Planet Rugby

The greatest of the pro era?

29th September 2009 05:09

Share:

Johnno fists up 2003

We got into an argument here at PR about this a while ago. Not much came of it, as there were things like Lions tours to concentrate on.

But with the Tri-Nations done and dusted and the November Tests and Heineken Cup still some time away, we figured we'd throw this debate open to the public: What has been the greatest international XV since 1995, the year when it was not only the grass that was tainted with green in the world of rugby.

A great XV from the past ten years. Think of the choices! Do you pick Carter or Wilkinson? Hayman or De Villiers? Gregan or Van der Westhuizen?

We are willing to bet that not a single one of you will agree with us on the results of those - and other - choices in the side, but here it is - think back to some of these players and enjoy!

15 Christian Cullen (New Zealand) - Nobody has yet mastered the art of surreptitiously slipping into an attacking line and then tearing out of it for a score like the former Hurricane and Munsterman. Unbelievable pace was hidden in this long and languid stride that left you gaping every time.

14 Doug Howlett (New Zealand) - The record Super 14 try-scorer, New Zealand's record try-scorer... that's the kind of guy you want on the wing

13 Brian O'Driscoll (Ireland) - Europe's rugby statesman finally added the Heineken Cup and a Grand Slam to an already-impressive list of achievements last season. Good enough to re-invent his game after age sapped his pace, he has become one of the all-round greatest ever.

12 Tana Umaga (New Zealand) - Ironic, considering his partner is the man who accused Umaga of crocking him out of a Lions series with a spear tackle. But it's the same Umaga who rushed to Colin Charvis' aid when the latter had been knocked out on New Zealand turf, and who once famously responded to a refereeing call of heavy no-arm tackling: "we're not playing tiddlywinks here mate!"

11 Rupeni Caucaunibuca (Fiji) - How can you leave out Jonah and Bryan Habana, never mind Shane Williams or even Christophe Dominici!? But the Fijian with the flawed temperament did things on a rugby field that nobody else will probably ever do. Just put his name into You Tube and watch.

10 Dan Carter (New Zealand) - a three-way tie between Carter, Wilkinson and Stephen Larkham if we were honest. But the team needed a goal-kicker as well as a playmaker, so Carter's total points were just higher than the other two. The greatest ever?

9 Gus Pichot (Argentina) - Again, how do you leave out Gregan, who has the most Test caps of any player, or the scintillating Joost? But Pichot brought qualities to scrum-half play, so often in adversity and so often with the extra responsibility of leadership through the adversity, that neither of the others had. We always wonder what his talents would have done for a team like New Zealand, but his rugby is so responsible for Argentina's accession to senior Test status that we'd not have it any other way.

8 Lawrence Dallaglio (England) - Another close-run thing, with Sergio Parisse snapping at Dallaglio's heels, but the Italian's blotted disciplinary copybook - we know Lol is no angel, but he never gouged - saw him relegated to second. And let's face it, would you not like to go into battle with Dallaglio on your side?

7 (openside) Richie McCaw (New Zealand) - Undoubtedly the greatest exponent of openside play there has been. George Smith deserves a mention, and maybe Heinrich Brussow will eclipse McCaw in a few years, but until then the All Black captain is in a class of his own.

6 Richard Hill (England) - The most unsung of all English rugby heroes, but he'd have it no other way. If you didn't see him much, it was he was forever at the bottom of the ruck, putting limb and digit where others feared to put but many trod...

5 Martin Johnson (England) - The biggest, darkest and most brooding of the driving forces behind England's World Cup win. We reckon the moment when he hoisted Bill was the first time he had smiled on a rugby pitch! Now bringing that menace to England's national team, Johnno takes the captain's armband in this team as well.

4 John Eales (Australia) - This one will have Saffers everywhere raging; how can we leave out Victor and Bakkies? Because Johnno's meaner than Bakkies, and because Victor was not nicknamed 'Nobody' as Eales was (because Nobody's perfect), despite his obvious talents. We felt Eales offered perhaps just a little more grunt. We're now running for cover...

