A damn good team, but one glaring omission.
The end of the year has seen a stack of awards being handed out and ‘best player’ and ‘best team’ accolades being decided upon. Johnny Sexton has featured heavily in a lot of prize-giving and ‘Best Team’ categories.
The World Rugby awards were close to a green sweep, a fortnight ago, as Ireland took home the Best Team, Coach (Joe Schmidt) and Player (Johnny Sexton) prizes.
BT Sport then released their fans’ Team of the Year, last week, after receiving over 150,000 votes. It contained seven Irish players – Sexton, Cian Healy, Tadhg Furlong and James Ryan of Leinster, Connacht centre Bundee Aki and the Munster duo of Peter O’Mahony and CJ Stander.
JOE.co.uk ran a massive Team of the Year vote over the course of a week. More than 175,000 votes came in and the resulting team sees the All Blacks win six inclusions, four for Ireland, two Wallabies and one apiece for England, Wales and South Africa.
There will be few complaints with Tadhg Furlong and Cian Healy making the front row, along with Springboks’ dynamic hooker Malcolm Marx. The second row has All Blacks Bridie Retallick and Sam Whitelock but, controversially, no place for Leinster and Ireland star James Ryan.
There are two Aussies – David Pocock and Michael Hooper – in the back row with Peter O’Mahony. Conor Murray beat out Faf de Klerk and Aaron Smith for scrum-half while – and this was the closest call – Beauden Barrett edged out Johnny Sexton.
Jonathan Davies of Wales and Owen Farrell are the midfield pairing while the back three is all Kiwi – Rieko Ioane (12 tries in 12 Test matches this year), Ben Smith and Damien McKenzie.
Not a bad looking team at all, but the likes of Sexton, Ryan, Bundee Aki, CJ Stander, Dan Leavy, Rob Kearney, Garry Ringrose and Keith Earls all would have been with a decent shout of making the final XV.