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 , November 28
Bath vs Harlequins19:45
Saturday , November 29
Leicester Tigers vs Wasps15:00
Exeter vs Saracens16:30
Sunday , November 30
London Irish vs Gloucester13:00
London Welsh vs Northampton14:30
Newcastle Falcons vs Sale Sharks15:15
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
International Match
Saturday , November 29
Wales vs South Africa14:30
England vs Australia14:30
More International Match fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Friday , November 28
Munster vs Ulster19:35
Cardiff Blues vs Treviso19:35
Saturday , November 29
Zebre vs Edinburgh15:00
Leinster vs Ospreys17:15
Connacht vs Scarlets19:30
Sunday , November 30
Glasgow Warriors vs Dragons16:00
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Saturday , November 29
Toulon vs Clermont Auvergne14:45
Oyonnax vs Bordeaux-Begles18:30
Lyon vs Montpellier18:30
La Rochelle vs Bayonne18:30
Castres vs Racing Metro Paris18:30
Toulouse vs Grenoble20:45
Sunday , November 30
Stade Francais vs Brive18:00
More Top 14 fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , November 23
Saracens 24 - 31 NorthamptonSaracens vs Northampton Report
London Welsh 5 - 26 Leicester TigersLondon Welsh vs Leicester Tigers Report
More Aviva Premiership results
International Match
Georgia 35 - 24 JapanGeorgia vs Japan Report
More International Match results
Guinness PRO12
Treviso 24 - 24 LeinsterTreviso vs Leinster Report
Edinburgh 28 - 13 Cardiff BluesEdinburgh vs Cardiff Blues Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , November 22
London Irish 23 - 33 BathLondon Irish vs Bath Report
Exeter 31 - 15 WaspsExeter vs Wasps Report
More Aviva Premiership results
International Match
Italy 6 - 22 South AfricaItaly vs South Africa Report
England 28 - 9 SamoaEngland vs Samoa Report
France 13 - 18 ArgentinaFrance vs Argentina Report
Wales 16 - 34 New ZealandWales vs New Zealand Report
Scotland 37 - 12 TongaScotland vs Tonga Report
Ireland 26 - 23 AustraliaIreland vs Australia Report
Romania 18 - 9 CanadaRomania vs Canada Report
More International Match results
Aviva Premiership
Friday , November 21
Harlequins 12 - 16 Sale SharksHarlequins vs Sale Sharks Report
Newcastle Falcons 20 - 10 GloucesterNewcastle Falcons vs Gloucester Report
More Aviva Premiership results
International Match
Fiji 20 - 14 USAFiji vs USA Report
More International Match results
Guinness PRO12
Dragons 12 - 38 MunsterDragons vs Munster Report
Ulster 25 - 16 OspreysUlster vs Ospreys Report
Connacht 43 - 3 ZebreConnacht vs Zebre Report
Scarlets 19 - 9 Glasgow WarriorsScarlets vs Glasgow Warriors Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , November 16
Leicester Tigers 21 - 21 SaracensLeicester Tigers vs Saracens Report
Wasps 71 - 7 London WelshWasps vs London Welsh Report
More Aviva Premiership results
International Match
Ireland 49 - 7 GeorgiaIreland vs Georgia Report
More International Match results
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , November 15
Sale Sharks 36 - 8 London IrishSale Sharks vs London Irish Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Northampton830
2Exeter828
3Bath828
4Saracens825
5Leicester Tigers821