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Somehow Maro Itoje was left off the nominees list for World Player of the Year despite being the dominant force in his England team. While Owen Farrell steered the ship, Itoje was the engine. He was a man who produced big moment after big moment, winning key battles and establishing himself as the class act in a historically strong field of second-rows. Even when the final was going against his team, Itoje kept fighting the good fight until the bitter end.
Performance of the tournament
New Zealand were outstanding against Ireland, England were even better against the All Blacks and then Rassie Erasmus’s South Africa had the last laugh with a sensational final performance rooted in Springbok power but finished with a couple of outrageously good tries.
Coach (and assistant) of the tournament
Erasmus deserves huge credit, but Jamie Joseph and Tony Brown’s achievement in topping the pool with Japan cannot be underrated. Skilful, smart and dogged, they won hearts and minds.
It nearly didn’t take place, but Japan’s final pool match against Scotland delivered in every way. After Typhoon Hagibis passed, Yokohama welcomed a big crowd and the Brave Blossoms played with substance and style to blow Scotland away and book a first quarter-final spot.
There is an argument for both final tries, but in terms of aesthetics TJ Perenara’s sensational effort against Namibia stands alone. It may have been against one of the tournament’s minnows and the score was 66-9 at the time, but to make the initial break and then get up and finish was sensational.
Top of the world when the tournament began, Ireland never delivered on their potential in Japan. It started well against Scotland, but their form and confidence fell apart. They weren’t alone, as Scotland, Australia, Fiji and New Zealand are among those who will leave disappointed, but Ireland’s fall was the hardest.
Best Irish player
It’s tough to call after such a disappointing campaign, but James Ryan can leave with his head held high despite the team’s performances. Garry Ringrose, CJ Stander, Jordan Larmour, Andrew Porter, Rhys Ruddock, and Dave Kilcoyne all had decent campaigns.
Least grand finale
Sergio Parisse and Leonardo Ghiraldini were all set for one last hurrah against the All Blacks in what was to be Conor O’Shea’s final game in charge, but despite Italy’s chance of making the
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