November saw some interesting facial hair and plenty of quality international rugby; we salute the best of both in our Team of the Month.
Although the world champion All Blacks lost their last game of the year at Twickenham last week they still produced some dominant performances in Europe and as a result make up the bulk of our team.
France and South Africa were the only major teams that went unbeaten through November which saw three Frenchman and two Springboks in our side, with the balance made up by players from Argentina, Australia and Ireland.
The bubbling under selection is more evenly spread, with players from England, Samoa, Tonga and Ireland getting in on the act as well.
Our Team of the Month:
15 Israel Dagg (New Zealand)
He is clearly a cut above the rest, with his game-breaking ability backed up by excellent basics that make him a vital element of the All Black backline.
Bubbling under: Leigh Halfpenny (Wales)
14 Tommy Bowe (Ireland)
Although his team did not always have things their own way, Bowe remained a threat against all opposition by making the most of his pace and power.
Bubbling under: Wesley Fofana (France)
13 Conrad Smith (New Zealand)
The All Black midfield general marshalled the backline well on defence and managed to put the flyers on his outside in space consistently.
Bubbling under: Manu Tuilagi (England)
12 Ma'a Nonu (New Zealand)
His destructive approach gives the All Blacks a hard edge on both attack and defence, which makes him a handful in any conditions.
Bubbling under: Jean de Villiers (South Africa)
11 Julian Savea (New Zealand)
He has enjoyed a remarkable break-out season with his ruthless finishing ability earning him an impressive strike rate, and he looks set to enjoy a long career in the black jersey.
Bubbling under: Craig Gilroy (Ireland)
10 Frédéric Michalak (France)
Given a second chance in the playmaker role by coach Philip Saint-Andre and he has taken it in style, controlling things for his side behind a dominant pack.
Bubbling under: Dan Carter (New Zealand)
9 Maxime Machenaud (France)
He has made an impressive start to his Test career, providing Michalak with quality ball and providing a threat through his incisive running and tactical kicking.
Bubbling under: Kahn Fotuali'i (Samoa)
8 Kieran Read (New Zealand)
Continued his fine form on the international stage by delivering some polished performances at the back of the scrum, imposing himself on the opposition consistently.
Bubbling under: Duane Vermeulen (South Africa)
7 Richie McCaw (New Zealand)
The All Blacks skipper certainly earned his six month sabbatical by putting his body on the line and leading from the front in characteristic style.
Bubbling under: Michael Hooper (Australia)
6 Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe (Argentina)
The Pumas captain played like a man posessed and inspired his team to secure their first away victory of the year. His move from No.8 to the flank was a huge success as he got in the faces of every side the Pumas met.
Bubbling under: Francois Louw (South Africa)
5 Nathan Sharpe (Australia)
The Wallaby veteran brought an end to his career by using his considerable experience to steer a youthful Australian side and showed his usual hunger for work to bow out in style.
Bubbling under: Sam Whitelock (New Zealand)
4 Eben Etzebeth (South Africa)
The young lock has enjoyed an incredible debut season, and topped it off by showing what a valuable asset he is in European conditions where his uncompromisingly physical approach was vital to getting the Boks on the front foot.
Bubbling under: Pascal Pape (France)
3 Owen Franks (New Zealand)
The rock in the All Blacks front row, he does not give anything away and provided a solid platform for his team consistently.
Bubbling under: Census Johnston (Samoa)
2 Adriaan Strauss (South Africa)
Took the opportunity presented by Bismarck du Plessis' injury well and seemed to grow in confidence in each game. The Springbok line-out was a major strength whilst he also keeps opposition defences busy with his hard running.
Bubbling under: Dimitri Szarzewski (France)
1 Yannick Forestier (France)
The French pack were in dominant form and he set the tone for them up front with some dominant displays on top of his hard work around the park.
Bubbling under: Alisona Taumalolo (Tonga)
Week One: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Wesley Fofana, 13 Gonzalo Tiesi, 12 Tamati Ellison, 11 Juan Imhoff, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Richie McCaw, 6 Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Pascal Pape, 3 Nicolas Mas, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Week Two: 15 Berrick Barnes, 14 Nick Cummins, 13 George Pisi, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Vincent Clerc, 10 Frederic Michalak, 9 Maxime Machenaud, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Yoann Maestri, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Yannick Forestier.
Week Three: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Craig Gilroy, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Richie McCaw, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Juandre Kruger, 4 Donnacha Ryan, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Cian Healy.
Our individual selections:
Len Kaplan XV: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Craig Gilroy, 10 Frederic Michalak, 9 Kahn Fotuali'i, 8 Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, 7 Richie McCaw, 6 François Louw, 5 Nathan Sharpe, 4 Pascal Pape, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Alisona Taumalolo.
Jan de Koning XV: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Wesley Fofana, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Craig Gilroy, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Maxime Machenaud, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Nathan Sharpe, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Yannick Forestier.
Paul Dobson XV: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Maxime Mermoz, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Frédéric Michalak, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw, 6 Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, 5 Nathan Sharpe, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Census Johnston, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Alex Corbisiero.
Quintin van Jaarsveld XV: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Frederic Michalak, 9 Henry Pyrgos, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw, 6 Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Cian Healy.
Michael de Vries XV: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Frédéric Michalak, 9 Maxime Machenaud, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw, 6 Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Yannick Forestier.
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