Reports out of Australasia claim that New Zealand Rugby and Rugby Australia are considering resurrecting the ANZAC match that will see a combined New Zealand and Australian team play the Lions in 2025, some 36 years after the last fixture of this nature in 1989.
Planet Rugby’s selection team got together to see what the starting XVs would look like should the game be played at the end of the 2022 Autumn Nations Series.
For ease, we have assumed that all current players are fit and available – after all, this is a notional game on a notional ground on a notional date!
15 Jordie Barrett (New Zealand): This was a simple case of which Barrett we chose – Beauden or Jordie. With the former capable of playing at 10 or 15, he’d be on the bench with the bigger of the two starting.
14 Will Jordan (New Zealand): He is currently the fastest thing in the Southern Hemisphere – the only question that remains is he quicker than Louis Rees-Zammit? We’ll pick him and look forward to finding the answer!
13 Rieko Ioane (New Zealand): Ioane’s transformation to outside centre has plugged a big hole in the All Blacks midfield but, best of all, has allowed his full skill set to blossom.
12 Samu Kerevi (Australia): At his best, Kerevi is the most complete centre in the world, able to play at either inside or outside centre. Nailed on starter in our team.
11 Marika Koroibete (Australia): All Black Caleb Clarke was close to selection, but Marika’s work under the aerial threat is peerless. He completes a thundering three-quarter line.
🥳 Happy birthday to Wallabies wing Marika Koroibete.
💥 The speedster has become renowned for his robust and powerful running. An exceptional player and a constant try threat.pic.twitter.com/PzaPxlhGrE
— Planet Rugby (@PlanetRugby) July 26, 2022
10 Richie Mo’unga (New Zealand): The Crusader has proven the man to stop the New Zealand rot when Ian Foster turned to him in July to control the All Black game.
9 Aaron Smith (New Zealand): Although Nic White is in the form of his life, ‘Te Nug’ is back to his very best and that ‘best’ is absolutely world-class.
8 Ardie Savea (New Zealand): This was really a case of asking Ardie where he fancied playing and picking the back-row around him. He’s so versatile we would have probably picked him at centre if he’d asked to play there.
7 Michael Hooper (Australia, c): Hooper is a world-class Test centurion and offers the perfect workhorse balance to the pyrotechnics of our other loose forwards.
6 Rob Valetini (Australia): Big Bobby has been Australia’s best player for a season. He and Ardie in the support channels would light up any gloomy day in a British November.
5 Brodie Retallick (New Zealand): The giant Kiwi lock may have seen red last week, but if he’s available, he’s irreplaceable and gets our nod in the second-row.
4 Sam Whitelock (New Zealand): Many will wonder why we’ve not picked Scott Barrett, given his dismantling of the Bok lineout in the Rugby Championship, but familiarity in our engine room is a key consideration.
3 Taniela Tupou (Australia): ‘The Tongan Thor’ starts in our team, safe in the knowledge the likes of Tyrel Lomax are around when he needs to take his customary breather.
2 Samisoni Taukei’aho (New Zealand): Absolutely spoiled for choice here, but out of four potential candidates, the super mobile All Black takes the shirt from a host of other contenders.
1 James Slipper (Australia): Ethan de Groot was very close to selection, but Slipper’s form this year, with the Aussie captaincy, has been exceptional as he enjoys an Indian summer.
British and Irish Lions XV
15 Freddie Steward (England): Air Steward is arguably the most complete full-back within the home nations, despite the excellence of Hugo Keenan and Liam Williams.
14 Louis Rees-Zammit (Wales): Some fine judges consider LRZ the most exciting prospect in the world; when 2025 comes around, he might just about be the best player in the world.
⚡️ Not many better sights in world rugby than Louis Rees-Zammit in full flight. 💨pic.twitter.com/td5siullHo
— Planet Rugby (@PlanetRugby) September 12, 2022
13 Manu Tuilagi (England): When Manu fires at Test level, he is absolutely world-class. Considering his frailties, we’d have Garry Ringrose on the bench covering him.
12 Robbie Henshaw (Ireland): An easy selection – the massive Leinsterman is a powerhouse in every respect, and Nick Tompkins would support him.
11 Duhan van der Merwe (Scotland): A really close call with James Lowe unlucky to be left out, but Duhan is the power runner with the all-court game.
10 Johnny Sexton (Ireland, c): We’re not sure if we’d have Dan Biggar, George Ford, Owen Farrell, Finn Russell or Marcus Smith as our back-up, but we are absolutely sure Sexton would start. World class.
9 Jamison Gibson-Park (Ireland): The munchkin-like half-back is the form man but come the end of November, Jack van Poortvliet and Tomas Williams may very well nudge ahead.
8 Caelan Doris (Ireland): A really tough choice, but Doris’s footwork and post-contact work set him apart. Lions veterans Jack Conan and Taulupe Faletau would be great support acts, though.
7 Josh van der Flier (Ireland): The current European player of the year and a brilliant openside that will shadow our bench option, Tom Curry.
6 Justin Tipuric (Wales): This is a simple one – at his best, Tipuric is one of the few players with the all-around skills of the likes of Savea and Valentini. He’ll be playing at six for Wales this year, and that’s where we’ve picked him.
5 Adam Beard (Wales): Beard’s maul disruption and power around the rucks have seen a meteoric rise for the young man. Harsh on James Ryan once again, but we think Beard will be one of the players of the Autumn.
4 Maro Itoje (England): Tadhg Beirne and Courtney Lawes did not find a place in either second or back-row despite considering them for both positions. However, Itoje, in form, is close to being the best lock in the world.
3 Tadhg Furlong (Ireland): ‘The Jukebox’ has all the hits and is an easy selection. He is literally a fourth flanker around the park and a wonderful team man.
2 Dan Sheehan (Ireland): A hard call at hooker, but Sheehan’s mobility gets him the nod over the all-round nous of Jamie George.
1 Ellis Genge (England): Genge rose from a tyro to a mature athlete last season. A bulldozer with ball in hand, a formidable scrummager and with Pierre Schoeman on our bench, ‘Gengey’ can wreak havoc for 50 minutes before being replaced like for like.
There you have it – there might be a few grumbles here and there, but we do not believe that we’re far away from the makeup of either notional team.
The only question is, who’d win? Our selectors think that the ANZAC side just has a bit too much firepower, and we’re calling a win for them by 35-25. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.