15: Beauden Barrett (Hurricanes, All Blacks)
2019 has been a year which has seen Beauden Barrett make a move in life and a move on the playing field. Having made 125 appearances for the Hurricanes, Barrett announced earlier this year that he was moving north to Auckland to play for the Blues. He helped lead the Hurricanes to the Super Rugby semi-finals, scoring 118 points throughout the season. Barrett also moved from pivot to fullback for the majority of the International season, starting at 15, eight out of 10 Tests. He beat the most defenders throughout the Investec Rugby Championship, with 16 and he continued to test opposition with his lightening quick speed.
14: Sevu Reece (Crusaders, All Blacks)
In March this year, Sevu Reece burst onto the Super Rugby scene, making his debut as an injury replacement for the Crusaders against the Chiefs. It was a Man of the Match performance and the rest is history. The 22-year old became a starter for the Crusaders on the wing and he went onto score 15 tries throughout their successful campaign, the most in the competition. Reece also topped the charts for the most clean breaks in Super Rugby with 39. His speed and strength quickly caught the eye of All Blacks selectors and he found himself making his Test debut against Argentina in Buenos Aires in July. Reece has gone onto play seven Tests in 2019, including four matches at the Rugby World Cup in Japan.
13: Anton Lienert-Brown (Chiefs, All Blacks)
Mr. Reliable. That’s what Anton Lienert-Brown has become, in both the Chiefs and All Blacks jersey. The classy midfielder has had a sublime 2019 season, he’s got the basics right and has become a mainstay for both sides. Ian Foster described his attack play as “unorthodox” earlier this year and he’s become a difficult player to defend against. Lienert-Brown had the most offloads in Super Rugby this year, whilst his defence is second-to-none. His tackle success in the black jersey was at 90%. Lienert-Brown has been rewarded for his form this year, having picked up the Chiefs Players’ Player of the Year award and being nominated as All Blacks Player of the Year at the ASB Rugby Awards.
12: Ruahei Demant (Auckland, Black Ferns)
It’s been a standout season for Ruahei Demant. She shone in the number 10 jersey for the Black Ferns throughout the Super Series in San Diego and the Laurie O’Reilly Memorial Trophy series against Australia. She cemented her position as the Black Ferns pivot, controlling her team around the field and showcasing a strong kicking game. Demant beat 22 defenders in her six Tests, making five clean breaks and 49 carries. For Auckland in the Farah Palmer Cup, Demant moved into the second five-eighth position (hence her position at 12 in the Form XV). She created havoc for defenders, scoring a number of impressive tries throughout the season.
11: Ayesha Leti-l’iga (Wellington, Black Ferns)
The Wellington 20-year-old has featured in several highlights’ videos throughout the 2019 season. She’s built brilliantly on her debut season last year and has been a force to be reckoned with throughout the International and Farah Palmer Cup campaigns. She made 483 metres in the black jersey in the six Tests she played this year, beating 25 defenders and making 61 carries. Leti-I’iga bulldozes her way along the sideline and her speed and strength has made her incredibly difficult to stop. The impressive winger topped the table for the most tries in the Farah Palmer Cup competition, bagging 12 tries.
10: Richie Mo’unga (Crusaders, All Blacks)
Mo’unga likely found himself playing a lot more rugby in the black jersey this year than he thought he would at the start of the year. The double-pivot experiment with Beauden Barrett at fullback certainly took many people by surprise. However, Mo’unga stepped up and relished the opportunity to steer the All Blacks around the park. The 25 year-old had another stellar Super Rugby season with the Crusaders and had a Man of the Match performance in the final against the Jaguares. He was the second-highest points scorer in Super Rugby, with 182 points, just behind Handre Pollard. Mo’unga’s goal kicking was on point in 2019, having kicked at 80% for the All Blacks and 77% for the Crusaders.
9: Brad Weber (Chiefs, All Blacks)
The fiery Hawke’s Bay halfback made it impossible for All Blacks selectors not to pick him in their Rugby World Cup squad. Brad Weber had an outstanding Super Rugby campaign with the Chiefs, taking over as captain on occasion in the absence of Brodie Retallick and Sam Cane. He was an inspiration for his injury-plagued side as they made it to the playoffs. Weber alongside Scott Barrett and Ardie Savea were nominated for Investec Super Rugby Player of the Year, with Savea eventually taking out the award. He played four Tests in 2019 with a remarkable 100% tackle success rate. We will remember his 2019 season for that incredible pass to TJ Perenara which ended up taking out the Try of the Year at the ABS Rugby Awards and the World Rugby Awards.
