Rugby World Cup 2019 -- ESPN's Team of the Tournament

TOKYO -- The Rugby World Cup is back in South Africa's hands after a phenomenal display against England in the final.

With the dust settling on the tournament, it is the perfect time to reflect on the past six weeks of world-class rugby and attempt to pick our team of the tournament.

Important note: This is not picked on reputation or previous form, it is a XV solely chosen for how they performed across the six weeks here in Japan.


Fullback - Beauden Barrett (New Zealand)

There have been some wonderful attacking fullbacks in this World Cup but Beauden Barrett just edges them. He still thrills and surprises us in equal measure and on his day is completely unplayable, justifying his place pre-tournament at the top of our "Best 25 players" poll.

Right wing - Kotaro Matsushima (Japan)

It is to Matsushima's eternal credit that South Africa's brilliant Cheslin Kolbe -- scorer of the final try of the tournament -- misses out here, but the Japan winger's thrilling ability to attack from deep and throw caution to the wind edges out arguably the world's finest winger.

Outside centre - Manu Tuilagi (England)

We finally got to enjoy Manu Tuilagi at his rampaging best at a World Cup. He was England's main strike runner and finished with three tries, including the crucial stage-setting opener against New Zealand in the semifinal. Japan's Timothy Lafaele and New Zealand's Jack Goodhue were also fantastic.

Inside centre - Damian de Allende (South Africa)

Australia's Samu Kerevi enjoyed a superb tournament but that Springbok wrecking ball De Allende fulfilled his potential to establish himself as one of the most destructive players in the World Cup. He was also instrumental in the Springboks' peerless defence.

Left wing - Makazole Mapimpi (South Africa)

He finished with six tries and scored the second-half try that broke England's hearts in the final. His wing partner Cheslin Kolbe gets plenty of headlines but Mapimpi has been a real star here in Japan. Josh Adams, Wales' flyer, finished top try scorer overall on seven and is unlucky to miss out, as is Fiji's brilliant Semi Radradra.

Flyhalf - George Ford (England)

He didn't have the finest game in the final, but George Ford was outstanding through the pool stage for England and played brilliantly against the All Blacks. Handre Pollard, instrumental for South Africa, is a close second.

Scrumhalf - Faf de Klerk (South Africa)

He's much more than just a box-kicking scrumhalf. De Klerk is the world's finest No.9 and finds a way to keep the game going on a piece of string like a master puppeteer.


Loosehead prop - Tendai Mtawarira (South Africa)

Up until about five past eight local time on Saturday evening, this would have been Japan's Keita Inagaki. But then along came Tendai Mtawarira and changed the shape of the World Cup final and the tournament as a whole. He rolled back the years to 2009 when he destroyed the British & Irish Lions pack and proved the front-row is still a country for old men.

Hooker - Shota Horie (Japan)

Only Jamie George came close to Shota Horie for hooker of the tournament. The inspirational Japan No.2 was superb in 2015 and found yet another gear for 2019. Aged 33, this will likely be his final World Cup but what a way to bow out.

Tighthead prop - Kyle Sinckler (England)

Though his World Cup final only lasted 173 seconds, Sinckler had an outstanding tournament. His try against Australia was one for the highlight reel, but he was fantastic in his bread and butter role and proved his world-class qualities in the pack.

Lock - Maro Itoje (England)

Quite how Itoje was left off the World Rugby Player of the Year shortlist, only the panel can know, but Itoje is the outstanding lock in the world game. He was a menace in the semifinal against the All Blacks in a performance that capped a remarkable year for the forward. And he's only 25. That's pretty scary.

Lock, Captain - Alun Wyn Jones (Wales)

This is a hotly contested spot with Brodie Retallick carrying the reputation as arguably the world's finest lock and then there is Japan's James Moore who enjoyed a wonderful tournament. But this team needs a captain and it has to be Alun Wyn Jones, the ageless Wales skipper who enjoyed another fantastic World Cup.

Blindside flanker - Pieter-Steph du Toit (South Africa)

Pieter-Steph du Toit is an absolute colossus. He was magnificent in the Springboks' three knockout games and nullified the threat of the England maul in the final. Honourable mentions go to England's Sam Underhill, Japan's Michael Leitch and Wales' Aaron Wainwright.

Openside flanker - Tom Curry (England)

The world's best teams need an outstanding flanker and Curry fits that bill for England. His work rate is unrelenting and aged just 21, he has plenty more World Cups in him. Had the criteria been different for World Rugby's breakthrough player of the year, then he'd have walked that category.

No. 8 - Kazuki Himeno (Japan)

Duane Vermeulen can feel aggrieved at not getting the nod here, while Kieran Read rolled back the years to put in another brilliant showing, but Himeno was the biggest, most welcome surprise at this World Cup. He watched Japan's 2015 heroics from his bedroom at university. Fast-forward four years and he has been one of the tournament's brightest stars.