November Internationals - Team of the Month
November 29, 2010
All Blacks flanker Richie McCaw led his side to another Grand Slam and gets the nod as skipper of our selection © Getty Images
Adam Ashley-Cooper Dan Carter Bismarck du Plessis Owen Franks Hosea Gear Jerome Kaino Courtney Lawes Rory Lawson Richie McCaw Victor Matfield Drew Mitchell Tendai Mtawarira Mils Muliaina Kieran Read Sonny Bill Williams
The dust has settled on the end of year internationals and the ink is also dry on our Dream XV - but who has done enough this month to make our team?
15. Mils Muliaina (New Zealand)
The veteran All Blacks fullback became his country's most capped international during this tour - an honour he shares with his captain Richie McCaw - but despite the miles on the clock he shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, the 30-year-old is in the form of his life and while reliable is never predictable. Surely a shoo-in for the IRB Player of the Year award?
14. Drew Mitchell (Australia)
Five tries from five Test outings on tour says it all. While the Wallabies' woes continue up front their backs division shone with Mitchell profiting as the side's out and out finisher. A try against the All Blacks in Hong Kong was backed up with another against Italy in Rome and a hat-trick against France, where his industry in defence as well as attack was impressive. However we're not sure about his Movember efforts or his choice in body art.
13. Adam Ashley-Cooper (Australia)
Ashley-Cooper is in danger of shedding his 'utility man' moniker after underlining his credentials as a classy outside centre on the Wallabies' latest tour. The busy 26-year-old racked up his 50th cap against Italy and rounded out a great tour with a Man of the Match display in the demolition of France. A key threat in a talent-heavy Wallabies back division, it is his ability to break the gain line that make him so important.
12. Sonny Bill Williams (New Zealand)
At one point the All Blacks' latest march through the UK & Ireland looked like turning into the Sonny Bill Williams show - such was the frenzy around the freakishly-gifted centre. His display against the Scots confirmed to everyone that the rugby league convert has the skills to become a star in the 15-man code. His ability to offload in the tackle is astounding and his battle with Ma'a Nonu for the No.12 shirt next year will be thrilling.
11. Hosea Gear (New Zealand)
Gear grabbed his latest opportunity with both hands and was arguably the most impressive New Zealand back on this tour. He joined the squad fresh from sharing in New Zealand's Commonwealth Games gold medal glory and extended that fine run of form on the Test match stage. A try against England was followed by two against Scotland and another brace against Wales and as a result he will enter 2011 very much in head coach Graham Henry's World Cup plans.
10. Dan Carter (New Zealand)
Carter may not have been at his imperious best these last few weeks - with an ankle injury appearing to hinder him - but he still managed to dominate the best the Six Nations had to offer. His unrivalled vision and skillset allow him to play the game at a different speed to his rivals and even off his game he is still the best No.10 in the world. And let us not forget he is now the all-time leading scorer in Test rugby. If the rest of the world wants to stop the All Blacks winning the World Cup they need to stop DC.
9. Rory Lawson (Scotland)
Perhaps the most open position in our selection, Lawson earns his place for helping to inspire a stunning turnaround in fortunes for the Scots. The Gloucester No.9 missed the mauling at the hands of the All Blacks through injury but returned to lead his side to a hard-earned victory over South Africa and another against Samoa - eclipsing Ben Youngs' thrilling display against Australia and Ruan Pienaar's solid tour in the process. The 29-year-old grandson of the late commentator Bill McLaren rallied his troops with some of the Hawick Ball sweets his grandfather made famous.
1. Tendai Mtawarira (South Africa)
The Beast was a rock at the heart of a battling Springboks side but it was his industry that caught the eye - most notably against Wales where he racked up a bone-crunching 17 tackles. He was also a pivotal figure as the Boks outmuscled the much-vaunted England scrum.
