Hooker: Malcolm Marx (South Africa)
Dane Coles has been absent because of injury but his deputy Codie Taylor has stepped up to the plate with a series of strong displays.
But the stand-out hooker in world rugby over the past 10 months has been Malcolm Marx.
After South Africa’s game with New Zealand last October, one Kiwi writer’s player ratings saw him hand the Springbok a perfect 10.
Prop: Tadhg Furlong (Ireland)
After Ireland’s second-Test win over over South Africa, Rob Kearney suggested Tadhg Furlong was changing the role of tight-head prop. “There was one clean-out on David Pocock that was the greatest I’ve ever seen,” said Kearney.
Furlong is a big scrummager but it doesn’t end there for him — far from it. He has a huge appetite for loose play and was superb for Ireland and Leinster in season just finished.
Lock: Brodie Retallick (New Zealand)
Widely regarded as the world’s best lock, Brodie Retallick needs no introduction. While possessing the requisite athleticism and grunt of a modern lock forward, his breakdown flexibility and ball-handling precision mark him apart from his peers. He does not posses the flamboyant offloading ability of his second-row partner in this team, but his vision and passing ability – skills which are severely underrated for a modern lock – mean that he is virtually the first name on all World XV teamsheets.
Lock: Leone Nakarawa (FijI)
Described by Sir Clive Woodward as “the best player in the world in 2017”, the Fijian magician is regarded as one of the greatest offloaders in the game, regardless of position. Currently plying his trade with Racing 92 on the outskirts of Paris, Nakarawa is known to bamboozle defences with his offloads and audacious athleticism. Step aside Inspecter Gadget, there’s a new man in town.