The votes are in, and after two months of polling, the RugbyPass Straight 8 Fan Vote World XV has been finalised.
In a lengthy campaign launched across the RugbyPass Facebook and Instagram channels, fans from around the globe have voted and debated against one another in a bid to find the best player in the world in each position.
Eight players were nominated and pitted against each other in a three-round knockout bracket in each positional group, and fans were left to decide amongst themselves who was the cream of the crop.
Some positions were more tightly contested than others, with the tighthead prop, flanker, No. 8, second-five and fullback spots decided by a margin of five percent or less.
Others, such as the loosehead prop, halfback, first-five, centre and wing positions, were claimed in more dominant fashions.
In total, ten players from last year’s World Cup final feature in the composite team, six of whom were member of the world champion Springboks side.
A further four players from England are accompanied by two All Blacks representatives, while one player from each of Scotland, Ireland and Fiji were voted in.
No players from traditional World Rugby powerhouses Wales, Australia and France made the cut.
RugbyPass Straight 8 Fan Vote World XV
1. Mako Vunipola
Test caps: 65 (six for British and Irish Lions)
Major honours: 2x Six Nations, 2016 Grand Slam, 3x Triple Crowns, 6x Calcutta Cups, 2013 B&I Lions series winner, 2017 B&I Lions series draw; 4x Premierships, 3x European Champions Cups; 2018 RPA England Player of the Year
It’s been a glittering, trophy-laden career so far for English prop Mako Vunipola, and that is reflected in how the public voted for him in the loosehead prop bracket.
An overwhelming 86 percent victory against Wallabies veteran Scott Sio was followed by a comprehensive 61 percent win against World Cup-winning Springboks prop Steven Kitshoff.
Irish star Cian Healy proved to be no match for Vunipola in the final round of voting, with 63 percent of the public backing the New Zealand-born front rower to hand him a place in the team in the same month that he won the inaugural RugbyPass FIFA Pros tournament.
2. Malcolm Marx
Nation: South Africa
Test caps: 33
Club: NTT Communications Shining Arcs
Major honours: 2019 World Cup, 2019 Rugby Championship; 2015 Currie Cup; 2017 SA Rugby Player of the Year, 2018 SA Players’ Player of the Year, 2018 World Rugby Player of the Year nominee
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? BREAKING ? Malcolm Marx named the world’s best hooker. Don’t get ROLE confused with ABILITY! Yeah his role changed but this man started for three years and earned a World Player of the Year nomination in 2018. Don’t get it twisted! ? #sarugby #springboks #bokrugby #rwc #rugby #rugbygram #lionsrugby
Despite having lost his place in the South African starting lineup to Bongi Mbonambi at last year’s World Cup, Malcolm Marx’s reputation as one of the most damaging hookers on the planet earned him the No. 2 jersey in this squad.
An 89 percent thrashing of Argentine rake Julian Montoya saw the Shining Arcs star – who is rumoured to be close to signing with the Kubota Spears – pitted against experienced All Blacks star Dane Coles in the semi-finals of the bracket.
A comfortable 61 percent victory was enough to guide Marx into the final round of the vote, and while England’s Jamie George provided the sternest challenge, he still couldn’t stop the soon-to-be free agent from attaining 56 percent of the public’s backing.
3. Tadhg Furlong
Test caps: 47 (three for British and Irish Lions)
Major honours: 2018 Six Nations, 2018 Grand Slam, 2018 Triple Crown, 2017 B&I Lions series draw; 2x Pro14, 2018 European Champions Cup
The sole Ireland representative in this team, Tadhg Furlong’s selection came close to falling through given how tightly-contested the tighthead prop vote was.
Things got off to an easy start for the Leinster veteran, who pumped Australia’s Michael Alaalatoa by an 85 percent margin in the opening round, which was backed up by a 67 percent win over Springboks front rower Vincent Koch.
That led Furlong to a highly-anticipated final clash against England star Kyle Sinckler in a vote that went down to the wire, but the former prevailed to churn out a well-deserved 51 percent victory to book his place in the fan-voted side.
4. Maro Itoje
Test caps: 41 (three for British and Irish Lions)
Major honours: 2x Six Nations, 2016 Grand Slam, 2x Triple Crowns, 2x Calcutta Cups, 2017 B&I Lions series draw; 4x Premierships, 3x European Champions Cups, 2014-15 Anglo-Welsh Cup; 2x World Rugby Player of the Year nominee, 2016 World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year, 2016 European Player of the Year
The youngest member of this team, Maro Itoje was also one of the first two players to be inducted into the World XV after claiming victory as the planet’s best lock in the opening instalment of Straight 8 Fan Vote campaign.
Having already enjoyed a highly-decorated career since bursting onto the scene four years ago, the 25-year-old was comprehensive in his dispatching of Springboks lock RG Snyman and Irish second rower James Ryan in the first two rounds.
