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 Ibaņez.

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 , September 5
Northampton vs Gloucester19:45
Saturday , September 6
Saracens vs Wasps14:00
Sale vs Bath14:00
Leicester vs Newcastle15:00
London Irish vs Harlequins16:30
Sunday , September 7
London Welsh vs Exeter14:00
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
Rugby Championship
Saturday , September 6
New Zealand vs Argentina08:35
Australia vs South Africa11:05
More Rugby Championship fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Friday , September 5
Ospreys vs Benetton Treviso19:35
Munster vs Edinburgh19:35
Saturday , September 6
Scarlets vs Ulster14:40
Connacht vs Newport Gwent D'gons17:00
Glasgow vs Leinster17:15
Sunday , September 7
Zebre vs Cardiff Blues17:00
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Friday , September 5
Montpellier vs Castres20:45
Saturday , September 6
Brive vs Toulouse14:45
Clermont Auvergne vs Racing Metro Paris17:00
Lyon vs Oyonnax18:30
Stade Francais vs Bayonne18:30
Grenoble vs La Rochelle18:30
Toulon vs Bordeaux-Begles20:45
More Top 14 fixtures
Currie Cup
Friday , September 5
Western Province vs Eastern Province Kings19:10
Saturday , September 6
Cheetahs vs Pumas15:00
Sharks vs Griquas17:05
Blue Bulls vs Lions19:10
More Currie Cup fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
ITM Cup
Sunday , August 31
Taranaki 41 - 3 Bay Of PlentyTaranaki vs Bay Of Plenty Report
Auckland 16 - 16 TasmanAuckland vs Tasman Report
More ITM Cup results
Top 14
Saturday , August 30
La Rochelle 37 - 25 ToulouseLa Rochelle vs Toulouse Report
Grenoble 37 - 23 Bordeaux-Begles
Oyonnax 33 - 6 Stade Francais
Castres 30 - 6 BayonneCastres vs Bayonne Report
Racing Metro Paris 17 - 10 ToulonRacing Metro Paris vs Toulon Report
Lyon 24 - 6 Brive
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Griquas 25 - 36 CheetahsGriquas vs Cheetahs Report
Eastern Province Kings 22 - 41 LionsEastern Province Kings vs Lions Report
Blue Bulls 18 - 23 Western ProvinceBlue Bulls vs Western Province Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Counties Manukau 21 - 27 Hawkes BayCounties Manukau vs Hawkes Bay Report
Southland 22 - 33 Otago
North Harbour 16 - 22 WaikatoNorth Harbour vs Waikato Report
More ITM Cup results
Top 14
Friday , August 29
Clermont Auvergne 20 - 21 MontpellierClermont Auvergne vs Montpellier Report
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Pumas 32 - 22 SharksPumas vs Sharks Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Wellington 21 - 27 ManawatuWellington vs Manawatu Report
Thursday , August 28
Canterbury 48 - 3 NorthlandCanterbury vs Northland Report
Wednesday, August 27
Waikato 17 - 46 TaranakiWaikato vs Taranaki Report
Sunday , August 24
Manawatu 7 - 35 AucklandManawatu vs Auckland Report
Bay Of Plenty 27 - 56 TasmanBay Of Plenty vs Tasman Report
More ITM Cup results
Rugby Championship
Saturday , August 23
New Zealand 51 - 20 AustraliaNew Zealand vs Australia Report
Argentina 31 - 33 South AfricaArgentina vs South Africa Report
More Rugby Championship results
Top 14
Brive 6 - 21 Clermont AuvergneBrive vs Clermont Auvergne Report
Bayonne 38 - 12 Oyonnax
More Top 14 results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Bath00
2Exeter00
3Gloucester00
4Harlequins00
5Leicester Tigers00