Super 15: The Rugby Union's All-World Starting XV
Its a World Cup year!!!!
I cannot wait 'till the 2011 Rugby World Cup. And in the hope of whetting some more appetites, here is my list for the 15 best Rugby players in the world.
Along with some honourable mentions, it is basically a list of the very best, at this very minute, for each individual position,
This is of course opinion so feel free to disagree. Enjoy!
1. Tony Woodcock (Loosehead Prop)
The most capped All-Black prop ever, Woodcock is one of the greatest Loosehead props of any era.
He is a beast in the scrum, a great ball carrier, deceptively athletic in the open field, defensively impeccable and he boasts very soft hands for a man playing in one of the most physical positions on the park.
He is the complete package and an extremely accomplished player.
He will be key to the AB's hopes in the World Cup, and I fully expect him to be one of the stand out players in the tournament.
Honourable Mentions: Tendai Mtawarira, Thomas Domingo, Soane Tonga'uiha
2. William Servat (Hooker)
This is a tough pick but, for my money, William Servat is the best hooker in the world.
He has been a stand out for Tolouse over his career and his consistent throwing as well as his wonderful physicality bring a lot to the French national side.
Servat is a fine ball carrier, very committed and ferociously competitive on the gain line.
He really is an elite player and, while his game may may not be the silkiest in the world, it is probably the most effective.
Honourable Mentions: Bismarck Du Plessis, Steve Thompson, Kevin Meelamu, Matthew Rees
3. Nicolas Mas (Tighthead Prop)
France's second entry on the list is tighthead prop Nicolas Mas.
He is a competent ball carrier, and his technical ability in the scrum is second to none.
Msd is a really good player, and on balance, I think he offers the most of any player in the world at his position.
Honourable Mentions: Martin Castrogiovanni, Rodrigo Roncero, Adam Jones
4. Victor Matfield (Lock)
Can there really be any argument?
Matfield is a legend of the game—the South African captain is as tough, physical, mean and talented as they come.
He is an inspirational leader and a great example for young players to follow.
He is an all-time great and if you'll forgive the pun, has to be a lock at lock.
Honourable Mentions: Next slide
5. Nathan Hines (Lock)
Im sticking my chin out a little bit on this one.
Nathan Hines is not the most talented player in the position, nor is he the most inspirational, but he is a great player nonetheless, has a wealth of experience and is playing lights-out rugby at Leinster this year.
I think he is often overlooked but deserves his due as one of the finest locks on the planet.
Having said all that, Alun Wyn-Jones just misses out here by a whisker.
Honourable Mentions: Sam Whitelock, Nathan Sharpe, Jerome Thion, Paul O'Connell, Alun Wyn-Jones
6. Rocky Elsom (Blindside Flanker)
And here's where the craic really starts.
There is an embarrassment of riches in back-row forwards in the world at the moment and picking just three is extremely difficult—also I'm Irish, so picking against Stephen Ferris is contrary to my soul.
But P4P, Rocky Elsom is just too good to ignore.
The Australian captain is a magnificent athlete, ferocious in the open field, adaptable, dependable and inspirational.
Elsom is truly outstanding and has to be the best blindside flanker in the world.
Honourable Mentions: Stephen Ferris, Jerome Kaino, Tom Croft
7. As If You Don't Know Already (Openside Flanker)
There is nothing I can say that hasn't been said before by people more eloquent than myself.
Richard "Richie" McCaw is the greatest openside flanker to ever grace the game and, frankly, we should thank our lucky stars we are alive to witness him in his prime.
Honourable Mentions: Fulgence Oudreago, David Pocock, Sean O'Brien
8. Imanol Harinordoquy (Number Eight)
As previously mentioned, I am Irish, however I do not consider Jamie Heaslip as deserving of any consideration here due to his shameful actions in kneeing McCaw in the head last year.
He could have caused serious, permanent damage. It was unprovoked, unwarranted, has no place in professional sports and is utterly unjustifiable.
No matter how well Heaslip plays in the future I maintain it is a disgrace to the IRFU and the Irish people that such a vile individual is allowed sully the green jersey.
Now that the rant is out of the way...
Harinordoquy is a top class player and fully deserving of this spot as the best eighthman in the world.
The Basque-Frenchman may not quite have the pace of Spies or the silky smooth skills of Parisse, but he is a rare athlete and a great talent.
This position would probably belong to Spies if he improved defensively, but at the moment he is an inferior all-around player to Harinordoquy.
Honourable Mentions: Pierre Spies, Sergio Parisse, Kieran Read, Fernandez-Lobbe
9. Fourie Du Preez (Scrum Half)
Scrum half is a demanding position.
Aside from the obvious defensive requirements, it requires the ability to find and control the ball while under pressure, deliver accurate passes and organise attacks.