Neither player attained even a quarter of the votes against Itoje, and while veteran South African star Eben Etzebeth fared much better than his counterparts in the final, the Saracens poster boy still managed to clinch a 58 percent win.
5. Eben Etzebeth
Nation: South Africa
Test caps: 85
Major honours: 2019 World Cup, 2019 Rugby Championship, 3x Mandela Challenge Plates; 2x Currie Cups; 2013 World Rugby Player of the Year nominee
Although he didn’t emerge victorious against Itoje in the final of the lock vote, Etzebeth qualifies for this side by virtue of finishing runner-up in a position where two spots in the World XV need filling.
That’s good reward for a player who has forged a reputation for himself as one of the true enforcers in the sport, which was evidenced by 57 percent win over Welsh legend Alun Wyn Jones and tight 51 percent win over All Blacks great Brodie Retallick.
Now plying his trade in the south of France with Toulon, Etzebeth will no doubt be eager to add Top 14 and European Champions Cup crowns to his World Cup, Rugby Championship and Currie Cup accolades.
6. Pieter-Steph du Toit
Nation: South Africa
Test caps: 55
Major honours: 2019 World Cup, 2019 Rugby Championship, 2019 Mandela Challenge Plate; 2013 Currie Cup; 2019 World Rugby Player of the Year, 3x SA Rugby Player of the Year, 2019 SA Rugby Players’ Player of the Year
It’s no wonder that reigning World Rugby Player of the Year Pieter-Steph du Toit is the subject of ongoing transfer rumours considering his world-class quality that has been recognised by fans worldwide in the Straight 8 Fan Vote.
The former Sharks lock was thrust into a stacked flanker bracket but emerged victorious in compelling fashion in the opening round with an 82 percent thrashing of French forward Charles Ollivon.
After scraping past up-and-coming English prospect Tom Curry with 56 percent of the vote in the semi-final, Du Toit put the debate to bed with a tight 52 percent win over barnstorming All Blacks star Ardie Savea with 52 percent of the public’s backing.
7. Ardie Savea
Nation: New Zealand
Test caps: 44
Major honours: 3x Rugby Championships, 4x Bledisloe Cups, 4x Freedom Cups, 2017 B&I Lions series draw; 2016 Super Rugby; 2019 World Rugby Player of the Year nominee, 2019 NZ Rugby Player of the Year, 2019 All Blacks Player of the Year
Considered by many not to have outright won the flanker vote, Ardie Savea still showed how highly valued he is among the rugby fraternity by making it into this side as the runner-up to Du Toit.
A dominant 76 percent win over Welsh loose forward Justin Tipuric was followed by a similarly comprehensive 60 percent winning margin over inspirational Springboks captain Siya Kolisi.
However, it wasn’t to be for Savea, who fell just short of clinching the title of the world’s best flanker, but proved along the way that he is a force to be reckoned with.
8. Duane Vermeulen
Nation: South Africa
Test caps: 54
Club: Kubota Spears
Major honours: 2019 World Cup, 2019 Rugby Championship, 2013 Mandela Challenge Plate; 2x Currie Cups; 2019 World Cup Final Man of the Match, 2014 World Rugby Player of the Year nominee, 2014 SA Rugby Player of the Year, 2014 SA Rugby Players’ Player of the Year
As the elder statesman of this team, Duane Vermeulen has shown no signs of letting up as one of the world’s premier No. 8s after fighting off a raft of challengers to claim his place in the World XV.
In one of the biggest winning margins seen throughout the campaign, last year’s World Cup Final Man of the Match won 92 percent of the vote against Argentina’s Javier Ortega Desio, and backed that up with a 73 percent win over South African-born Irishman CJ Stander.
That victory put Vermeulen up against England star Billy Vunipola, who pushed the 54-test Springbok close, but couldn’t quite seal the deal as the Kubota Spears eighth man secured 54 percent of the vote to round out the forward pack.
9. Faf de Klerk
Nation: South Africa
Test caps: 30
Club: Sale Sharks
Major honours: 2019 World Cup, 2019 Rugby Championship; 2013 Currie Cup First Division, 2015 Vodacom Cup; 2018 World Rugby Player of the Year nominee
Diminutive Springboks halfback Faf de Klerk was one of the standouts in South Africa’s run to the World Cup title last year, and his influence in the world champion side was acknowledged in his admission into this team.
A first-up 86 percent thumping of English scrumhalf Ben Youngs was followed by an 82 percent thrashing of veteran Ireland star Conor Murrary in the semi-final vote.
That left De Klerk with an all-star showdown with All Blacks general Aaron Smith in the final, but the energetic Sale Sharks recruit was too popular among the masses as he claimed a convincing 68 percent win.
