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Ireland head All Blacks to top English poll

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    03 Dec 2018     Getty Images

The Rugby Paper based its rankings on results throughout 2018, and they reflected Ireland's most successful year with their only loss being to Australia at the start of the June international series. Ireland played two Tests fewer than the 14 played by the All Blacks.

Writer Peter Jackson said, "Against opponents who finish the year averaging almost six tries per Test, the cleanest of sheets reflects Andy Farrell's impact as defence coach.

"It was no coincidence that when the world champions last went through a try-less trauma before their defeat in Dublin, against the Lions in Wellington last year, Farrell happened to be in the tourist's corner."

Under the paper's system Wales was in third place. Others were, Scotland 4, South Africa 5, England 6, Australia 7, France 8, Italy 9, Argentina 10.

There were some compensations for the All Blacks, however.

Five New Zealanders made Jackson's World XV, Beauden Barrett (at fullback), Ben Smith, Ryan Crotty (at centre), Codie Taylor and Brodie Retallick.

However, Barrett was clearly the highest points scorer during the year ending with 135 points while Handre Pollard was second on 124, Nicolas Sanchez third on 115, Owen Farrell fourth on 113 with Johnny Sexton on 99.
In the try scoring stakes, the All Blacks scored 78 tries in the year with Ireland second in the distance on 43 tries. Scotland scored 39 and South Africa 37.

In the individual scoring, the All Blacks had four players in the top six. Reiko Ioane topped the list with 11 tries while Barrett was second on nine. Jordie Barrett and Damien McKenzie shared fifth place with seven tries each. Ireland and England wings Jacob Stockdale and Jonny May shared third with eight tries each.

The All Blacks were the only team to have players score four tries in a game, Beauden Barrett against Australia in Auckland and Jordie Barrett against Italy in Rome. They also had three players score three tries in a game: Ioane against France in Dunedin, Ngani Laumape against Japan in Tokyo and McKenzie against Italy in Rome.

Ireland did conceded the least number of tries with 20, Wales 21, England 23, Scotland 25 and New Zealand 29.

England and Fiji shared to the most cards during the year with six, Australia conceded 4, Wales, South Africa and Tonga three, France and Ireland two and Italy, Scotland, New Zealand and Samoa one each.