Tue. Dec 7th, 2021

Then the season is over.

And unfortunately, it was not a big last week of the International Rugby Year for the Southern Hemisphere.

It started with a 17-10 loss to Italy by Los Teros of Uruguay, continued with losses to South Africa, Australia and New Zealand and ended with Argentina’s 53-7 dunk in the hands of Ireland.

Ouch.

The tails between the collective legs, our tour team all came well to home ports and holidays – and the panel will join them very soon – but only after we have mentioned a few names.

For our respective teams, it has been a rugby year of ups and downs, a year of progress and decline and a year of pure joy and unbridled frustration.

But it has also been a rugby year, where players both in our own jerseys and in the opposition have noticed, and I reckon that it might be the perfect discussion to end the 2021 rugby year.

My sincere thanks to Harry, Nobes, Digger and Geoff for yet another enjoyable season full of thoroughly fascinating discussion. Their enthusiasm for answering my questions every week is what has made Thursdays so enjoyable.

Question 1: In your opinion, who has been your team player in the international season, and why? What has made them stand out this season, and what are they doing that sets them apart?

Geoff
It is a tough task to find an All Black who this year exceeded his own expectations. Jordie Barrett cemented his position, Will Jordan comes close, Rieko Ioane showed the advantage of playing in full fitness, and while Aaron Smith was always excellent, he did not play enough matches.

So it’s Ardie Savea who wins Player of the Year chocolate for the most consistent high-level performance. That said, because he’s part of the riddle that’s All Blacks’ misleading loose-forward combination, which probably says it all about where this side is right now.

There’s also irony around Michael Hooper, who misses what was the Wallabies’ best performance on their Northern tour, but for sheer consistent expertise over the course of the season and improved decision-making when it came to converting opportunities in the attacking 22, is he our man.

Michael Hooper was the captain of the Wallabies against France

(Photo by Daniel Pockett / Getty Images)

Brett
Following Geoff has its benefits for this exercise and I am completely surprised that he has named Michael Hooper as Australia’s stand-out. He has simply been incredible in 2021, to the point that criticism of his game really only exists now to highlight those who are clearly unaware of what he is doing across the pitch.

So for the sake of not doubling up, I’m not at all disappointed in throwing Andrew Kellaway up as Wallabies Player of the Year.

In the groundbreaking of all breakout years, nine attempts in his first 13 tests speak for themselves as a record, but it’s actually even better than that.

He did not score in his first two tests and they both came off the bench against France. When he was first promoted to starting, in Bledisloe 1, it was then that it all started to happen for him and all nine came in the next 11 matches.

The Wallabies have had some very good wingers over the years, but it’s hard to think of a better finisher than Kellaway in recent memory. His nose for the test line is at least unsurpassed on these shores.

Andrew Kellaway scores a try

Kellaway has had a great year (Photo by Chris Hyde / Getty Images)

But even better has been his versatility this season. He was really good from the bench against France and rightly got a start. He was named on the left wing to accommodate Jordan Petaia on the right and scored his first Test attempt in his first Test start. He then switched to the right wing and got four more attempts through the Rugby Championship.

Jordan Petaia returned to the right wing for the final match against Argentina, so Kellaway switched again and picked up three more. Many of us thought he was worth trying as a back and he was one of Australia’s best against Scotland. Back on the right wing in the last two tests and he has not missed a beat.

He has worn four different jerseys in 2021 and he has looked comfortable in each of them. He has gone from fringe team member to speculative debutant to absolute selection lock in five months. It’s a season.

Nobes
I have always tried to separate rugby from other sports where stars are sought, as our game for me is a team game and the players have different functions within it, which seems unfair to highlight one over others on the same team.

So with the spirit of following the slogan, it seems to me that the Los Pumas player who stood out the most on and off the field was the captain, Julian Montoya.

My choice first goes through their efforts and dedication in a team that has a 2021 to be forgotten beyond the results as what they showed on the pitch was tactically very poor.

It is only worth noting the dedication of those players who faced impotence but put their bodies to the line, even though they once ended up winning fair cards. Julian, as captain, also had to deal with problems outside the game, and I think he did it with great courage and maturity.

To me, big players and people stand out in adversity, and Julian made it far.

Digger
With a lot of hugs and change this season, it’s very difficult to get along with a single person, but I will settle for All Blacks back Jordie Barrett.

Yes, he has had his less than satisfying moments, but stands out to me for his straight run and powerful and more confident defense compared to other options on the fullback.

His space kick has also been quite helpful.

Jordan Barrett scores for the All Blacks

(Photo by Will Russell / Getty Images)

Harry
Eben Etzebeth is South Africa’s Player of the Year.

He brought a distinctive blend of top fitness, power, dead ball skills, tackling and hard carry dominance, ruck cleaning and debauching, adding the next levels of kick-chase to fill the huge gap left by Pieter-Steph du Toit.

Even in the Springbok losses, the small group was never beaten and usually dominated.

The biggest reason the ‘Bok package played bigger than they are’s was Etzebeth. He played out every locomotive he faced.

Question 2: Of all the teams your team has faced in 2021, who has been the one excellent resistance player? Why did they stand out for you, and why did they give your team so much grief?

Geoff
One need look no further than the French flyhalf Romain Ntamack to find New Zealand’s nemesis. Already with a day out, he turned last weekend’s test match in an instant, with a game so daring that it will live long in the memory of all French fans who saw it.

Australia lost several matches, so the field is more scattered. Three consecutive losses to the All Blacks hurt, the first two in New Zealand when Aaron Smith fired bullets and drove the Wallabies unevenly. Nic White and Tate McDermott are both very good players with special strengths. But the Wallabies would be a far superior team with Smith at halftime.

Brett
French rear superman Cameron Woki arrived in Australia in July as a No. 7 flanker for Tricolore, ending the season with a lineout-dominating lock, a maul-piloting, meter-made tackle machine.

He mustered Sam Whitelock over the weekend, handed it back to Brodie Retallick as the crazy eyes came over the Kiwi lock, stood like the ruck pillar and dared guys to run at him, almost turning Melvyn Jaminet’s counterattack from Les Bleus’ own. in-goal into this year’s attempt, and smoked out of tackles as he stormed into New Zealand 22.

Woki was super impressive back in July and he finished the season even better.

And he is only just turned 23. He can become anything after the World Cup at home.

Nobes
Well, there were so many that it’s very difficult to point to one.

I have two in mind from two different teams, but I think Eben Etzebeth was so dominant in the matches in South Africa that it deserves the call.

Eben Etzebeth

Eben Etzebeth from South Africa (Photo by Craig Mercer / MB Media / Getty Images)

He had an excellent year and the Los Pumas suffered him not only in set pieces, but in the open field with high balls and breaking lines.

Digger
So many come to mind, I would like to talk about a few, but one that immediately surfaced was Caelyn Doris, the Irish blindside flanker who had a fantastic match against New Zealand.

Athletic, strong, he gave us a really tough time, I also have a suspicion that he stood out for me given the point of contention the AB blindside spot has been through this season.

Harry
Irish prop Tadgh Furlong gets my vote.

He looks like a 1955 bouncer in the Irish part of New York. He has a block-like appearance. He is simply the best in his position.

He is a rock on scrum and can not be folded. He never missed a tackle in the Lions series. He participated in more matches per minute than any other forward. He has good hands.

He is a prototype; despite his retro look.

OVER TO YOU: Who was your team’s player of the international year?

And which resistance player stood out for you in 2021?

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