A few new World Cup contenders, and a few amateurs soon to be professionals. Without further adieu, the class of the 2015 World Rugby Pacific Challenge.
1 – Tom Dolezel (Canada) The standout prop in the tournament, he stepped up in a big way after Hubert Buydens was suspended. Bested all in the scrum and carried effectively. Has surely earned a ticket to England with his performances.
2 – Andrew Williams (Samoa) An absolute wrecking ball on the charge, he terrorised the opposition with his powerhouse running and heavy hitting in the tight-loose. Amazing to think he doesn’t have a professional contract somewhere.
3 – Taniela Koroi (Fiji) With no true standouts, the steady Wellington rep gets the nod for holding down the scrum for his country. Also showed a surprising turn of pace and soft hands for a front rower.
4 – Matías Alemanno (Argentina) Not quite as dominant as maybe one would like, but unquestionably the best second rower on display. Excellent at the lineout and showed his street smarts in the dark places.
5 – Evan Olmstead (Canada) Excellent all-action performances from the hirsute warrior, playing like an extra back rower with his impressive mobility. Made his mark at the lineout as well, and looks determined to make Kieran Crowley’s life difficult come World Cup selection time.
6 – Aminiasi Nava (Fiji) Maybe never quite the best each week, but on three occasions the big blindside was very close. Tall, physical, committed. His speed around the pitch was eye catching. His 7s experience showed in the open spaces.
7 – Pablo Matera (Argentina) The best forward in the tournament, maybe the best player. He’s beefed up during his injury layoff and hasn’t sacrificed any speed or fitness. If anything, he looks even better. A truly world class prospect.
8 – Nissan Aitui (Samoa) Fights off numerous challengers from virtually all corners. Not the biggest, fastest, or strongest, but his work rate is off the charts. Absolutely relishes contact and his capacity for recklessness is inspiring.
9 – Serupepeli Vularika (Fiji) The find of the tournament has vaulted himself into World Cup contention. Started as second choice but Samuela Laqai’s red card opened the door for him and he never looked back. Quick, aggressive, intelligent, and a pretty handy goal kicker to boot.
10 – Patrick Fa’apale (Samoa) Finally starting to show what everyone has expected of him. Controlled field position out of hand and improved his goal kicking as the tournament went on. Ran hard and never shirked a tackle.
11 – Manuel Montero (Argentina) Honourable mention to Phil Mackenzie, who passed his return to international rugby with flying colours, but didn’t quite do enough to dislodge the pre-tournament favorite. Montero is a massive talent, and seems to be growing in confidence, a scary thought.
12 – Jerónimo de la Fuente (Argentina) Not as flashy as some of his competitors but solid steel in the Pampas midfield. Runs good lines, holds the line in defense, and very rarely makes mistakes.
13 – Josua Kerevi (Fiji) The older brother of Queensland’s Samu has pledged himself to his homeland, and he looks ready to kick on into professional rugby. Big, deceptively fast, and very powerful in contact. A nice offload game, and a big future.
14 – Nacani Wakaya (Fiji) Another to step out of the shadows. Looked near unstoppable at times with ball in hand. Tall and heavily built with a good step and a nasty fend. Has surely caught the eye of a few pro scouts.
15 – Santiago Cordero (Argentina) Without doubt the class attacking player in the tournament. Made countless defenders look silly with his stepping ability, and showed off some impressive footballing skills. Looks ready to take on Super Rugby in 2016.