good ball and took good options, getting the most out of the players outside him and making Wales a real threat to other teams.
As far as backups go, it was hard to know what to do. Daniel Carter would have been a shoo-in had he continued the form he showed against France in pool play, but a groin injury cut his World Cup short. Aaron Cruden was outstanding against Australia but wasn't involved in enough of the tournament to really stamp his authority.
So I go for someone a bit different. Kurt Morath of Tonga proved to be a very good player, taking good options and kicking very well. He impressed in every outing and would no doubt have been a tournament star had he played for one of the top teams.
Second Team: Kurt Morath
There were some very good halfbacks on show at this World Cup, but Mike Phillips gets the nod in what was a dog fight for the title of best No. 9 on the planet.
Like Priestland, he was influential for Wales, directing play well and providing his back line with a good ball.
His all-around game was superb: passing, kicking and taking the right options at the right times. But it was his running game that really helps him stand out, making numerous sniping runs around the fringes of the ruck. The most important of these came when he scored in the corner against Ireland to give Wales their first semifinal birth since 1987. A week later he repeated the feat against France in a game Wales would go on to lose.
As was stated above, competition for this position was hot. Will Genia, Dimitri Yachvili and Ben Youngs all had standout tournaments.
But the backup spot goes to New Zealand's Piri Weepu, who took over the decision making for the All Blacks after the loss of Daniel Carter. He also took over the goal kicking and was deadly accurate to see the men in black past Argentina. But his best performance of the tournament came against Australia, when he played the game of his life to see New Zealand make their first final since 1995.
Second Team: Piri Weepu
I was unsure whether to include Harinordoquy as he was confined to the bench for the first half of the tournament.
But such was his impact when he came into the French starting lineup, it was hard to go past him.
He got through a ton of work, playing a strong physical game both on attack and defence that made him one of France's top players. His lineout work also shouldn't go unnoticed, as he proved to be a safe option in most cases.
As far as backups go, Kieran Read was outstanding in the latter stages of the tournament but missed the first part with an ankle injury. Sergio Parisse was good for Italy but didn't quite impose himself on the game for the entire tournament. Toby Faletau was particularly strong for Wales, delivering some very good performances and therefore getting the spot.
Second Team: Toby Faletau
Of all the positions, this was the hardest to choose. For many teams the open-side flanker has been the standout player, and it was hard to pick just one when there were so many that were so good.
Welsh captain Sam Warburton provided us with one of the most controversial and talked-about points of the World Cup when he was red-carded for a spear tackle in his team's semifinal against France.
But this shouldn't take away from just how good Warburton was for Wales.
While Phillips and Priestland got raps earlier on in this article, it was Warburton who was the key player in Wales' success. His skills at the breakdown were second to none, an area Richie McCaw and David Pocock entered the tournament as undisputed kings of.
His timing was fantastic, choosing to commit at the right times and hang off at the right times.
He would have seen Wales through to the final had he remained on the field, which would have set up a showdown with the All Blacks, which would have been every bit as good as the one we ended up with.
Backups? Well there were plenty of candidates. David Pocock, Sean O'Brien, Heinrich Brussouw, Thierry Dusautoir, Jacque Burger. And the list just keeps going.
But it's hard to begrudge Richie McCaw of the spot. Playing the entire tournament with a foot injury, which prevented him training during most of it, he was key for the All Blacks. He got better with every game and defensively was superb against Australia and France, being the key player for the men in black in their win in the final.
Second Team: Richie McCaw
Hands down the best player at the tournament, Jerome Kaino gets the No. 6 jersey in rather convincing fashion.
The All Blacks hard man was their key player throughout the tournament, bringing the physicality that has made them so feared over the past two years.
Not only did he make tackles, he made big tackles. When he ran he always went forward, gaining momentum. And he did this consistently.
His tournament can really be summed up with his tackle on Digby Ioane in the first half of the All Blacks' semifinal, where Ioane was all but over the line and Kaino came from nowhere to drag Ioane back a couple of metres and deny the Wallabies.
