With the Rugby Championship over for another year, there is only 1 thing left to do: pick my Team of the Tournament. This year’s competition was a little different, with World Champions South Africa sitting out as they looked to get back on track following the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving us with a Tri Nations featuring just New Zealand, Australia and Argentina, while the entire tournament was played in Australia to make COVID precautions easier to deal with.
New Zealand may have won the tournament, but they will not look back on this year fondly as they struggled for any consistency under Ian Foster and lost in consecutive matches to Argentina and Australia. The Wallabies and Pumas meanwhile played out 2 draws that left them unable to claim the top spot, though they should be proud of their accomplishments given the inexperience of the Australia team and the lack of post-COVID rugby for the Pumas.
As always, I’d love to hear who you would pick, but without further ado, my Team of the 2020 Tri Nations is:
1) Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro: The loosehead position was one of the harder ones to pick due to the variation in the starting players. However for me, Tetaz Chaparro’s absence was keenly felt when he wasn’t on the pitch as the scrums went from a weapon to a liability.
2) Julián Montoya: A number of hookers showed moments of real quality, but Montoya got the nod here. A long-term understudy at international level for Agustín Creevy, Montoya has bags of experience at the international level despite just a handful of Test starts, and proved his quality as a key piece of Argentina’s robust defensive efforts.
3) Taniela Tupou: The “Tongan Thor” may not have had things all his own way in the tournament, splitting time with Allan Ala’alatoa during the tournament, but when he was on the pitch, he added physicality and bite to Australia’s attack and defence, while also gaining an advantage over his opponents in the scrum.
4) Guido Petti: The Argentine lock sat out the last match as part of the fallout from the re-emergence of some controversial tweets, but ahead of that he was a key part of Argentina’s set piece, giving reliability on their own lineout throw while frequently stealing or hassling opposition ball.
5) Matt Philip: The Rebels lock may only have a handful of caps to his name, but he looks like he has been playing Test rugby for years – there can be no higher compliment than that. Philip looked controlled the lineout and also carried well to add more power to the Wallabies pack.
6) Pablo Matera: The Argentina captain led from the front and led by example. A key physical part of the Pumas defence with organised tackles and opportunistic turnovers. Meanwhile on attack, he carried hard and almost won Argentina their first Test against the Wallabies with a cultured kick forwards at the death that should have been finished by Santiago Cordero. I would call the Argentinian one of the best – but also most underrated – opensides in world rugby.
7) Sam Cane: Marcos Kremer was another key part of the Pumas’ defensive effort, while Michael Hooper added experience to a young back row. However I instead went for Sam Cane. He’s not the flashiest of players by any means, but is such a threat at the breakdown and always seems to be in the right place to make a key turnover, while also putting his body on the line for the win.
8) Rodrigo Bruni: Harry Wilson looked good and will get better as he gains experience at this level, but I went for Rodrigo Bruni this time around. He may not have played as much as his fellow number 8s, but when he was on the pitch he just added to the formidable Pumas defence. Argentina never looked stronger than when they had their first choice back row on the pitch.
9) Nic White: I may not be the biggest fan of White, but with such an inexperienced team around him and limitations at fly half, White did a key job of bringing experience and control to the game. I’m hoping hat Tate McDermott will be given more frequent game time moving forwards, as his youth and attacking ability would create a strong counterpoint to White’s control and kicking game.
10) Nicolás Sánchez: It had looked like Sánchez may be past his prime, but he was back with a bang in this tournament. While his attacking opportunities may have been a little limited, his control of the game was highlighted whenever he came off the pitch, while his kicking off the tee allowed the Pumas to keep the scoreboard ticking over despite a largely defensive performance.
11) Marika Koroibete: The Rebels winger just beats out Caleb Clarke as I feel he was a little more consistent. Koroibete’s attacking talents are clear for all to see, but something that often gets forgotten is his workrate both on and off the ball and his accomplished defence, which often comes to the fore at key moments.
12) Hunter Paisami: Matt To’omua’s injury could have been costly, but Hunter Paisami did a fantastic job of replacing him. He was more commonly seen at 13 for the Reds during Super Rugby AU, but looked more reliable at 12, where the defensive job allowed him to focus on using his physicality, while he also provided a great carrying option in attack.
13) Matías Orlando: The new signing for the Newcastle Falcons gets the nod here as much for his consistency at the position while Australia and New Zealand chopped and changed. That consistency at the 13 position is a key factor in Argentina’s success as he helped to keep the defence organised and stop teams breaking wider out fromthe breakdown.
14) Bautista Delguy: He may only be 23 years old, but it feels like Delguy has been around for years. Unfortunately he wasn’t at his best in the World Cup as he was just returning from injury, but he showed us all what we were missing in this tournament. While being solid in defence, he was a bright spark with ball in hand, proving very difficult to bring down.
15) Santiago Carreras: He may have had a torrid time when moved to fly half, but Carreras looked so solid at 15. He’s known for his attacking quality, but was reliable in the more defensive performances from the Pumas and used his big boot to good effect. At just 22, he is anther player to keep your eye on over the coming years.