10. Beauden Barrett
Nation: New Zealand
Test caps: 83
Major honours: 2015 World Cup, 6x Rugby Championships, 7x Bledisloe Cups, 7x Freedom Cups, 2017 B&I Lions series draw; 2016 Super Rugby; 2x World Rugby Player of the Year, 2018 World Rugby Player of the Year nominee, 2016 NZ Rugby Player of the Year
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The 10s who came up against Barrett by vote share – last place Romain Ntamack (23.0%), second to last Handre Pollard (30.7%), with Finn Russell getting the closest with 36.2%. ?#nzrugby #allblacks #scotlandrugby #sarugby #springboks #francerugby #rugbymemes #rugby #rugbygram
The only member of New Zealand’s 2015 World Cup-winning side to be voted into this World XV, Beauden Barrett was untouchable en route to being voted the world’s best first-five.
That much was evident as the two-time World Rugby Player of the Year bagged a 69 percent win over Springboks pivot Handre Pollard and a 76 percent victory over French youngster Romain Ntamack.
A final round clash with exciting Scotland playmaker Finn Russell beckoned, but Barrett’s attacking prowess was too much for the Racing 92 star to handle as he went on to claim the No. 10 spot with 63 percent of the vote.
11. Semi Radradra
Test caps: 10
Club: Bordeaux Bègles
Major honours: 2018 Pacific Nations Cup, 2x Fiji Player of the Year
Don’t let Semi Radradra’s lack of accolades in rugby union deceive you, as the Bristol Bears-bound league convert has been a phenomenon since switching codes in 2017.
A 79 percent thumping of Japanese sensation Kenki Fukuoka in the opening round was supported by a 72 percent win over World Cup-winning Springboks speedster Makazole Mapimpi.
Despite Radradra’s impressive showing in Japan last year, his efforts were usurped by South African star Cheslin Kolbe in the final, but his runner-up finish means the 27-year-old warrants a place in this team.
12. Owen Farrell
Test caps: 87 (four for British and Irish Lions)
Major honours: 2x Six Nations, 2016 Grand Slam, 3x Triple Crowns, 7x Calcutta Cups, 2013 B&I Lions series win, 2017 B&I Lions series draw; 5x Premierships, 3x European Champions Cups; 3x World Rugby Player of the Year nominee, 2017 European Player of the Year, 2017 RPA England Player of the Year
One of the most decorated players in this XV, it’s unsurprising to see England captain Owen Farrell featured in this side at second-five.
The 28-year-old playmaker easily defeated Argentina inside centre Jeronimo de la Fuente in the first round, but a much tighter 55 percent win over Springboks midfielder Damian de Allende was enough to put him in the final.
There he met former Wallabies star Samu Kerevi in what transpired to be a competitively fought contest, but Farrell prevailed in a 54 percent victory.
13. Manu Tuilagi
Test caps: 44 (one for British and Irish Lions)
Club: Leicester Tigers
Major honours: 2016 Six Nations, 2016 Grand Slam, 2016 Triple Crown, 2013 B&I Lions series win; 2013 Premiership
Following years of injuries and disciplinary issues, blockbusting English centre Manu Tuilagi is in the midst of a spectacular career resurgence that has seen him picked by the fans as the best No. 13 on the planet.
Versatile All Blacks midfielder Anton Lienert-Brown was effectively used as a doormat in the opening round after Tuilagi picked up 73 percent of the vote, and the same can be said of French star Virimi Vakatawa, who conceded a 72 percent loss to the Leicester Tigers veteran.
A final match-up against experienced Welshman Jonathan Davies promised big things, but the support for Tuilagi was enough for the Samoan-born barnstormer to cruise home in a 62 percent victory.
14. Cheslin Kolbe
Nation: South Africa
Test caps: 14
Major honours: 2019 World Cup, 2019 Rugby Championship; 2019 Top 14; 2014 Currie Cup; 2016 Rio Olympics bronze medallist; 2019 World Rugby Player of the Year nominee, 2019 Top 14 Player of the Year
South Africa’s pocket rocket wing Cheslin Kolbe provided the World Cup with arguably some of the most tantalising performances at the tournament as he found himself in the same vein of form that made him last year’s Top 14 Player of the Year.
It was no surprise, then, to see the 2016 Olympics bronze medallist see off the threat of both Welsh try-scoring machine Josh Adams and English speedster Jonny May in 89 percent and 68 percent victories, respectively.
A dynamite clash against Semi Radradra fell in Kolbe’s favour, with the electric Toulouse star cruising home with a 61 percent win to be crowned the world’s best wing by the fans.
15. Stuart Hogg
Test caps: 76
Club: Exeter Chiefs
Major honours: 2018 Calcutta Cup; 2015 Pro12; 2x Six Nations Player of the Tournament
While major titles have mostly evaded Stuart Hogg as a result of being part of an underwhelming Scottish outfit, his addition in this side is justice for one of the most well-rounded fullbacks on the planet.
The former Glasgow Warriors star made easy work of Welshman Liam Williams and ex-All Blacks utility Charles Piutau in the opening two rounds after claiming back-to-back 64 percent victories.
Facing All Blacks dynamo Damian McKenzie in the final, Hogg clinched the title in one of the tightest finishes in the entire campaign after accruing little more than 50 percent of the vote.
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