With the Springboks now back on terra firma and ready to parade the Webb Ellis trophy around the streets of Gauteng, Nick Cain picks his team of the tournament from a glorious World Cup in Japan.
1 Tendai Mtawarira – South Africa
“The Beast” wrecked the England scrum, and was back to his formidable best after reclaiming the Springbok jersey. His aggressive scrummaging and powerful carrying and tackling consistently put his side on the front foot.
2 Jamie George – England
There was not a more skillful all-round hooker in the tournament, even upstaging the Kiwis Codie Taylor and Dane Coles in the loose. Great feet for such a solid bloke, and set-piece work exemplary.
3 Kyle Sinckler – England
Tight-heads simply do not hit the sort of running line he did to score against Australia. Great hands, tenacious in defence, and kept focus and discipline at the scrum despite attempts at provocation.
4 Maro Itoje – England
Not among the giant locks physically, but a giant of a lock in every other respect, whether at the line-out, breakdown, or scrum. Has a steely competitiveness as well as unrivalled athleticism.
5 Alun Wyn Jones – Wales
Immovable object at the core of the Welsh pack, a natural leader with an insatiable work-ethic. Powerful, mobile lock who marshalls the defence and the line-out drive to keep his side in the fight.
6 Pieter-Steph du Toit – South Africa
A big unit with a bigger engine, the Springbok flanker has the uncanny ability to slow down opposition ball, and his defensive work ensured the South African line was difficult to cross.
7 Sam Underhill – England
A punishing tackler who combines power with excellent technique, and the senior of the Kamikaze duo at 23. Worked in tandem with Curry superbly to dominate the breakdown on the way to the final.
8 Kazuki Himeno – Japan
Crucial turn-overs and carries nudges him ahead of big names like Kieran Read, Billy Vunipola and Duane Vermeulen. Had the size and power at 6ft 2ins and 17st (108kg) to slug it out with the Irish and Scots.
9 Faf de Klerk – South Africa
Pint-sized ball of energy whose rapid acceleration and probing tactical kicking means he needs constant watching. Fierce competition from Aaron Smith, Gareth Davies, Yutaka Ngare and Frank Lomani.
10 Handre Pollard – South Africa
Re-discovered his threat as a runner, as well as being a classy distributor and an ace goal-kicker who put his side in the driving seat against England. Kept defences guessing, and nudged aside Richie Mo’unga, George Ford and Dan Biggar.
11 Semi Radradra – Fiji
The most powerful, incredibly balanced and incisive runner on show, who beat defenders for fun. Gets ahead of star-studded cast of Josh Adams, Marika Koroibete, Jonny May and Kenki Fukuoka.
12 Damian de Allende South Africa
The big, tenacious powerhouse edged out Owen Farrell. Stays on his feet to give the Springbok midfield attack teeth, and has an uncanny ability to scramble and rescue his side in defence.
13 Manu Tuilagi – England
Recovered from five years of injury hell to halt the All Blacks, getting him in over Timothy Lafaele and Virimi Vakatawa. Try-scoring, corner-flagging, turn-overs, big hits — you name it, he did it.
14 Makazole Mapimpi – South Africa
His speed, strength and size made him hard to hold, and caused England problems in the air as well. Squeezes in front of Japanese hero Kotaro Matsushima, NZ’s Sevu Reece, and England’s Anthony Watson.
15 Beauden Barrett – New Zealand
Did enough before the shut-out by England to earn the full-back shirt with his counter-attacking flair, but had serious competition from Liam Williams before injury ruled him out of the semis.
16 Shota Horie – Japan
17 Mako Vunipola – England
18 Frans Malherbe – South Africa / Kirill Gotovtsev – Russia
19 Eben Etzebeth – South Africa
20 Ardie Savea – New Zealand
21 Gareth Davies – Wales / Yutaka Nagare – Japan
22 Owen Farrell – England
23 Kotaro Matsushima – Japan / Marika Koroibete – Australia