As 2023 comes to a close, it’s time to reflect on what has been a busy year for rugby around the world. In men’s football, South Africa became world champions, while Ireland won the Six Nations Grand Slam and La Rochelle won the Champions Cup for the second time in a row.

Overall the standard of rugby was extremely high across the board, although there were many titanic battles along the way. During 2023, many players demanded to be held accountable.

rugby correspondent Stefan Tomás Choose your 2023 World XV.

15. Beauden Barrett (New Zealand)

The former World Rugby Player of the Year was instrumental in the All Blacks’ run to the Rugby World Cup final, where they narrowly lost to South Africa. Barrett is arguably the most complete footballer in the world with his game of shooting, devastating counterattacks, distribution, peripheral vision and the way he reads the game make him worthy of a place in the World XV.

The 32-year-old is a natural rugby player and while full-back may not be his preferred position, the All Blacks needed Barrett and Richie Moung on the field at the same time. Barrett has joined wealthy Japanese company Toyota Verblitz but will return to New Zealand in 2024, which will be a huge boost for the All Blacks.

14. Will Jordan (New Zealand)

The 25-year-old is one of the most prolific finishers on the planet and was sensational at the recent World Cup, where he was involved in eight tries. Jordan has blistering pace and clearly knows his way to the Test line, but the Crusaders man is also a world-class playmaker who could draw others into the game.

Jordan is reliable both defensively and from the high ball, but he is arguably the best attacking player in world rugby. The All Blacks star is capable of kicking goals from all over the pitch and is likely to go from strength to strength in the coming seasons.

13. Harry Ringrose (Ireland)

The Leinster center is the glue that holds the Irish midfield together. Bundy Aki may have received all the plaudits during the World Cup group stage, but Ringrose is vital to the way Leinster and Ireland attack.

The 28-year-old was a crucial part of an Irish team that dominated world rugby for almost 18 months, winning the Test series in New Zealand and the Six Nations Grand Slam. Ringrose reads the game very well both offensively and defensively. Its layout is also excellent, allowing you to make the most of the external curves.

12. Jonathan Danti (France)

The 31-year-old has been a totem for both La Rochelle and France in recent seasons. Danti is a physical specimen whose explosive weapons put him behind the line of scrimmage while packing a big punch on defense.

The La Rochelle star is used to opening up opposition defenses and his offloading game is also world class. He played a prominent role in the French national team at Test level and was also instrumental in helping La Rochelle win back-to-back European Cups.

11. Cheslin Kolbe (South Africa)

The 30-year-old will certainly go down in history as one of the greatest wingers of the modern era as he played a crucial role in South Africa’s Rugby World Cup victory. Kolbe is an X-Factor player who could walk past someone in a phone booth and no one would touch him.

The former Toulouse and Toulon star is known for his attack, but he also has a very low error rate, while his defense is first class. Kolbe is one of the most prolific finishers in world rugby, extremely quick both on the mark and across the entire length of the field.

The Tokyo Sungoliath star made several key interventions at crucial stages of South Africa’s march to a fourth World Cup title, whether it was his sensational goal against France or one of a series of crucial touchdowns.

10. Richie Munga (New Zealand)

The 29-year-old is ahead of Handre Pollard for the crucial role he has played in turning around the All Blacks’ fortunes over the past two years. Mo’unga is an excellent attacking player who often breaks the line with his footwork and his aerial game gives the All Blacks another dimension in attack.

The talented playmaker offers control and his game management is world class, as are his shots on goal. Mo’unga is capable of lighting up the game, but he has the perfect balance between offensive talent and conservatism. New Zealand will miss their experienced playmaker, who signed for Japan Rugby League One club Toshiba Brave Lupus.

9. Antoine Dupont (France)

The best rugby player in the world. Dupont is so good that it often feels like he is playing in slow motion, and if anyone had the chance to create the perfect rugby player, it would be the French number nine.

