At the end of another fantastic World Cup full of magical moments, the Rugby Rugby team have identified the winners of our own prestigious awards for the season.
The standout teams, players and moments that matter have all been calculated carefully and debated thoroughly with the usual amount of whining, shouting and gnashing of teeth by our panel of selectors.
Our genuine World Cup honours and distinctions:
Player of the Tournament: Thierry Dusautoir
The French captain led his side with distinction through some turbulent times in the competition and was the standout player in every one of their matches. While the French teams are famous for being unpredictable good one week and awful the next, the same cannot be said of their leader who plays his heart and never disappoints. He is one of the greats among a host of incredible loose forwards that were involved in the 2011 World Cup.
Forward of the Tournament: Jerome Kaino
Possibly an unlikely candidate to be the best of the All Blacks if you'd asked punters before the tournament kicked off, but what a stalwart he has been. Kaino has made the No.6 jersey his own beating of some tough competition to join Kieran Read and Richie McCaw in the back row. His work rate and tackling were simply phenomenal and he was consistently impressive throughout the competition. Only after some heated debate and a few split votes was he pipped at the post by Thierry Dusautoir for player of the tournament.
Back of the Tournament: Israel Dagg
He adds value every time he touches the ball and was the joker up the sleeve of Graham Henry, who utalised his new weapon to perfection as Dagg was given free reign to play his creative attacking game from deep. Any player able to keep Mils Muliaina out of a team has to be special, and that's exactly what he was. Dagg produced some of the most memorable pieces of attacking play at the World Cup and did it all with a cheeky smile that won him fans across the board.
Team of the tournament: New Zealand
While many sides had their moments and went through a range of emotions, the All Blacks were consistently better than anyone else. The first time they were really tested in the tournament was in the final against the French, who they'd already vanquished without any difficulty in the pool stages. Unbeaten, unyielding and simply awesome.
Most entertaining team: Wales
They were certainly a bit of a surprise package as the Springboks will attest to after their opening match that so nearly ended in a Welsh victory but for a missed Rhys Priestland drop-goal. Wales were a joy to watch and played the game in the right way to provide impressive entertaining rugby that almost earned them a shock visit to the final. Cheered on by their passionate fans they showed a lot of skill and their band of youngsters hold some exciting promise for the future.
Best coach: Warren Gatland
Unsurprisingly a Kiwi coach take home this award after three of their guided their teams to the semifinals this year. However, Graham Henry and Robbie Deans had a lot of talent to work with and did a good job of utalising that, while Gatland was a little bit more creative. All his big decisions seemed to pay off - he took the squad for an intensive fitness course in Poland before the tournament and few would argue that he didn't have ht fittest side there, able to play a full 80 minutes and without any Kamp Staaldraad nonsense. He picked Sam Warburton at openside flank and dropped the experienced Martyn Williams, and furthermore made the 22-year-old his captain! Warburton turned out to be a brilliant leader who inspired his team to greatness. Finally he picked several youngsters who shone brightly, but few more so than flyhalf Rhys Priestland, who was an almost unknown entity - making his debut not long before the tournament.
Try of the tournament: Ma'a Nonu's try in the semifinal
Nonu may have been the one who scored the try, but the credit belongs firmly on the shoulders of Israel Dagg. The fullback first flattened Wallaby flank Rocky Elsom with a hand-off, and then acrobatically flicked an inside ball to Nonu as he was being tackled into touch.
Best team try: Tonga v New Zealand in the opening game
In the opening match there were some fireworks from the All Blacks as they set down their marker for the World Cup, but the Kingdom of Tonga will take their own fond memory from that match away with them. Replacement prop Alisona Taumololo shocked Dan Carter into dropping the ball and then stole the ball. The Tongans proceeded to hold onto the ball through countless phases for 10 minutes and patiently waited for the defence to crack, and when it did it was a smiling Taumololo who went over for the try.
