The last Test matches of the year were played as Australia and South Africa saw off Wales and England respectively to bring an end to what has been an entertaining month of Test rugby. Bet Central compiles the best XV of the Autumn Nations Series.
15. Thomas Ramos (France)
A huge part of why France was able to get over the line in a number of close encounters on this tour, his kicking was brilliant from the tee and that made a huge difference. With backline general, Romain Ntamack, off the pace a little, he showed up at various stages and proved a good playmaker to help France maintain their unbeaten run going in 2023.
Ange Capuozzo of Italy was phenomenal, as was Willie le Roux. Hugo Keenan hardly put a foot wrong, but it was perhaps Freddie Steward who came closest to Ramos who is just such a cool operator for England at 15.
Honourable mention: Freddie Steward (England)
14. Darcy Graham (Scotland)
The best winger on display throughout the Autumn Nations Series was undoubtedly Darcy Graham (close 2nd is on the left wing) whose reputation grew immensely on this tour. He was a handful in every game Scotland played, be it a loss or win, Graham was constantly causing problems for the opposition with his impeccable finishing skills. The Edinburgh man will reflect on a fine end-of-year tour.
Mark Telea ended the tour strongly, but Damian Penaud like Ramos was one of France’s better players with backline generals Antonie Dupont, Ntamack and Gael Fickou nowhere near their influential best.
Honourable mention: Damian Penaud (France)
13. Len Ikitau (Australia)
At the age of 24 and playing in one of the most technically challenging positions in rugby, the Wallabies could not have asked for more from Len Ikitau who is probably ahead of his development in that position. This development was evident even as Australia struggled to secure victories. His defensive work was world-class, the small nuances on attack made those around look so much better. Overall, Ikitau was the best 13 in the Autumn Nations Series.
One of Ireland’s unsung heroes is Garry Ringrose. Often, he gets the plaudits after the likes of Robbie Henshaw and Bundee Aki, but he is such a crucial part of why Ireland is so efficient, particularly on attack. An honourable mention to the Leinster man.
Honourable mention: Garry Ringrose (Ireland)
12. Jordie Barrett (New Zealand)
Ian Foster and his coaching staff probably missed an opportunity not to play Jordie Barrett at 12 for all matches on the tour as it would have aided his development in the position. When he plays at inside centre, the youngest of the Barrett brothers simply comes into his own. He combines speed, physicality and his ball skills to good effect and it was clear to see on this tour – Barrett had an outstanding tour.
Any of Damian de Allende, Stuart McCloskey or Owen Farrell could be the man who follow Barrett. The English captain however had a bit more influence in a tour of mixed fortunes for England.
Honourable mention: Owen Farrell (England)
11. Kurt-Lee Arendse (South Africa)
South Africa’s diminutive winger Kurt-Lee Arendse was unstoppable on this tour, it was the tour he truly announced himself as a Test player. He was so good; he may well have unseated the seemingly un-droppable Makazole Mapimpi. Having scored 7 tries in 7 Tests this season, his strike rate is not in doubt. An important player for the Boks going into 2023.
South African-born winger Duhan van der Merwe was a menace with ball in hand throughout Scotland’s campaign. One of the most potent attacking weapons in world rugby right now.
Honourable mention: Duhan van der Merwe (Scotland)
10. Richie Mo’unga (New Zealand)
There can no longer be a debate on who the All Blacks 1st choice no.10 is, Richie Mo’unga is that player. One of the reasons Mo’unga was always better as an impact player was his running capacity when defences are weary. His development into a technician who can hurt you with both his boot and ball in hand propels him to the front of the line. The Crusaders general had a good tour and seemed to be the only flyhalf who was consistent throughout.
Marcus Smith had his moments, but ultimately Finn Russell’s work as an attacking phenomenon for Scotland places him firmly behind Mo’unga.
Honourable mention: Finn Russell (Scotland)
09. Ali Price (Scotland)
With Antonie Dupont not at his best, there wasn’t a lot of world-class scrumhalf play. Ali Price did well for Scotland, as Russell marvelled with ball in hand, tactically Price was stitching things together for Scotland who will look back on this tour with relative satisfaction. The 29-year-old will look to get even better next season.
Nic White is not everyone’s cup of tea, but he is efficient for the Wallabies and proved it at various times in this series.
Honourable mention: Nic White (Australia)
08. Ardie Savea (New Zealand)
Probably unjust that he did not at the very least make the list of nominees for World Rugby 15s Men’s Player of the Year, but it did not seem to affect his performances at all as he churned out world-class performance after world-class performance. At times it’s evident he doesn’t have the nuances of a natural no.8, but he is a demon on defensive duties and has unreal strength on his feet on the carry.