3 Carl Hayman (New Zealand) - This one was much easier. Hayman has been peerless at tighthead for some time now - New Zealand still miss him.

2 John Smit (South Africa) - Has now won every honour going in the game except for the Super 14. We know he plays tighthead now, but for a solid anchor in the scrum, an extra dose of leadership and some pinpoint line-out throwing, Smit's the man - just edging out Rafa Ibañez.

1 Rodrigo Roncero (Argentina) - The Argentine beefcake was so close to being our player of the 2007 Rugby World Cup after a series of stellar performances. Discipline remains an issue, but you'd be hard-pushed to find a number one in the world who has contributed so much so regularly to his team's loose play.

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Friday , October 3
Bath vs Saracens19:45
Saturday , October 4
London Irish vs Northampton15:00
Harlequins vs London Welsh15:00
Gloucester vs Leicester15:15
Sunday , October 5
Sale vs Wasps14:00
Newcastle vs Exeter15:00
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
Rugby Championship
Saturday , October 4
South Africa vs New Zealand16:05
Argentina vs Australia23:40
More Rugby Championship fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Friday , October 3
Connacht vs Cardiff Blues19:35
Ulster vs Edinburgh19:35
Zebre vs Ospreys19:35
Saturday , October 4
Leinster vs Munster18:30
Sunday , October 5
Benetton Treviso vs Glasgow14:00
Scarlets vs Newport Gwent D'gons16:00
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Friday , October 3
Oyonnax vs Toulon20:45
Saturday , October 4
Bordeaux-Begles vs Clermont Auvergne14:45
Racing Metro Paris vs Brive18:30
Bayonne vs Montpellier18:30
La Rochelle vs Lyon18:30
Castres vs Grenoble18:30
Toulouse vs Stade Francais20:45
More Top 14 fixtures
Currie Cup
Friday , October 3
Pumas vs Blue Bulls15:00
Sharks vs Lions19:10
Saturday , October 4
Cheetahs vs Western Province14:00
Griquas vs Eastern Province Kings15:00
More Currie Cup fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , September 28
Wasps 35 - 18 NewcastleWasps vs Newcastle Report
Exeter 36 - 13 HarlequinsExeter vs Harlequins Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Newport Gwent D'gons 33 - 15 Benetton TrevisoNewport Gwent D
More Guinness PRO12 results
ITM Cup
Tasman 32 - 24 OtagoTasman vs Otago Report
Canterbury 26 - 28 SouthlandCanterbury vs Southland Report
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , September 27
Leicester 19 - 22 London IrishLeicester vs London Irish Report
Saracens 40 - 19 Sale SharksSaracens vs Sale Sharks Report
Northampton 31 - 24 BathNorthampton vs Bath Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Rugby Championship
South Africa 28 - 10 AustraliaSouth Africa vs Australia Report
Argentina 13 - 34 New ZealandArgentina vs New Zealand Report
More Rugby Championship results
Guinness PRO12
Zebre 13 - 6 UlsterZebre vs Ulster Report
Munster 14 - 19 OspreysMunster vs Ospreys Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Top 14
Toulon 40 - 17 MontpellierToulon vs Montpellier Report
Grenoble 27 - 25 Racing Metro ParisGrenoble vs Racing Metro Paris Report
Brive 34 - 24 Bordeaux-Begles
Oyonnax 8 - 19 Clermont Auvergne
Stade Francais 43 - 10 La Rochelle
Lyon 28 - 18 Castres
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Sharks 53 - 24 Eastern Province KingsSharks vs Eastern Province Kings Report
Griquas 8 - 46 LionsGriquas vs Lions Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Waikato 20 - 22 ManawatuWaikato vs Manawatu Report
North Harbour 28 - 25 Hawkes Bay
Counties Manukau 55 - 7 WellingtonCounties Manukau vs Wellington Report
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 26
London Welsh 10 - 46 GloucesterLondon Welsh vs Gloucester Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Leinster 37 - 23 Cardiff BluesLeinster vs Cardiff Blues Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Saracens418
2Northampton416
3Bath415
4Exeter414
5Wasps411