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Nine teams - including Chile - named in Nigel Owens' Best July XV

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Jason McCawley/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

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Ireland have gained the most representation in the Best July Test XV named by retired referee Nigel Owens, who included picks from nine different countries – including Chile. The South Americans caused a major upset last weekend in Colorado, defeating the USA to qualify for the 2023 World Cup and their out-half Rodrigo Fernandez has been named at out-half in the ex-referee’s Test team of the month.   

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Fernandez was the scorer of an outrageous individual try in the first leg of the two-game qualifier in Santiago, gliding through the rain-sodden, muddy surface to score from an attack that began inside his own half. 

It was an achievement that Owens believed merited the inclusion of the Chilean in a team consisting of three Irish, two from each of South Africa, Wales, England and New Zealand. Argentina, Australia and Scotland also have one player each included. 

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Speaking on Whistle Watch, his weekly review programme of rugby from around the world, Owens initially unveiled a team with eleven picks before specifically singing the praises of the four other players that made the cut. 

“With the men’s July Test series over I have selected my Best XV. As you can see, I have filled up most of the positions. There are some big names like Ardie Savea, Ellis Genge, (Samu) Kerevi who all performed brilliantly this month but let’s have a look at the gaps and pick my remaining players,” said Owens about an XV where the four vacancies were at half-back, second row and blindside.     

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“First up is outside-half Rodrigo Fernandez who helped Chile qualify for their first ever World Cup. I just can’t begin to imagine what that means for him and the country as well. He not only scored one of the great tries of the month but one of the great tries in rugby history as well. No9, this guy has got a great future, Jack van Poortvliet, scrum-half for England. A fellow farmer as well, he grew up on a farm. Really stepped up and didn’t look out of place. Only 21 years old, he has got a great future ahead of him. One to watch for the World Cup, I am sure. 

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“But what about No6? Well, a straightforward decision, Peter O’Mahony. At 32 years of age, he epitomises what Irish rugby is all about. Led by example throughout the series and refused to take a backward step. Nothing new about that I can tell you.  

“Second row, Eben Etzebeth. A centurion for South Africa, an absolutely colossal player, big carriers and even bigger hits as well. His physicality nullified Wales and he is one of the many leaders in the South Africa squad.” 

Nigel Owens’ July Best Test XV
15. Damian Willemse (South Africa); 14. Emilano Bofelli (Argentina), 13. George North (Wales), 12. Samu Kerevi (Australia), 11. Duhan van der Merwe (Scotland); 10. Rodrigo Fernandez (Chile), 9. Jack van Poortvliet (England); 1. Ellis Genge (England), 2. Dan Sheehan (Ireland), 3. Ofa Tu’ungafasi (New Zealand), 4. Eben Etzebeth (South Africa), 5. Tadhg Beirne (Ireland), 6. Peter O’Mahony (Ireland), 7. Tommy Reffell (Wales), 8. Ardie Savea (New Zealand)

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