International Rugby
What's the best individual performance of 2014?
Richard Kelly
September 11, 2014
Julian Savea bagged another brace against Argentina © Getty Images
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Julian Savea, for New Zealand against Argentina, and Israel Folau, for Australia against South Africa, produced magnificent performances in the Rugby Championship last week. And their efforts got us thinking about comparing the best individual performances of 2014. We've used the Opta Index to rank six of the best efforts of the year, as the system applies considered, objective logic and complex algorithms to their statistics to determine the significance of actions in context to each individual game.

Read the list then join the discussion by writing a comment at the foot of the page.

Heineken Cup

Ruan Pienaar (Ulster v Montpellier, January 10)

Pienaar is one of Ulster's biggest signings in history, and this was truly a big-time performance from the Springboks scrum-half. This was a crucial pool match played in bitter conditions between two well-matched sides, but the contribution of the home No.9 proved the difference. Pienaar landed five of six shots at goal and did not miss a tackle. Ten carries showed his willingness to go at the line on the evening, and he showed his true worth by scoring a try and assisting another.

Ruan Pienaar led Ulster past Montpellier © Getty Images
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2014 Six Nations

Mike Brown (England v Wales, March 9)

The England fullback was named the Player of the Tournament, and the Opta Index deems this Test his most impressive performance. England saw off the 2013 champions 29-18 at Twickenham, with the No.15, who plays his club rugby just over the road at The Stoop, at the helm of their attacks. England threw the kitchen sink at Wales from deep, with Brown managing to beat seven defenders on the afternoon. He was tireless throughout, racking up 18 carries with an average gain of over eight metres, while also completing 5/5 tackles and winning a turnover.

Mike Brown had a lot to celebrate against Wales © Getty Images
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Super Rugby

Matt Hodgson (Western Force v Chiefs, March 22)

Very few tipped the Force to top the two-time reigning champions, and they probably would have finished second-best if it weren't for Matt Hodgson. In a low-scoring match, the Force captain scored two tries, completed 14/15 tackles and won four turnovers.

Matt Hodgson inspired Western Force © Getty Images
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Aviva Premiership

Marland Yarde (Gloucester v London Irish, May 3)

The London Irish winger, who has since established himself as part of the England national side, produced a whirlwind attacking display that caught the eye of Red Rose boss Stuart Lancaster. He averaged a gain of more than 10 metres across 14 carries and amassed an incredible 12 defenders beaten against the Cherry and Whites, breaking the line on four occasions and turning those into points with three touchdowns. Gloucester won a remarkable game 38-30, but match reports were littered with mentions of the emerging wide man.

Marland Yarde shredded the Gloucester defence © Getty Images
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June Internationals

Lodewyk De Jager (South Africa v Scotland, June 28)

The Springboks lock produced a strong attacking and tireless defence display in this win over the Scots. He completed 17 tackles in total and clocked up 56 metres from eight carries, crashing over the try line to keep his team in the ascendancy. Five lineout wins and a steal from the Scotland throw capped off a fine contribution.

One try was the least of Lood de Jager's performance against Scotland © Getty Images
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The Rugby Championship

Israel Folau (Australia v South Africa, September 6)

Many will argue the performances from a number of the All Blacks against Australia warrant inclusion in this list, but the close nature of this Perth Test and the calibre of the sides involved make Israel Folau's contribution at Patersons Stadium worth its weight in gold. The Waratahs superstar scored a try and produced 18 carries in total. He was faultless when it came to handling and discipline and constantly proved a thorn for the South African tacklers. These efforts more than counter his defensive kicking.

Israel Folau produced another star performance in Perth © Getty Images
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Follow @OptaJonny, the official Twitter page for Opta's coverage of rugby union and rugby league, and @OptaJason, the official Twitter page for Opta Sports' coverage of sport in Australia and New Zealand.

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