With the backline behind us it is time to turn our attention to the big boys up front and we start with No.8. So which player deserves his place at the back of the scrum for the Rugby Rugby readers XV?
A good No.8 needs to be a jack of all trades of sorts. He must provide enough grunt to get over the gain line and make his tackles count, but at the same time his handling skills and positional play are vital.
So which player stood out above all others in this crucial position this year? There is quite a range to choose from so select wisely and leave your justification for your pick in our comments section at the bottom of the page.
The top No.8 in the Super Rugby competition this year was undoubtedly fearless Crusader Kieran Read. The All Blacks star set the benchmark and left the rest of the pack striving to live up to his standards with his consistently top-drawer performances.
This guy does it all, and he also showed considerable leadership skills in the absence of injured skipper Richie McCaw as the Crusaders sealed a place in the final without playing a game at home.
Read's year was spoiled by an ankle injury that he sustained during the Tri-Nations which threatened to keep him out of the World Cup, but he managed to recover in time to play a starring role for the victorious All Blacks in the knock-out phase of the competition.
Inspirational Azzurri captain Sergio Parisse was our No.8 of the Six Nations after leading his team to a historic victory over France. The athletic Stade Francais skipper is a world class performer who manages to shine even though his side are not one of the world powers.
Parisse, who is considered by many to be the most complete No.8 in the game, was also highly impressive at the World Cup, even though his team did not qualify for the knock-out phase of the tournament.
The Italian leader blends power and finesse and the quality of his contributions in an often battling cause can only be admired.
Biarritz bomber Imanol Harinordoquy got the nod for our team of the World Cup after playing an influential role in his side's unlikely road to the final.
Although he may not have been on great form at the start of the tournament, and was even left out of the starting line-up at times, his form in the knock-out stages was highly impressive showing that he has the ability to raise his game when it matters most.
When he is up for a scrap there are few in world rugby who can match Harinordoquy for intensity, and although he may not be as consistent as some of the other candidates he does have an air of irresistable French passion about him that may make him the pick of some of our more emotionally inclined readers.
Our final No.8 up for consideration is Wallabies and Queensland Reds loose forward Radike Samo who proved in 2011 that age is just a number, and that you are only as young as the players you leave in your wake en route to a sensational tournament-winning try.
Samo's career appeared to be on the skids, but Reds coach Ewan McKenzie showed faith in the 35-year-old with the best afro in rugby and he did not disappoint.
His form in the Reds' triumphant Super Rugby competition forced Wallabies coach Robbie Deans to give him another chance in the gold jersey and Samo responded with an amazing try in the Tri-Nations decider which saw him bust throught the All Blacks defensive line and race more than half the length of the field to cross for one of the most memorable five-pointers of 2011.
So which of these four gets your vote? The obvious quality and consistency of Read and Parisse surely makes them favourites, but Harinordoquy and Samo both produced top performances in big games. Make your voice heard by leaving your comment below!
There is still time to cast your vote for the best:
15: Fullback - (Israel Dagg, Kurtley Beale, Andrea Masi)
14: Right wing - (James O'Connor, Chris Ashton, Rod Davies)
13: Outside centre - (Brian O'Driscoll, Jaque Fourie, Conrad Smith)
12: Inside centre - (Sonny Bill Williams, Ma'a Nonu, Jamie Roberts, Jonathan Davies)
11: Left wing - (Digby Ioane, Shane Williams)
10: Flyhalf - (Dan Carter, Quade Cooper, Rhys Priestland, Toby Flood)
9: Scrumhalf - (Will Genia, Mike Phillips, Morgan Parra)
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