2. Bismarck du Plessis (South Africa)
By some way the outstanding hooker of the tours, Du Plessis can lay claim to a large amount of the praise coming the resurgent Springboks' way. His grit and determination went some way to lifting the Boks out of the mire and while he was not at his best against the Scots, his technical ability is second to none. In doing so he has arguably ended the international career of John Smit. John who?
3. Owen Franks (New Zealand)
Another rising star of the international game, the 23-year-old Franks has made the All Blacks' tight-head berth his own by packing down with power and control. His education in the dark arts continues but he appears a perfect fit for the void left by Carl Hayman prior to next year's World Cup.
4. Courtney Lawes (England)
England's star performer during a mixed autumn he more than held his own against the Tri-Nations' finest with a lung-busting work rate and superb tackle count. He may have respected his illustrious rivals but in no way did he give them an inch and blended his impressive physicality with some deft touches with ball in hand. And the most pleasing thing for manager Martin Johnson and England fans that there is clearly more to come from the 21-year-old.
5. Victor Matfield (South Africa)
Handed the captaincy of the under-fire South Africans when Smit was ruled out of the tour through injury, the veteran lock rose to the challenge and was a key player as the Springboks went about restoring their reputation on the international stage. His prowess as a lineout technician is well-known but he may be in danger of becoming more influential as a leader - a worrying thought for the rest of the world. The granite-like Matfield also played on after suffering a broken rib in the opening moments of the victory over England.
6. Jerome Kaino (New Zealand)
Kaino's star continues to rise and while he may not be as pivotal to the All Blacks' fortunes as his skipper, the Blues forward was a formidable presence in his appearances against England, Ireland and Wales. His performance at the Millennium Stadium in particular underlined his value with his epic shift getting the All Blacks over the line for the Slam. We'll forgive him his yellow card against England.
7. Richie McCaw (New Zealand)
The ever-impressive McCaw weathered a gloating shove from Wallabies playmaker Quade Cooper, a forearm to the head from England hooker Dylan Hartley, a cheap shot from Wales' Andy Powell and yet more allegations of cheating but as we expected he had the last laugh by steering his side to yet another Grand Slam. He may not win a third IRB Player of the Year award this year but they should rename the thing in his honour.
8. Kieran Read (New Zealand)
The sight of the strong-running Read limping off at the Millennium Stadium at the weekend will be a big concern for New Zealand fans and more importantly head coach Graham Henry. The 25-year-old was an ever-present for the All Blacks on tour and picked up three tries to boot. A finalist for New Zealand's Super 14 Player of the Year and the All Blacks' Player of the Year, it is a shame his year ended on a worrying note.
Did we get our selection right? Let us know your thoughts!
"Only adjustments would be Adam Jones for Owen Franks and still not convinced of SBW. Was fairly invisible against Wales. However, massive plaudits should be reserved for Victor Matfield who was superb throughout the autumn. Imperious under pressure and great ambassador for rugby union." - Dubai Expat
"As a kiwi I thought one of our locks may have got a look in given the solid performance of the AB's lineout even though they tended to be the shorties of the locking world. However I guess as much as I'd like the International XV to be all AB's some other countries deserve a look in too. Anyone know why Powell didn't give away penalties with his repeated head-high tackles. Not even getting cited for the McCaw cheap shot. Go figure... Is the price of success bias refereeing?" - Haka_U_2
"Pretty happy with the team of the month. I would have Ben Youngs ahead of Lawson. Ashton was unlucky to miss out. As a NZer I am glad there is a good representation of NZers in there." - Carlin Corssan
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Huw Richards profiles French forward Walter Spanghero, a man who even rugby's hard men thought was a tough nut
"To be part of the Commonwealth Games, I'd wear anything. I'd wear a clown suit." Tom Hamilton talks to Scotland's Sean Lamont
Scrum Sevens looks back at how rugby has fared in both the early Olympics and the past four Commonwealth Games
"Cheika's been phenomenal. He gives you an incredible level of mental strength." Tom Hamilton talks to Waratahs star Jacques Potgieter