Gregory Alldritt was not at his best, Caelan Doris was outstanding for Ireland, but it was veteran Taulupe Faletau who showed he is still up there
Honourable mention: Taulupe Faletau (Wales)
07. Charles Ollivon (France)
Returned to international rugby on a relatively low-key note as he captained a 2nd string French squad against Japan in the mid-year Tests, so the end-of-year Tests were always going to be the big exam for him and he passed with flying colours. France’s best player in the Autumn Nations Series and a spiritual leader as Antonie Dupont adjusts to full-time captaincy.
Sam Cane has a fight on his hands if he is to wrestle away the no.7 jersey from Dalton Papali’I, the tour was a coming of age for the Blues flanker in the black jersey.
Honourable mention: Dalton Papali’i (New Zealand)
06. Siya Kolisi (South Africa)
When the Boks are out of sorts, the blame is usually placed on Siya Kolisi’s door. Despite an indifferent tour, no one can fault the efforts of the 31-year-old for the Boks this year. A bundle of energy who in equal measure carried and tackled himself to a standstill in the name of the cause. Slightly edges Arendse as the Boks’ best in the Autumn Nations Series.
While the Irish were not at their efficient best, there was Peter O’Mahony who quietly went about his work to good effect for Ireland – an underrated colossal.
Honourable mention: Peter O’Mahony (Ireland)
05. Sam Whitelock (New Zealand)
Perhaps it is due to working with former Crusaders forwards coach Jason Ryan, but whatever it is, Sam Whitelock was a player reborn in the Autumn Nations Series after looking past it in the early stages of the Test season. The veteran’s lineout work was outstanding while his work at the breakdown was commendable. He defended like a trojan and will look to end his Test career on a high in the coming season
Tomas Lavanini’s ability has never been in doubt, it was his discipline that never kept him in the contest long enough to make the desired impact. His discipline was much-improved this year in general and he showed that on this tour.
Honourable mention: Tomas Lavanini (Argentina)
04. Eben Etzebeth (South Africa)
The very best lock in the world, Eben Etzebeth was colossal for the Boks. For a man of his size, he has an incredible engine and is a belligerent presence for an already intimidating Boks side. One of the best players in the world right now. A player the Boks simply can’t afford to lose if they are to successfully defend their World Cup title.
Tadgh Beirne wasn’t particularly at his influential best, but even when he is off the pace. He makes a big difference for Ireland.
Honourable mention: Tadgh Beirne (Ireland)
03. Tyrel Lomax (New Zealand)
Started the season as the 4th choice tighthead prop for the All Blacks behind Nepo Laulala, Ofa Tu’ungafasi and Angus Ta’avao, but through injury and loss of form for the latterly mention Ta’avao, Tyrel Lomax propelled himself to the All Blacks no.3 jersey and never looked back. Throughout the Autumn Nations Series, he was solid at the set-piece and just added a different dynamic with his work in the loose for the All Blacks.
Lomax is now amongst the best in the world in his position, Allan Ala’alatoa and Frans Malherbe were ever-reliable for their nations. Tadgh Furlong was brilliant in patches for Ireland, but he fell short of Lomax’s standard.
Honourable mention: Tadgh Furlong (Ireland)
02. Dan Sheehan (Ireland)
Could it have been a different selection if Jacques Nienaber and Ian Foster had retained Malcolm Marx and Samisoni Taukei’aho as their starting hookers? It’s hard to say as Dan Sheehan had a brilliant autumn with Ireland. The consistency that has eluded him at times at the set-piece was not a problem this time and his work on and off the ball is never in question. With Beirne and Sheenan in the tight 5, it feels like Ireland play with 5 loose forwards.
Another hooker who has a massive engine is France’s Julien Marchand and it was evident throughout the French end-of-year Tests, his ability to carry the ball up time and time again while gaining considerable metres stands out, his lineout work – meticulous. The French as a unit didn’t gel all that well and it slightly affected his game.
Honourable mention: Julien Marchand (France)
01. Ethan de Groot (New Zealand)
The usual suspects you expect to standout at loosehead weren’t really at the races during this series and it presented a golden opportunity for All Blacks man-mountain Ethan de Groot, a much-improved scrummager these days. He carried with vigour for the All Blacks and was excellent on defence. Another All Blacks prop who is now firmly established as 1st choice.
Pierre Schoeman was another South African-born Scot to stand out for his adopted nation, he is a bundle of energy. Thomas Gallo of Argentina is one to watch.
Honourable mention: Pierre Schoeman (Scotland)