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Opinion

My World XV for 2021: Hooper still super as Quade sneaks in

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Roar Rookie
21st November, 2021
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Another year of Test rugby has come to an end. 2021 started with a Six Nations tournament bereft of crowds, thanks to Covid-19.

While the quality of rugby was good, it lacked the atmosphere the crowd brings; the overflowing pubs, the singing, the passion and camaraderie that sets the Six Nations apart as a festival of rugby.

Thankfully by spring we saw crowds return to northern hemisphere Tests. Southern hemisphere touring sides returned north and the sold out sign was seen once again at Twickenham, Murrayfield and Stade De France.

Between these two bookends we witnessed a tough and uncompromising Springboks series win over the British and Irish Lions and a series win for the Wallabies over France.

The Springboks returned to the Rugby Championship, making for a lively and entertaining tournament among the gentle winter climes of sunny Queensland.

Which brings us to my selections for a World XV of 2021. My take is a little selective and purely objective, based on games I’ve watched and those who have stirred the soul.

I haven’t used any stats, just impressions and applause from the armchair. Note that there are a few players including Cheslin Kolbe Pieter-Steph Du Toit and Semi Radradra who haven’t been considered due to injury.

World XV 2021
15 Jordie Barrett (New Zealand)

I’m a big fan of Barrett junior. He has all the attributes of a good full back. Speed, size, great in the air and with a siege gun boot. Honourable mentions to my favourite Scotsman Stuart Hogg and emerging Ireland full back, Hugo Keenan.

Jordie Barrett and David Havili of the All Blacks

(Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)

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14. Will Jordan (New Zealand)
Jordan is a try-scoring machine who runs with speed and immaculate running lines. Likely to break All Black records, barring injury. Honourable mention to Wallabies Marika Koroibete.

13. Robbie Henshaw (Ireland)
Though usually an outside centre, Henshaw was one of the players in the Six Nations and the best back among the British and Irish Lions. Big, strong, intelligent and with good soft skills. Honourable mentions to Boks defensive general Lukhanyo Am and veterinary France utility back Gael Fickou.

12. Samu Kerevi (Australia)
The Wallabies gained two brilliant wins over the Boks during the Rugby Championship, with Kerevi breaking the gainline almost at will. Kerevi’s game has continued to mature as he’s grown into a world-class inside centre with bulldozing runs and sublime offloads.

11. Louis Rees-Zammit (Wales)
Rees-Zammit had an excellent Six Nations, scoring four tries and lighting up the tournament with his speed and eye for the tryline. Honourable mention to Makazole Mapimpi.

10 Quade Cooper (Australia)
Out half is the position I agonised over most. In ways choosing between a rejuvenated Beauden Barrett and the sublime Richie Mo’unga was too simply too difficult.

That’s not to say that QC isn’t a worthy choice, his return to the Wallabies was a revelation as he played with bravery, maturity and style. Still one of the best passers in the game. Honourable mention to French pivot Matthieu Jalibert.

Quade Cooper

Quade Cooper. (Photo by Jono Searle/Getty Images)

9. Antoine Dupont (France)
Aaron Smith’s absence at Test level makes this one an easy selection. Dupont has all the skills needed for a world-class modern scrumhalf – lightning pace, good passing, an eye for the gap and an excellent game manager. That the All Blacks badly missed Smith speaks volumes to his brilliance.

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1.Steven Kitschoff (South Africa)
Kitschoff is the loosehead cornerstone in the Boks “bomb squad”, but such are the riches of the Boks propping stocks, three or four others South African props would be worthy inclusions.

2. Julien Marchand (France)
Like the Boks, France have an abundance of hooking talent including Camile Chat and Peato Mauvaka, with Marchand excelling during the Six Nations. Honourable mentions to Boks Malcolm Marx, the evergreen Codie Taylor and dynamic Irishman Ronan Kelleher.

3. Tadgh Furlong (Ireland)
After a frustrating period on the sidelines through injury, Furlong is back to his best with powerful scrummaging, bulldozing runs and wonderful ball handling. In November, All Black great John Kirwan lamented that for the first time, Ireland had a more skillful front row than the All Blacks.

4 Eben Etezebeth (South Africa)
Similar to the out half debate, I couldn’t decide between Etezebeth and Lood De Jager who simply monstered the British and Irish Lions with gargantuan levels of physicality. Honourable mention to Maro Itoje, who showed his class on the Lions tour, after an underwhelming Six Nations by his own high standards.

5. Lood De Jager (South Africa)
There are locks and then there are South African giants. Honourable mentions to All Black veterans Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock.

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6. Tadgh Beirne (Ireland)
Shortlisted for Six Nations player of the tournament, Beirne is a combative, intelligent back rower cum lock. Defensively excellent, wonderfully combative, an excellent lineout operator and talented ball runner makes Tadgh Beirne a world-class No 6.

Honourable mentions to Akira Ioane, Boks talisman, Siya Kolisi and Charles Ollivion.

7. Michael Hooper (Australia)
Another to return from Japan with greater confidence and maturity, Hooper has been brilliant in 2021. Honourable mention to the wonderful Hamish Watson who was named Six Nations player of the tournament.

8. Gregory Alldritt (France)
Alldritt has become a leader in the France set up and a talisman at La Rochelle. No 8 was another difficult choice with Jack Conan, Taulupe Faletau, Rob Valetini all excelling in 2021.

Compiling World XV’s are the stuff of rugby tragics, of debates with mates at the pub, and moments of solidarity and celebration. Please let me know (respectfully!) what you think!

It’s all in the name of a little fun, celebrating those who brought us rugby joy in 2021.

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