With New Zealand enjoying a huge tourism boost and gaining the attention of the world thanks to the Rugby World Cup 2011, we thought we’d ask the ultimate question for rugby fans everywhere: which players would make your ultimate XV dream team? Of all the players from the inception of the game until present and from every rugby-playing nation around the globe – which were the greatest of all time?
We’ve collected seven Kiwis, three Englishmen, one South African, two Frenchmen, one Australian, and one Welshman to form the greatest rugby team ever created. Combining the speed and power of the likes of Jonah Lomu and Danie Gerber with the tactical wizardry of Dan Carter and the all-round genius of Gareth Edwards, this team would surely crush any other. What changes would you make as the boss of the ultimate team?
Loosehead Prop: Jason Leonard OBE (England)
Having won 114 caps for England, Jason Leonard broke many records with his regular international appearances. Retiring in 2003 as the most capped forward of all time, Leonard was an integral part of England’s World Cup victory in that year.
Hooker: Sean Fitzpatrick (New Zealand)
In 91 appearances for the All Blacks, Fitzpatrick captained the side for 51 of them. An immense presence on the field, Fitzpatrick brought ball skills, physicality and visionary tactics, and was part of the World Cup-winning All Blacks side of 1987.
Tighthead Prop: Wilson Whineray (New Zealand)
Whineray served as captain of the All Blacks for seven years – a record for the team which still stands – and made his name as their best leader ever. A mobile and intelligent prop, Whineray set the standards which subsequent All Blacks teams have had to live up to, and he remains a key part of the team’s continuing dominance.
Second Row: Martin Johnson CBE (England)
Current England manager Martin Johnson was a formidable force on the field, refusing to be intimidated, but his tactical awareness and ball skills were top notch as well. His leadership allowed for swift adaptation to the tides of a game, and the England team he captained and Clive Woodward led was the greatest the country has ever produced.
Second Row: Colin Meads (New Zealand)
In 1999 Colin ‘Pinetree’ Meads was named as Player of the Century for the All Blacks. A tough and uncompromising player, Meads once broke his arm during a game against Eastern Transvaal on a tour of South Africa but continued playing to the end. His hard-man character led him to request that people did not call him ‘Sir’ after being made a New Zealand Companion of Merit in 2001, as he did not consider himself enough of a gentleman.
Blindside Flanker: Richard Hill (England)
A quiet and hard-working powerhouse at flanker. Richard Hill could read a game like a map and always made a huge difference.
Openside Flanker: Richie McCaw (New Zealand)
With 85 test caps for the All Blacks, 48 of which were as captain, Richie McCaw is an exceptional openside flanker. Incredible exponent at the breakdown, and a source of strength and athleticism few could oppose.
Number 8: Zinzan Brooke (New Zealand)
A number 8 with stunning ball skills, Brooke could handle and kick the ball better than most fly-halves. Combining that with his strength and vision as a forward, and Brooke is an easy choice for this position on the ultimate XV.
Scrum Half: Gareth Edwards (Wales)
A strong contender for the greatest player ever, Edwards was the complete package. Extremely fast and agile on the move, with passing and kicking skills to boot, Edwards could read the game with an ease that left many opponents helpless. The ultimate rugby player at this most crucial position.
Fly Half: Dan Carter (New Zealand)
Currently standing as the highest points scorer in test match rugby history, Dan Carter is one of the all-time greats. Creative and consistent, Carter has proven himself as the world’s top fly-half, and is hoping the 2011 Rugby World Cup will give him chance to fill the RWC-sized hole in his CV*.
*Now rectified! All Blacks RWC winners 2011
Left Wing: Jonah Lomu (New Zealand)
Jonah Lomu launched himself into superstardom during the 1990s with awe-inspiring displays of irresistible power and strength. Opponents bounced off his massive 120kg frame as he surged towards the line at high speed, and what he brought to the game boosted viewing figures around the world.
Inside Centre: Danie Gerber (South Africa)
Although his contribution to world rugby was limited by South Africa’s Apartheid, his immense talent was clear to see. Built like a tank and able to attack at great speed as well as defend with rock-like solidity, Gerber wowed crowds. His pace and power have yet to be matched by any centre since.
Outside Centre: Philippe Sella (France)
Another very exciting player to watch, Sella was once described as having “the strength of a bull but the touch of a piano player.” He could run at pace but had the physical presence to be a formidable force on the field, making explosive charges into opponents’ territory and handling the ball with exquisite finesse.
Right Wing: David Campese (Australia)
An incredible winger, Campese could weave his way through a defence in a way which defied belief. The Australian stirred up plenty of controversy around him and was regularly accused of arrogance, but he could genuinely light up a game and helped the Wallabies lift the Rugby World Cup in 1991.
Fullback: Serge Blanco (France)
Still the leading try-scorer ever for France, Serge Blanco was a mercurial and devastating fullback. He saw gaps and ran the ball out of defence through routes nobody else could have devised. His attacking form of defence made him a terror to play against, and won him the admiration of rugby fans all over the world.