RWC23: TOL’s World Cup team-of-the-Week – first round of pool matches

Nine different countries represented

George Ford of England is at stand-off in The Offside Line's World Cup team-of-the-week. Image: Craig Watson
George Ford of England is at stand-off in The Offside Line's World Cup team-of-the-week. Image: Craig Watson

BEN DONALDSON’s 25-points from two tries, three conversions and three penalties earned him the man-of-the-match award in Australia’s 35-15 win over Georgia and selection at full-back in this team, ahead of  Ireland’s Hugo Keenan and Thomas Ramos of France.

Damien Penaud had a turbulent 80 minutes as France got their campaign off to a winning start against New Zealand on Friday night, being culpable for two first half tries conceded to Mark Telea and spilling one of his own over the line, but then linked with Mathieu Jalibert for the score which turned the game in his team’s favour. Talea’s brace, including the fastest opening try in World Cup history scored in 91 seconds, earns him the other wing spot ahead of Josh Adams, whose  impressive performance in both attack and defence included one huge tackle as Wales squeezed past Fiji on Sunday night.

Try-scoring skipper Waisea Nayacalevu was at immense in Fiji’s heartbreaking near miss versus Wales and he lines up in the centre alongside Bundee Aki, who scored a try and carried 20 times for 240 metres in an 82-8 win for Ireland over poor Romania, meaning Wales’ Nick Tompkins is unlucky to miss out.

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It has to be George Ford at stand-off for the way he grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck and masterminded England’s 14-man win over Argentina, while Faf de Klerk – celebrating his 50th cap  – gets the nod at scrum-half as key cog in a Springbok machine which dismantled Scotland, stepping forward to kick some goals too. Aaron Smith of New Zealand made a strong case for selection while Chile’s Marcelo Torrealba is worth keeping an eye on.

Wales’ win over Fiji was based on a a terrific defensive performance, with Gareth Thomas making 23 tackles to earn selection at loose-head prop. Malcolm Marx of South Africa is at hooker. Australia’s Taniela Tupou – another player bringing up his half century of caps – made a big contribution in both the tight and loose, including an audacious offload to Donaldson, to earn selection at tight-head (he also demonstrated fine sportsmanship with an honest confession that he hadn’t scored in an attempted drive to the line).

Some tough calls in the second-row. Youngster Joe McCarthy had a good afternoon in that big win for Ireland, Will Rowlands made an impressive 27 tackles for Wales, New Zealand’s Scott Barrett also had a big game and RG Snyman made a telling contribution off the bench for South Africa versus Scotland, but Maro Itoje was somewhere close to his delightful/infuriating (depending on your perspective) best in England’s win over Argentina so he joins Amato Fakatava, who was man of the match for Japan in their 42-12 win over Chile in the  boiler-room.

Courtney Lawes’ leadership and big contributions at key moments earns him the blindside flanker spot, Pieter-Steph du Toit scored South Africa’s opening try and showed the form which made him World Rugby Player of the Year in 2019 so is at openside, and the magnificent Gregory Alldritt of France is at No 8, ahead of Scotland’s best forward Jack Dempsey and Italian man of the match Lorenzo Cannone.


15. Ben Donaldson (Australia) 


14. Damian Penaud (France)  

13. Waisea Nayacalevu (Fiji)

12. Bundee Aki (Ireland)

11. Mark Telea (New Zealand)


10. George Ford (England)

9. Faf de Klerk (South Africa)


1. Gareth Thomas (Wales)

2. Malcolm Marx (South Africa)

3. Taniela Tupou (Australia)

4. Maro Itoje (England)

5. Amato Fakatava (Japan)

6. Courtney Lawes (England)

7. Pieter-Steph du Toit (South Africa)

8. Gregory Alldritt (France) 

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