Furthermore, the 9 must instinctively know where everyone is, be able to box kick at need and be able to make a break off the bottom of a scrum or maul when the opportunity arises.
Many fine scrum halves exist who specialise in just a few of these areas. Very few exist who can do them all and fewer still can do them all to a high level.
Du Preez can do it all to the highest possible standard, and so has to be the best 9 in the game at the moment.
Honourable Mentions: Will Genia, Mike Phillips, Alby Matthewson
10. As If You Didn't Know Already, Part 2 (Fly-Half)
Ever notice how you never see Dan Carter and God in the same room? Coincidence? I think not.
Dan Carter is the greatest fly-half to ever play the game.
If he wins a World Cup, it would be between him and Richie for greatest player ever—of any position.
He is the catalyst for the most devastating back line in the world. If he was just an average kicker his ball skills and line breaking would still make him the best 10 in the world.
The fact that he has surgical precision with his boot really just sweetens the deal.
He is in a different plane of existence than any other 10 in the world. He wins this jersey at a canter.
Honourable Mentions: Jonny Wilkinson, Berrick Barnes, Juan Martin Hernandez
11. Hosea Gear (Wing)
Graham Henry's weapon of choice is Rico's younger (and better) brother, Hosea.
Hosea Gear is an outstanding combination of size, power, pace and sheer bloody-mindedness. A deadly finisher, he is a good broken field runner and a solid defender.
He is not exactly the most ingenious or subtle player going, but from 10 meters out, with some space to accelerate, Gear is as close to unstoppable as "makes no difference."
Honourable Mentions: Shane Williams, Julien Malzieu, Drew Mitchell.
12. Brian O'Driscoll (Centre)
Maybe I am slightly biased, but I firmly believe BOD is still an elite centre.
He has always been a 13, but he is slowing down a bit now and I think that were he moved to 12 he would benefit from better defensive protection and more time and space with the ball.
Given time and space, O'Driscoll is still the best centre on the planet.
His vision, hands, lines, space awareness, defensive reliability and big game mentality are all still in pristine condition.
The 32-year-old is a great player and while he may not quite have the legs for 13 anymore, he would be a devastating 12.
Honourable Mentions: Sonny Bill Williams, Yannick Jauzion, Matt Giteau.
13. Jaque Fourie (Centre)
The question of who is the world's best 13 is controversial.
Some maintain it is still BOD. Others think its Conrad Smith or even Adam Ashley-Cooper. But, in my humble opinion, it has to be Jaque Fourie.
Fourie is injured at the moment but he is expected back for the start of the new Super 14 season.
He is a phenomenal athlete—very strong and deceptively fast. His physicality allows him to be dangerous as a short distance finisher. His stepping ability and pace endurance makes him a threat from deep.
He breaks the line routinely, has great hands and vision and is defensively rock solid.
Fourie improves everyone around him and is, in my view, the best all-around 13 in the game.
Honourable Mentions: Conrad Smith, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Brian O'Driscoll
14. Tommy Bowe (Wing)
This man has exploded in the last few years and is easily one of the most dangerous back line players in the world.
I have Tommy Bow listed as a wing here because that's where he starts for Ireland, but he is equally adept at 13 and fullback.
He is a brilliant broken field runner, a lethal finisher and has great rugby intelligence.
He creates tries and space for others as well as himself and is a nightmare to keep tabs on as he can function anywhere in the back 5.
At 26 years of age, he is the Magners League record try scorer and has a very bright future ahead of him.
Bowe has come to prominence in Europe over the last few seasons and this World Cup could be his coming-out party that puts him on the world stage. He is definitely one to watch.
Honourable Mentions: Corey Jane, Sitiveni Sivivatu, Bryan Habana
15. Mils Muliaina (Fullback)
At fullback, you kind of have to pick your poison.
If you want a strong kicking and catching game that plays territory, then any one of Frans Steyn, Rob Kearney or Lee Byrne will do.
If however, like me, you want to play an attacking exciting brand of rugby that runs the ball from deep, Mils Muliaina has you covered.
He is lightning fast, has a step to beat the band and has the power to break any tackle.
Muliaina scores tries for fun.
Add this to his adequate fielding and kicking abilities, his defensive awareness and his versatility and you have a very very accomplished 15.
Honourable Mentions: The guys mentioned above, Kurtley Beale, Clement Poitrenaud.
So there you have it.
I don't think anyone will dispute that a 15 like the one just shown would be a hard team to beat.
But of course you all have different opinions and I would appreciate being informed as to any changes you guys would make.
Thanks for reading anyway. Here's hoping all these guys are fit and ready for the 2011 Rugby World Cup to give us a tournament to remember.