8: Charmaine McMenamin (Auckland, Black Ferns)
Now one of the most experienced players in the Black Ferns pack with 25 caps to her name, Charmaine McMenamin took her game to the next level in 2020. Starting in all six of the Black Ferns Tests this season, McMenamin was a powerhouse with ball in hand and a titan on defence as the reigning world champions won all but one of their matches. A tackle success rate of 97 percent and 327 run metres showcased McMenamin’s consistency at the back of the scrum for the Black Ferns. She was deservedly named the Black Ferns Player of the Year at the ASB Rugby Awards in December.
7: Ardie Savea (Hurricanes, All Blacks)
Given the length of the professional rugby season it is extremely hard to maintain top form throughout the whole season but that’s exactly what Ardie Savea did with powerhouse performances for both the Hurricanes and All Blacks in 2019. Known for his ravenous work at the breakdown, immense leg drive and tireless defence, Savea added versatility to his long list of strengths with appearances in all three of the loose forward positions this year. There was no surprise when Savea was named as Kelvin R Tremain Memorial Player of the Year at the ASB Rugby Awards.
6: Pia Tapsell (North Harbour, Black Ferns)
The 21-year-old has burst onto the international scene in style this year. She made her Black Ferns debut against Canada in San Diego at the Super Series earlier this year and went onto play every Test match in 2019. She was a beast with the ball in hand and proved deadly in defence. Tapsell missed the majority of North Harbour’s Farah Palmer Cup campaign through injury, but she made a massive impact when she returned for their final few games of the season.
5: Eloise Blackwell (Black Ferns, Auckland)
A staple of the Black Ferns since her debut in 2011, Blackwell has stepped up as a true leader in the side and averaged an incredible 76 minutes per game across six Test appearances in 2019. While her set-piece play is world class, it is with ball in hand where Blackwell impressed this season. Her 47 carries for the Black Ferns made opposition tacklers work over-time and laid the platform for the Black Ferns exciting back line to cut loose. A world-class operator, Blackwell is shaping as a key member of the Black Ferns as they build towards the 2021 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.
4: Scott Barrett (Crusaders, All Blacks)
There was no one better for the Crusaders in their successful 2019 campaign than workhorse lock Scott Barrett. An injury suffered in the semifinal against the Hurricanes prevented Barrett from taking part in the final and threatened to derail his All Blacks season. With fellow lock Brodie Retallick injured early in the Investec Rugby Championship, all eyes were on Scott Barrett to make a successful return to the side ahead of the World Cup. Barrett returned from injury against Australia and went on to play seven Tests for the All Blacks in 2019. He dotted down for two tries at the World Cup against Canada and South Africa.
3: Nepo Laulala (Chiefs, All Blacks)
A combination of injury issues and the presence of 100-Test prop Owen Franks meant that Nepo Laulala has been a bit-player for the All Blacks prior to the 2019 season. A tight-head specialist, Laulala made the number three jersey his own for the All Blacks this year. An immense scrummager, Laulala also added a much-needed ball-carrying element to the All Blacks pack in 2019. At just 28-years-old, Laulala is coming into his prime as a front rower and should be key player for the side in 2020.
2: Codie Taylor (Crusaders, All Blacks)
Codie Taylor was a key part of the engine room that delivered the Crusaders a third-straight Super Rugby title before embarking on another impressive season in the black jersey. The battle for the number two jersey in the All Blacks has been fierce between Taylor and Dane Coles in recent years. But it was Taylor who was called on to start at hooker in the All Blacks two knockout games at the Rugby World Cup. Always relied upon to nail his core roles, Taylor was more active with ball in hand in 2019 to add another element to his already well-rounded game.
1: Joe Moody (Crusaders, All Blacks)
It was testament to Joe Moody’s durability that he started at loosehead prop in nine of the All Blacks 11 Tests in 2019 following a heavy workload for the Crusaders in Super Rugby. An absolute powerhouse in the tight exchanges, Moody displayed an increased level of fitness and mobility in 2019 and was never far from the action. He also bagged two tries at the Rugby World Cup to take his career tally to five tries from 46 Tests.