Our readers have had their say and picked their dream XV for the 2018 season.
Polls went out last week to see who fans thought had the best year, with plenty of talent recognised and plenty more missing the cut.
A whopping ten Irishmen were selected, showing just how good World Rugby’s Team of the Year have been this year – and how passionate their fans are.
Loosehead Prop: Cian Healy – Ireland
RPI Score: 85
A sure tackler, Healy missed just one of his 55 tackle attempts wearing green in 2018.
Healy won 32% of the vote, just edging England’s Mako Vunipola, who comes in with an RPI score of 90 and is rated as the best loosehead prop in the world.
Hooker: Malcolm Marx – South Africa
RPI Score: 92
The Springbok retained his title as the world’s best hooker with a massive Super Rugby season and an impressive international campaign.
Marx is a devastating force with ball in hand and an immovable object at the breakdown. He is perhaps at his best operating at the back of a maul and crossed for a whopping 12 tries for the Lions this year.
The 24-year-old won 53% of the vote, edging Ireland’s Rory Best and New Zealand’s Codie Taylor for his place in the team.
Tighthead Prop: Tadhg Furlong – Ireland
RPI Score: 91
Tadhg Furlong has a case to make for the title of the world’s best player. His impact was felt all over the park in 2018, with the prop proving effective both with and without the ball. Dominant at scrum time, as a ball carrier and in defence, the imposing tighthead made 57 of his 58 tackle attempts.
Perhaps his biggest effort of the year came in Ireland’s Grand Slam-sealing victory over England. He made 18 tackles without a miss in a busy 64-minute shift and won a pair of scrum penalties.
Furlong won an overwhelming 82% of the vote, the largest margin of any position in our polls.
Lock: James Ryan – Ireland
RPI Score: 92
The 22-year-old had a breakout year in 2018 and currently rates as the best lock in the world with an RPI score of 92.
A mobile second rower, Ryan shone throughout the year with Ireland, playing 96% of the available minutes and making 117 of his 121 tackle attempts.
His most impressive test came against New Zealand, where he went toe to toe with Brodie Retallick, outshining the Kiwi as Ireland recorded their first home victory over the All Blacks. Ryan finished the match with 20 made tackles to lead the Irish defence.
Lock: Brodie Retallick – New Zealand
RPI Score: 90
While Brodie Retallick’s time on the field in 2018 was limited, his impact was still felt whenever he was on the park.
In seven tests Retallick got through plenty of work, tackling at 90% and threatening with ball in hand. The towering lock also scored one of the more memorable tries of the season, selling Wallabies flyhalf Bernard Foley with a big dummy before taking off towards the line. The score was awarded Try of the Year by the IRPA.
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Retallick and Ryan had plenty of competition in the locking department, including the likes of Alun Wyn Jones, Sam Whitelock, Maro Itoje, Devin Toner and Eben Etzebeth to claim the two spots. Ryan and Retallick finished with 40% and 34% of the votes respectively.
Blindside Flanker: Peter O’Mahony – Ireland
RPI Score: 92
Few were more influential on the pitch this year than Irish blindside Peter O’Mahony.
Someone who seems to always be at the right place at the right time to make a big play, the Munster man comes in with an RPI Score of 92 which puts him at the top of the blindside ranks.
In ten matches O’Mahony missed just six tackles and had a hugely successful year, with
Openside Flanker: Siya Kolisi – South Africa
RPI Score: 84
A defensive workhorse with tidy ball-carrying ability, Kolisi is a great well-rounded loose forward. He racked up 131 tackles and made 11 turnovers for the Springboks this year and was a key part of their attack, making nine clean breaks and seven offloads in his 13 matches.
With 36% of the vote, Kolisi was a standout for Rassie Erasmus’ side as they sparked a resurgence highlighted by a stunning away victory against the All Blacks.