Match of the tournament: The Final
There were genuine fears that the finale to the World Cup could have been one of the worst matches of the entire tournament in what looked like a horrible mismatch. This was down to France's appearance in the final, having fumbled their way through the tournament and reached the final almost by mistake with a disorganised rabble posing as a team. In the final itself this couldn't have been further from the truth, as the French were a worthy adversary for New Zealand and looked determined to win back their pride by toppling the mighty All Blacks. The final had it all - drama, breathtaking try-saving tackles, intense emotions and a one point margin separating the two sides at the end of an exhausting 80 minutes for the biggest prize in rugby.
Best try saving tackle: Richie McCaw and James O'Connor
Can you believe it there were two tackles so good that we felt it would be criminal to call one better than the other. While it might not have aided Australia with the result against Ireland, wing James O'Connor was able to save further blushes when he made a mad dash of some 80 metres to drag down Irish wing Tommy Bowe, who had broken clean through the defence with an intercept for what looked like a certain try. The second tackle earns extra praise for it's significance, as All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw valiantly saved the world cup by hurling himself through the air to bring down France's Alexis Palisson. The French wing had the ball on the outside and was round his marker Cory Jane, so had it not been for McCaw's heroics he could well have starved New Zealand of yet another World Cup.
Most costly tackle: Sam Warburton on Vincent Clerc
Having won over many of the neutrals with some excellent performances - Wales were bundled out of the semifinals by France with one costly moment standing out in the match. Wales skipper Sam Warburton may regret his tip-tackle on French wing Vincent Clerc for a long time, as it earned him a red card in just the 17th minute. The tackle wasn't intentionally malicious nor was Clerc badly injured, but those factors don't matter as it was most certainly a dangerous challenge as a big hit went wrong. Some might argue that given the occasion a yellow card would have been fairer in the first half of a World Cup semifinal, but in reality Warburton has nobody to blame but himself, as it wasn't the referee who made the tackle that effectively ended Wales' hopes of making the final.
Debut of the tournament: Jean Marc Doussain
The talented young scrumhalf came on to make his Test match debut, having flown out during the tournament as a replacement for the injured David Skrela. It is not uncommon for a 20-year-old to play in a Test match, and a few players have indeed made their debuts at World Cups, but to make it in the Final with 8 minutes left on the clock and only one point in the game? Only the French...
Biggest team flop: England
They entered the tournament as the great northern hemisphere hope - or at least that's what an Englishman would tell you. To say that they had at least one good game would be a bit of a stretch of the imagination, as they snuck past Argentina and Scotland by the skin of their teeth and were fairly unconvincing against Georgia, but you might say they had their moments against Romania. All in all you can't take an unbeaten record in the pool stages away from them, what you can take away in their pride as they had countless off-the pitch drama thanks to Messieurs Tindall & Co. and then they lost to their old enemy France to the relief of everyone tired of their whinging.
Biggest player flop: Quade Cooper
It was only a few months ago that the Rugby Rugby crew named this talented pivot at the Super Rugby player of the tournament, but how the mighty have fallen. The somewhat erratic flyhalf appeared to get rattled at the start of the tournament and looked a shadow of his former self, uncomfortable, lacking in confidence and unable to play his running game that helped to win the Reds their Super Rugby title. Without any time and space on the ball and if his pack was under pressure the Wallaby playmaker wasn't able to create any magic. He was also greeted with a chorus of booing throughout every match having professed to be New Zealand's 'Enemy No.1' and sadly wasn't able to leave his mark on the World Cup.
Milestones: During this World Cup there were four men who passed particularly noteworthy milestones. Nathan Sharpe become the fifth Australia to pass 100 Test caps, while Richie McCaw and Mils Muliaina became the first two All Blacks to reach their ton. New Zealand coach Graham Henry also pass the 100 mark of Test matches since taking over the All Blacks mantle.
By Timmy Hancox
What do you think of our selections?
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