Welcome to Loose Pass, our weekly selection of creamy bries, rich roqueforts and ‘open all the windows’ Alsatian Munsters. This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with a team to take on a team, unsporting behaviour and some desperate news from the provinces.
I read, with mixtures at different times of interest, alarm, humour, agreement and scorn, the readers’ XV of the year. A Loose Pass team of the year would have played a part in next week’s column, but that all seems a little overkill now. Instead then, I thought it might be amusing to put up an XV to stand toe-to-toe with the readers’ XV of the year and see if I could convince anyone of the LP XV’s potential to turn the readers’ team over!
15 Israel Dagg – Israel Folau is a fabulous player. A truly fabulous player. But he has not kicked on this year from last year’s stellar level, even if his basics in the position have improved. Dagg is still the best 15 to help you close out a game as much as turning it.
14 Tommy Bowe – A renaissance year for the British and Irish Lion this season, he’s re-discovered the knack of finishing tries on a regular basis.
13 Malakai Fekitoa – I know Tevita Kuridrani burst onto the scene like a train. But remember those tries Fekitoa scored this season and last? I do.
12 Sonny Bill Williams – Jean de Villiers is a seasoned, solid, world class number twelve. Sonny Bill is just one of the most phenomenal athletes of all time. What a match up!
11 George North – Another one perhaps overlooked because of a slightly lean year for the readers. But on his day, there’s no left wing better.
10 Beauden Barrett – This one’s a flyer. I considered both Aaron Cruden and Kurtley Beale, also Bernard Foley. And remember I am picking a team to beat the readers. So I want a fly-half who is going to do nothing except create space for the guys outside him. And Beauden Barrett is that man.
9 Nick Phipps – See the fly-half review for why Phipps gets the nod over Conor Murray. And for only that reason – Murray would be there on the bench to help close the game out.
8 Kieran Read – Yes Duane Vermeulen was good this year. But there is good for a year and there is just sheer all-round class.
7 Francois Louw – Unbelievable how under-rated this guy is at times. He’ll be stealing me about five balls a game.
6 Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe – My enforcer in the back row.
5 Sam Whitelock – There is no real substitute for someone of this class. Brodie Retallick has been outstanding this season, but Whitelock is a mainstay of any dream team I would pick.
4 Eben Etzebeth – Another in the enforcer mould. This is a serious second row partnership.
3 Ramiro Herrera – It’s a bit tough to see past this guy, who anchored so many of the scrums that made such an impression in the Rugby Championship. When I say tough to see past, I am talking about the way he blocks out the sun at many angles.
2 Bismarck du Plessis – Dependable, steel-hard and remarkably fast.
1 Wyatt Crockett – Best of a not entirely brilliant rest below Marcos Azerza. Would love to see him take on Franks again though.
I reckon this lot would have just too much firepower for the readers’ team of the year…. so I’ll be looking forward to the analysis on the postcards coming through….
My prediction? 45-34 to my lot.
Sevens season is here again, meaning once again we get to gawp at the monumental athleticism and skill levels of many a player we had never heard of, also able to benchmark them against the players we have. Such as the USA’s Carlin Isles, for example.
Also, a mark of sevens is generally the camaraderie between teams and players. Yet Isles, himself in only his ‘sophomore year’ in terms of learning the fine arts, found a less savoury form of camaraderie last weekend in Dubai after once again showcasing his remarkable pace.
The look on his face after says it all. Where has rugby’s spirit gone? It starts at about 0.59 here… and as for the rest: just enjoy!
Loose Pass compiled by former Planet Rugby Editor Danny Stephens