Number Eight: CJ Stander – Ireland
RPI Score: 90
Another key part of Ireland’s successful 2018 campaign, Number Eight CJ Stander finished the year rated a 90 by the RPI and the world’s third best at his position.
The 28-year-old Munster man played in ten matches for Ireland this year, where he dominated with ball in hand and racked up tackles and turnovers on the defensive end.
Scrumhalf: Faf de Klerk – South Africa
RPI Score: 80
The diminutive South African played an integral role in the Springboks’ resurgence under Rassie Erasmus.
De Klerk is a sparkplug that led the Springboks on both sides of the ball, with a memorable driving takedown on Nathan Hughes in June stealing headlines.
To earn his place in the Readers’ XV the 27-year-old garnered an impressive 59% of the vote.
First-Five Eighth: Johnny Sexton – Ireland
RPI Score: 92
The World Player of the Year rightfully earned his place in the RugbyPass Readers’ XV after a massive year with Ireland. Sexton started the year on a high, with late-game heroics stealing a victory against France to open the year and a home win against New Zealand to finish.
Stealing away back-to-back winner Beauden Barrett’s crown, Sexton collected a whopping 66% of the vote, with Barrett and England’s Owen Farrell finishing with 16% and 15% respectively.
Sexton’s naming in our Readers’ XV backline starts a trend that won’t be interrupted until the fullback spot.
Left Wing: Jacob Stockdale – Ireland
RPI Score: 85
Another young Irish star that enjoyed a breakout season, Jacob Stockdale had plenty of memorable moments in 2018.
His try to secure victory over the All Blacks in November capped an impressive campaign that saw the 22-year-old set the record for most tries scored in a Six Nations with seven. He was then rightly named the Six Nations Player of the Championship.
The 6’4″ winger beat out counterparts Rieko Ioane and World Breakthrough Player of the Year Aphiwe Dyantyi to take home 56% of the vote.
Inside Centre: Bundee Aki – Ireland
RPI Score: 82
The 28-year-old made good on 88% of his tackle attempts, beat 31 defenders and logged three tries and three try assists in his ten tests.
He beat out Ryan Crotty for the honour, collecting 44% of the vote to Crotty’s 36%.
Outside Centre: Garry Ringrose – Ireland
RPI Score: 88
Garry Ringrose looks set to feature in the Irish midfield for years to come. Just 23 years old, the Blackrock College product built on his stellar 2017 campaign with a solid 2018, and currently rates as the third best outside centre in the world, and the best in the Pro14 and Heineken Cup with an RPI score of 88.
In six tests Ringrose played every available minute where he made over 300 metres, beat 19 defenders and made eight clean breaks en route to scoring two tries. He also recorded three try assists and tackled at 89%.
Right Wing: Keith Earls – Ireland
RPI Score: 89
A vintage year from 31-year-old wing Keith Earls sees the winger earn a spot in the RugbyPass Readers’ XV.
Contending with a stacked field including Cheslin Kolbe, Ben Smith and Teddy Thomas, Earls has had great success at both the domestic and international level in 2018, proving that age is just a number – rarely the case for international outside backs.
While Earls scored just the one try for Ireland in 2018, he still proved a constant threat to break the line or beat a defender, with offloading ability adding another facet to his game.
Fullback: Willie le Roux – South Africa
RPI Score: 69
While Willie le Roux’s Wasps have struggled in the Premiership, the fullback has shone on the international stage.
His presence on the Springboks has been immense in 2018, proving irreplaceable at the back. While the RPI does not favour le Roux ahead of the likes of Israel Folau, Damian McKenzie and Stuart Hogg, he won the fans’ hearts with 41% of the vote.
A sure defender at fullback with an impressive boot and silky running ability, le Roux finished 2018 with two tries and just under 300 metres to his name in 12 tests. The statistic perhaps most telling of the 29-year-old’s influence is his seven try assists as he emerged as one of the Springboks’ best playmakers.
McKenzie finished close behind on 31% after a solid year with the All Blacks.
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