The second-team position came down to three players: Julien Bonnaire, Schalk Burger and Stephen Ferris, all of whom had excellent tournaments. But it's Ferris who gets the spot, mainly on the back of his outstanding performance against Australia when Ireland created the first genuine upset of the tournament.
Second Team: Stephen Ferris
Paul O'Connell was outstanding in Ireland's unbeaten run in their pool, playing some of the best rugby of his career to help them in wins over their main competition, Australia and Italy.
He did everything you would want from a lock: won his lineouts, took kickoffs and was strong around the field.
He was to Ireland what Jerome Kaino was to New Zealand—the man who brought the physicality to the game and got the play moving forward, particularly at the breakdown, where he was effective at clearing out the opposition.
As far as the second team goes, James Horwill was generally very good for Australia in his lineouts and his work around the field, so he gets the jumper.
Second Team: James Horwill
Brad Thorn is by no means the flashiest player in the world. But as far as effectiveness goes, he is right up there.
The oldest player at the tournament delivered a World Cup of performances we have come to expect from Big Bad Brad.
He just got on with the job, much in the same way Kaino did, although Thorn's impact was felt more in the way he cleared rucks.
His impact in the All Blacks scrum was also immense, providing the grunt that enabled them to get on top, particularly in the semifinal against Australia when the Wallaby scrum was destroyed.
His lineouts were generally good, despite missing a few in the final.
The second-team position goes to Victor Matfield, who was once again the king of the lineouts. While he clearly isn't the same player he was four years ago when the Springboks lifted the trophy, he was still very good and pushes very close for a spot in the top team.
Second Team: Victor Matfield
Owen Franks epitomises the philosophy that, in this day and age, props need to be able to do more than just scrum. They have to have a strong work rate around the field.
And this is exactly what earns Owen Franks his spot in the Rugby World Cup tournament team.
While he is an outstanding scrummager, as he has shown time again over the past two months, his real strength comes around the field, where his work rate is immense. He plays like another loose forward, making a lot of tackles and doing plenty of dirty work in the dark places of the game.
He has become renowned for his hard-hitting ability.
Martinn Castrogiovanni wins the second-team spot after some dominant displays for Italy. While he doesn't have the all-around game I have just been talking about, he was influential for Italy with his scrummaging ability. With the game plan Italy uses, this is crucial.
Second Team: Martin Castrogiovanni
Ignore the fact that he couldn't make the Springboks' starting lineup for most of the World Cup. Bismarck du Plessis was the best hooker at the World Cup when he was given his opportunities.
His hard-man approach makes him such a threat on attack and defence, and he just seems to keep going at 100 miles an hour for the whole game, always having an impact on proceedings.
His skill at the breakdown is particularly outstanding for a hooker, as was demonstrated throughout this World Cup. He affected some impressive turnovers in the way one would expect an openside flanker to do.
Others to stand out were New Zealand's Keven Mealamu and Andrew Hore, while Stephen Moore also was very good. However, the battle for the second team came down to two men, France's William Servat and Ireland's Rory Best. And after much debate, Best wins the jersey on the back of some outstanding performances in one of the surprise packages of the tournament.
Second Team: Rory Best
The best player in Ireland's shock victory over Australia, Cian Healy wins the final spot in the Rugby World Cup 2011 tournament team.
His display of scrummaging, combined with a good work rate around the park, made him the key man for the Irish, allowing them to gain dominance up front against the more fancied Wallabies.
That wasn't the only game where he stood out. Healy put in good performances every time he took to the field, including a very good effort in Ireland's quarterfinal loss to Wales.
But he will forever be remembered for his efforts against the Wallabies.
Tony Woodcock was generally good for the All Blacks. But the second team spot goes to Adam Jones, whose importance probably wasn't felt until he left the field with injury in Wales' semifinal loss to France.
Second Team: Adam Jones