Scarlets forward Vaea Fifita has been named in the United Rugby Championship Elite XV for the 2022-23 season.
The Tongan international, who has shone at lock and in the back-row in his first season in West Wales, is the lone Welsh-based player named in the star-studded side.
Ireland accounted for six of the 15 players selected, which were determined by a media vote, with four coming from South Africa, two each from Scotland and Italy and one from Wales. A total of 11 teams had at least one player included, with Leinster leading the way with three.
Players had to have made a minimum of nine appearances to be considered, with the media panel given a shortlist of 10 players per position, provided by URC StatMaster. The player with the most votes in each position earned a place in the team.
URC Elite XV
15 Kurt-Lee Arendse (Vodacom Bulls); 14 Darcy Graham (Edinburgh Rugby), 13 Sione Tuipulotu (Glasgow Warriors), 12 Daniel du Plessis (DHL Stormers), 11 Simone Gesi (Zebre Parma); 10 Ross Byrne (Leinster), 9 Grant Williams (Cell C Sharks); 1 Steven Kitshoff (DHL Stormers), 2 Dan Sheehan (Leinster), 3 Finlay Bealham (Connacht), 4 Niall Murray (Connacht), 5 Federico Ruzza (Benetton), 6 Vaea Fifita (Scarlets), 7 Scott Penny (Leinster), 8 Gavin Coombes (Munster).
Places in the Elite XV are the latest prizes to be revealed as part of three weeks of URC Awards announcements. The Try of the Season – of which Ryan Conbeer’s effort against the DHL Stormers is a contender – Ironman, Gilbert Golden Boot and Vodacom Fan’s Player of the Season will be revealed next week. The BKT Coach of the Season and Players’ Player of the Season and Vodacom Fans’ Player of the Season are then revealed in the build-up to the Grand Final.
URC Awards 2022-23
Top Try Scorer: Tom Stewart (Ulster)
Tackle Machine: John Hodnett (Munster)
Turnover King: Thomas Young (Cardiff)
Next-Gen Player: Tom Stewart (Ulster)