World Rugby

Standouts on the World Stage: Rugby World Cup Week One Team of the Week

Standouts on the World Stage: Rugby World Cup Week One Team of the Week

Explore the standout players and thrilling performances in Rugby World Cup week one with our Team of the Week as the opening weekend in France ends.

Sep 12, 2023 by Philip Bendon
Standouts on the World Stage: Rugby World Cup Week One Team of the Week

In the grand theatre of rugby, where legends are born, and nations clash with unwavering pride, the Rugby World Cup stands as the pinnacle of the sport. It's a global showcase of raw power, tactical brilliance, and unrelenting passion that captivates fans from every corner of the globe. As the first week of this prestigious tournament unfolds, we find ourselves immersed in a whirlwind of breathtaking tries, bone-jarring tackles, and unforgettable moments. 

Among the chaos and brilliance of Rugby World Cup week one, certain individuals have risen to the occasion in spectacular fashion. Here is our Rugby World Cup week one team of the week. 

15. Ben Donaldson (Australia) 

A mesmerising performance from the man listed as a ‘utility back’ for the Wallabies at this year’s World Cup. Sublime from the kicking tee and adding two tries to boot, Donaldson looked assured in the number 15 shirt, which is not something the Australians have had for quite some time. Now firmly in control of the jersey, Donaldson could be the breakthrough player of the tournament when it is all said and done. Runner-up: Hugo Keenan (Ireland) 

14. Damian Penaud (France) 

What more can be said about the rampaging winger? Having been denied a try by a well-executed tackle by All Blacks flyhalf Richie Mo’unga, Penaud rebounded two minutes later to finish off a score that gave the hosts breathing room with twenty-five minutes to play. A silky smooth runner who rarely looks like he is out of second gear, Penaud is on the path to being one of the best Les Bleus have ever produced. Runner-up: Kurt-Lee Arendse (South Africa) 

13.  Waisea Nayacalevu (Fiji) 

The Fijian Captain proved on the biggest stage that he is not only an inspirational leader for his side but is among the elite outside centres in the game. Forming a lethal combination with Semi Radradra, Nayacalevu scored Fiji's opener as he burst through the Welsh defensive line before to score from thirty meters out. Unfortunate penalties and a heart-breaking knock-on cost the Flying Fijians a historic win, but the 33-year-old Toulon star was far and away the best centre in week one. Runner-up: Reiko Ioane (New Zealand) 

12. Bundee Aki (Ireland) 

In a squad blessed with four world-class centres, three of which are natural twelves. Aki’s performances in recent weeks could be the difference when Andy Farrell selects his team for the bigger matches to come. Admittedly facing one of the tournament’s weaker sides in Romania, Ireland won this one at a canter to secure a record World Cup victory. Central to everything the men in green did well was Aki, who broke the Romanian line seemingly at will whilst also putting in his famous bone-crunching hits. Runner-Up: Semi Radradra (Fiji) 

11. Ange Capuozzo (Italy) 

Rugby fans the world over will be happy to see the Italian flyer back in the blue jersey following a sustained period away due to injury. Few players at this year’s tournament carry as much importance to their team as the Toulouse star, who is the spark that makes it all work for Kieran Crowley’s team. Against a game Namibia side, Italy once again proved how far they have come, and Capuozzo was once again front and centre as he scored a beautiful long-range try. Runner-up: Josh Adams (Wales) 

10. George Ford (England) 

A game management masterclass like few we have seen in recent years, Ford showed once again why many believe he should be the man in control of the English number ten shirt. Three quick-fire drop goals, two from a distance, set England on their way to a famous 27 – 3 victory over Argentina. With captain Owen Farrell returning from suspension this week, it will be interesting to see how head coach Steve Borthwick manages this developing situation going forward. Runner-Up: Manie Libbok (South Africa) 

9. Faf de Klerk (South Africa) 

On the occasion of his fiftieth cap, de Klerk was at his menacing best as the World Champions got their title defence underway. Putting immense pressure on the Scottish halfback pairing of Ben White and Finn Russell, the blonde bomber led the Springbok rush defence at set piece time. Now firmly entrenched as a first choice once again, it will be interesting to see if he takes on the Springbok goal-kicking duties on a permanent basis. Runner-up: Aaron Smith (New Zealand) 

