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Opinion

Dream XV 2020: Halves of the year

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Roar Guru
13th December, 2020
18

Every year, there will be form players in each position.

However, this year, due to the rude interruption of the pandemic, we have a very limited number of games to choose from.

At club level, these games are the club competitions in break-off Super Rugby competitions, the Top 14, the Premiership, and the Pro 12.

For the international level, where most of the consideration takes place, we have the Tri Nations Cup, Bledisloe Cup, Six Nations and the Autumn Nations Cup.

This dream XV is a series of articles to celebrate the best performing players in each position.

The halfbacks are key decision makers in a rugby team, and the halfbacks are the guys that they build a team around. Thus, it is logical for me to start my dream XV with them.

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Number nine: Antoine Dupont
Although I am a big Aaron Smith and Faf de Klerk fan, Dupont’s form this year overcame my bias. He was simply brilliant.

He does not fit the mould of a typical Conor Murray or Greig Laidlaw nine, who box kicks and focuses his game on controlling the tempo of it.

Antoine Dupont is extremely skilled with excellent kicking and passing. He has great pace and agility and we saw that multiple times.

Recently, Fabien Galthie has put his game plan on giving Dupont as many options as possible. His speed at the breakdown and attacking vision are phenomenal. He was deservedly named the Six Nations player of the championship, performing excellently on a consistent basis.

Number ten: Richie Mo’unga
For all that the haters may say, this man is one of the best flyhalves on the planet and he was the form flyhalf of 2020. He was pivotal in winning the Super Rugby Aotearoa and he engineers tries with ease.

Richie Mo’unga of the All Blacks celebrates scoring a try during the 2020 Tri-Nations and Bledisloe Cup match

(Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

He is one of the maverick flyhalves. Think Finn Russell, Romain Ntamack and Beauden Barrett. He proved, once again, that he is the man to own the All Blacks ten shirt, working to fill Dan Carter’s boots.

With a great kick pass, he has created many tries from the tactical boot. He has an array of attacking kicks, which are extremely exciting. In attack his passing is excellent. It is one of his try-creating methods. He also has a solid boot from the tee. Richie Mo’unga’s consistency, barring that loss to Argentina, is crucial to the All Blacks.

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Honourable mentions

Scrum halves
Aaron Smith showed some excellent form for the All Blacks, and he has been the form player of Super Rugby Aotearoa. Although he is not the form nine, he is certainly the most skilful nine, most notably renowned for his passing.

Nic White was excellent as well, sniping off the rucks and creating opportunities with his solid skill set. White is probably Australia’s most crucial player in their World Cup rebuild.

Ben Youngs also recovered his form late on against Ireland and Wales and in the Autumn Nations Cup, being a solid nine, despite the criticism he picked up after his performances against France.

Conor Murray had good form this year, and he was the quiet commander for the Irish.

Conor Murray

(Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Flyhalves
One main contender for the ten spot in this team would be Nicolas Sanchez. While he is not the kind of maverick flyhalf that Russell, Mo’unga, and Ntamack are, he fits the Jonny Wilkinson or Henry Honiball mould of a player extremely well.

He is a metronomic goal kicker, an extremely skilled rugby player and a general. If there is a chance, he takes it. If not, he continues his default solidity. He was pivotal in a man-of-the-match performance in scoring all the points against the All Blacks in a historical win.

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He remained a great commanding distributor and created many opportunities, which were not completely picked up by pundits. Sanchez is the key man in the World Cup cycle and Mario Ledesma has been playing quite a lot around him.

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I really must give a mention to Finn Russell for his form for Racing 92 in the Top 14. He was mercurial and his playmaking is fantastic. He may have made this dream XV had he played more in the autumn.

Dan Biggar also played some great attacking rugby and showed he was highly skilled. However, in the autumn, Wales failed to provide him with a proper platform and momentum to attack, causing his arm-flapping frustration and for him to revert to his ever brilliant kicking game.

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The dual flyhalf combo for the English has been effective, with George Ford and Owen Farrell. Ford has shown he is a great pivot, with his superb passing and kicking and rugby intelligence. He is rather underrated, and he does truly own the English ten jersey.

Farrell has his flat pass, which was shown for the Saracens on many occasions. He also had good form for the Saracens and decently solid performances at Test level.