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England and South Africa head five-strong shortlist for team of the year award

World Cup finalists England and South Africa are among the five-strong shortlist of nominees for the World Rugby team of the year 2019 accolade.

The shortlist was selected by a panel comprising former international players Maggie Alphonsi, Brian O’Driscoll and Agustín Pichot, alongside former coaches Nick Mallett and Clive Woodward, the World Rugby coach of the year in 2003.

The winner will be announced at the World Rugby awards in Tokyo next Sunday.

World Rugby team of the year shortlist

ENGLAND 

A first World Cup final for 12 years has been secured the hard way after overcoming Australia and New Zealand in impressive fashion in consecutive matches, only the second team to beat both in the same tournament. 

England were runners-up in the Six Nations with Wales the only nation to beat them – twice – in 14 Test matches this year, a run of results that has helped take them back to the top of the World Rugby rankings for the first time since June 2004.

(Continue reading below…)

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JAPAN

The Brave Blossoms captured the hearts and imagination of a nation with their up-tempo style of play and incredible heart helping them reach the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time at Japan 2019. 

Victories over Ireland and Scotland saw them briefly rise to a new high of sixth in the World Rugby rankings in a year that also saw them win the World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup title and lose only twice – to South Africa – in nine Test games.

NEW ZEALAND 

A ten-time recipient of this award, New Zealand extended their record-breaking winning run to 18 matches on the World Cup stage with impressive victories over South Africa and Ireland before England ended their hopes of a third successive title. 

The All Blacks have won seven of their 10 Tests in 2019, relinquishing the Rugby Championship title and their No1 ranking but retaining the Bledisloe Cup for a 17th successive year.

SOUTH AFRICA 

The Rugby Championship winners are bidding to create World Cup history by becoming the first team to lift the Webb Ellis Cup after losing a match at the finals – their Pool B opener against New Zealand. 

That loss, 23-13, is their only one of the year, having won nine and drawn the other of their 11 Tests. The Springboks have risen to No2 in the World Rugby rankings for the first time in more than four years after reaching a first RWC final since 2007.

WALES 

Warren Gatland’s final year in charge of Wales has been one to remember with the Six Nations Grand Slam secured, a first World Cup victory over Australia since 1987 and a rise to No1 in the World Rugby rankings for the first time in history. 

A first RWC final may have eluded Wales, but they can still match their best-ever finish of third and end the year with 12 victories in 16 Tests.

Previous World Rugby team of the year award winners: 

2018 – Ireland

2017 – New Zealand Women’s 15s

2016 – New Zealand

2015 – New Zealand

2014 – New Zealand

2013 – New Zealand

2012 – New Zealand

2011 – New Zealand

2010 – New Zealand

2009 – South Africa

2008 – New Zealand

2007 – South Africa

2006 – New Zealand

2005 – New Zealand

2004 – South Africa

2003 – England

2002 – France

2001 – Australia

WATCH: Cheslin Kolbe on the state of his ankle injury and the probable high ball tactics in Saturday’s World Cup final

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England and South Africa head five-strong shortlist for team of the year award