A Rugby World Cup Team of the Pool Stages

Portugal entertained from the start to the end of the pool stages
©Photo by Pauline Ballet - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images

The final round of the 2023 Rugby World Cup pool stages finished at the weekend, meaning many players have packed their bags and are heading home.

But some have certainly left their mark on this tournament, especially those who shone for Portugal, a side which captured the hearts of the rugby world with their determination to play with no fear.

Others march onto the quarter-finals after being the world-class players we know they can be while some used the pool stages to stack a claim for a starting spot in the crucial knockout games to come.

Here is my XV from the pool stages:

1. Andrew Porter, Ireland – A force of nature at scrum time for Ireland in helping them gain crucial wins against South Africa, and particularly Scotland where Andy Farrell's side dominated up front.

2. Peato Mauvaka, France - Came on as an early substitute in the opener against the All Blacks, standing out with athleticism in that game and the ones that followed. Staked a claim for a starting spot in the quarter-final.

3. Ben Tameifuna, Tonga - A man who emptied the tank completely every time he stepped on the pitch for Tonga. One of the most physically imposing players at this tournament, as seen with his destructive carries even against the likes of South Africa.

4. Tadhg Beirne, Ireland- Scored three tries in four games, with some great running in the loose. Then showed his typical physicality against South Africa and Scotland.

5. Theo McFarland, Samoa- One of the best athletes at this World Cup, playing in both the second row and back row. His offloading game is marvellous to watch and he beat seven defenders in the tournament. His performance against England nearly helped lead Samoa to a historic victory.

6. Nicolas Martins, Portugal - He has played at openside but he simply couldn’t be left out of this team. His work rate has been second to none making 63 tackles in the pool stages. He is a reason why Portugal have been so great to watch and was vital in their famous win against Fiji. Don’t be surprised to see this guy being picked up by a top club in months to come.

7. Jac Morgan, Wales - A new star for the Welsh, an all-action back-rower, even adding kicking to his array of skills, with this being shown in his 50-22 (or rather 22-22) in the game against Australia. Will be crucial for Wales' chances moving forward.

8. Gregory Alldritt, France - It was between this man or New Zealand’s Ardie Savea, but I’d say the Frenchmen just edges it due to him coming out on top in the opening game of the tournament.

9. Aaron Smith, New Zealand - Started the tournament with a huge battle against Antione Dupont where, despite his team losing, he arguably was the better of the two. Then a hat trick in just 17 minutes, he was superb in the All-Blacks' demolition of Italy.

10. Damian McKenzie, New Zealand – Whilst not being in the All Blacks' starting team for the tougher games, he has been spectacular when he has played. His flick inside to Will Jordan against Uruguay is a prime example. Five tries in three games isn’t anything to be ashamed of either.

11. Raffaele Storti, Portugal - His highlight was finishing off one of the tries of the tournament in that spectacular game against Fiji. He has been phenomenal to watch, beating 23 defenders and scoring three tries. At just 22, he is someone to look out for in the years to come.

12. Bundee Aki, Ireland – Arguably the player of the tournament so far. Scoring tries and making breaks in Ireland's wins against Romania and Tonga, but his physicality in his performance against the Springboks was sensational.

13. Waisea Nayacalevu, Fiji - When this man is at his best, Fiji are at their best. He scored a brilliant solo try against Wales in the opening game and then stepped up when his side really needed him, scoring a crucial try in that victory over Georgia.

14. Damian Penaud, France – Couldn’t exactly leave out the top try scorer of the tournament so far. Eleven line breaks and six tries in three games does all the explaining itself.

15. Davit Niniashvili, Georgia - Whilst part of a side that failed to win a game at this World Cup, the young full-back was brilliant showing off his incredible speed to gain a spectacular 425 running metres in the four matches he played.