8. Gregory Alldritt (France) 

It was a barnstorming game for the Stade Rochelais captain as he, along with his French loose forward chums, dominated their Kiwi opponents. A mountain of a man, Alldritt is a throwback to a peak Kieran Reid combined with Duane Vermeulen and has become one of the irreplaceable players in the French squad. Runner-up: Ben Earl (England) 

7. Lekima Tagitagivalu (Fiji) 

As with just about all of the Fijian back five forwards, Tagitagivalu would not look out of place in the backline with his pace and ball-handling skills. Putting this skillset for the world to see, the Pau player finished off an otherworldly second try for Fiji as they raced into the lead against Wales in the first half. If Fiji is to rebound and make a run at the quarterfinals, the backrow star will need to be at the forefront of their planning. Runner-up: Pieter-Steph Du Toit (South Africa) 

6. Tadhg Beirne (Ireland)

Alongside the Springboks’ Pieter-Steph Du Toit, Beirne is the best utility forward in the game today. Equally adept in the secondrow as he is in the backrow, the Munster man has been a key contributor in Ireland’s rise to number one on the world rankings. Best known for trademark turnovers, the fact that the 6’6”, 118kg machine finished off a length of the pitch try in the 82nd minute after playing the full match in damn near 40C was incredible. Runner-Up: Siya Kolisi (South Africa) 

5. Franco Mostert (South Africa) 

The less heralded of the Springboks first choice lock combination, Mostert was at his rumbling best against Scotland on Sunday. Wreaking havoc at the Scottish breakdown, the 32-year-old looked not a day over 20 as he put his sizeable frame about. Whilst the Boks are blessed with depth in every forward position, Mostert will play a crucial role in their push towards a title defence. Runner-up: Cameron Woki (France) 

4. Joe McCarthy (Ireland) 

If you listen carefully enough, you might just hear Irish fans whispering the words that McCarthy might well be Ireland’s first choice in the number four shirt. Simply put, McCarthy is unlike anything Irish Rugby have produced since Donnacha O’Callaghan was in his pomp. Twenty-two years old, the 6’6” giant is already tipping the scales at 120kg, offering Andy Farrell, a bulky operator that Ireland have been crying out for. Key to his game is an uncanny ability to wreck shop for opposition mauls, whilst his ball-carrying and playmaking ability sees him fit into the expansive Irish game with ease. Runner-up: Maro Itoje (England) 

3. Dan Cole (England) 

Thirty-six years young, England’s old head epitomises what Steve Borthwick wants his team to be. Uncompromising, unflashy and rock solid, not quite the picturesque dream English Rugby fans may have, but if it leads to winning rugby, will anyone complain? No. Harkening back to the glory days of old, Cole and his front-row buddies obliterated the Argentinean scrum and out-mauled them in what was the signature win of the Borthwick era to date. Runner-up: Frans Malherbe (South Africa) 

2. Peato Mauvaka (France) 

Has a substitute hooker ever looked so happy to come on just minutes into the match? The Toulouse star replaced his club teammate Julian Marchand early on in what will no doubt be France’s biggest pool match against the All Blacks. As anyone who has watched the 26-year-old over the years will know, Mauvaka entering the action was never going to be a drop-off for the French. But it was his ability to sustain a high level of intensity that will be more pleasing to Fabien Galthie and his coaching staff. Runner-up: David Porecki (Australia) 

1. Pierre Schoeman (Scotland) 

The lone Scottish forward to coming out of their loss with South Africa having, by and large, won his head-to-head battle was ironically born and raised in South Africa! The 29-year-old former Blue Bulls and South Africa U20 representative had his work cut out against the fearsome Bok pack. Yet, in particular, throughout the first half, he not only held parity but managed to get on top of world-class tighthead Frans Malherbe. Runner-up: Angus Bell (Australia)