The 27-year-old has been a symbol of France and Toulouse in recent years and it was a travesty that Dupont was unable to grace the World Cup after the quarter-finals. Dupont is at least nine out of 10 in all aspects of the game, be it passing, shooting, reading the game, running and defense.

He will go down on the list of the greatest of all time.

8. Ardi Savea (New Zealand)

The 30-year-old has had an excellent season and although he was disappointed by New Zealand’s dreadful defeat in the World Cup final, Savea has impressed on an individual level. Savea was so good that he was voted player of the year.

The defender is an absolute titan with his explosive passing, relentless defending, detail work and mastery of set pieces that set him apart from the rest. Savea is also a natural leader of men and has helped guide the All Blacks through turbulent waters of late.

What makes Savea so special is the fact that it helps when the pressure is on. There have been many occasions over the years when New Zealand have been on the ropes, but Savea had one big moment to restore momentum to the All Blacks team.

7. Charles Olivon (France)

It was a tight battle between Irishman Josh van der Flier, Welshman Jack Morgan and South Africa’s World Cup captain Siya Kolisi all together, but French defender Ollivon was excellent.

The Toulon player has an impressive game in all aspects. Ollivon is a devastating ball carrier who is equally comfortable in wide and narrow channels, while his escape work is world class.

The 30-year-old is relentless in defense, although he has great knowledge of the game and is another natural leader. A really great performance.

6. Peter-Steph du Toit (South Africa)

The 31-year-old will undoubtedly go down on the list of the best loose forwards to ever play for the Springboks, and that’s saying a lot. Du Toit was simply phenomenal during South Africa’s World Cup triumph and was named man of the match in the final.

He has a lot of presence on the field and his work rate is from another planet. Du Toit always wins tackles and gives the Springboks a huge physical advantage in the back row, but he is also an extremely intelligent rugby player.

5. Thibaut Flaman (France)

Castle Toulouse has the perfect combination of athleticism and physicality. Flament has been at the forefront of Toulouse and France’s success in recent seasons.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a better operator than Flament, and his broadcast work is world class. Flament is a powerful carry who works hard in defense, but his athleticism also means it’s not uncommon to see the former Wasps man making 50-metre bursts.

4. Eben Etzebet (South Africa)

If we were to put together the best XV of all time, there would certainly be at least 20 South African goalkeepers, but Etzebeth is as good, if not better, than all of them. The 31-year-old is a two-time World Cup winner and was instrumental in the Springboks becoming champions in 2019 and 2023.

Etzebeth is a complete lock and there are very few things she can’t do. The Sharks star is as physical as possible and does all the dirty work without being seen.

He is an explosive carrier in both narrow and wide channels, but his immense physique sets him apart. Etzebet is also a world-class striker and will go down in history as a great modern striker.

3. France Malerbe (South Africa)

The 32-year-old is arguably the best defender on the planet and was the cornerstone of South Africa’s World Cup triumph. He may not be as flashy on the park as someone like Ireland’s Tadgh Furlong, but Mahlerb never questions a scrum.

He also does a lot of invisible work on the park in terms of scrums and carries, and defensively he tries to use a lot of techniques.

2. Malcolm Marx (South Africa)

She missed most of the World Cup due to a serious injury, but Marks is without a doubt the best hooker in the world. The 33-year-old is a phenomenon on the park and as good as most openers at breakdowns.

Marks is extremely physical and always gets past the line of scrimmage, yet he is another player on this team whose work rate is phenomenal. His theater work is also world class, while the South African is someone who produces products under the most intense pressure.

Pure world class.

1. Cyril Bay (France)

The 30-year-old is one of the most underrated players on the planet and has been a key part of French rugby’s success in recent years. Bale is a fierce scrummager and rarely comes second in scrums, but he also makes a huge contribution on the park.

The Toulouse player is a dynamic and powerful ball carrier, who puts his team on the attack and his defensive numbers are always very high.