Premiership New Zealand XV: the forwards

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Following the selection of the best-imported New Zealand backs into the Premiership, James Barker now selects the Premiership New Zealand XV forward pack.

Premiership New Zealand XV: the forwards

8. Wayne Shelford – Northampton Saints

The only nominee from the pre-professional era, Wayne Shelford has a formidable reputation in Northampton from his time at the club between 1990 and 1994. A 1987 World Cup winner, he is considered one of the best All Black number eights and also credited with re-inventing the Haka into the fearsome pre-match statement it is now.

Shelford played 66 games for Northampton at a time when the club was struggling; his signing was a catalyst for major change that turned the Saints back into championship contenders. They also reached their first Pilkington Cup final in 1991, another milestone that Shelford is remembered for favourably by Northampton fans.

7. Craig Newby – Newcastle Falcons, Leicester Tigers

Newby won’t be remembered for a short stint with Newcastle in 2002/03 but Leicester supporters will more likely recall his time at Welford Road. Joining in 2008, he was present at the start of Richard Cockerill’s reign that resulted in two consecutive Premiership titles.

In 2011 and in another Twickenham final, Newby captained the Tigers but Saracens gained revenge for defeat the year before. In total he played 84 times for Leicester before being forced to retire with a knee injury in 2012, aged 33.

6. Dan Braid – Sale Sharks

Taking the final place in the backrow is Dan Braid, who had a huge impact at Sale in his three years in Manchester. He joined the Sharks mid-way through the 2012/13 season but was named club captain for the start of the nest season.

He formed a dangerous partnership with David Seymour in the back row at a time when jackalling and turnover skills were prominent in the Premiership. Braid was named in the Premiership’s team of the season in 2013/14 as Sale finished 6th under his captaincy. Braid continued as captain until he retired, then he became an assistant coach at the club.

5. Bryn Evans – London Irish, Sale Sharks

He may have only earned two All Black caps but Bryn Evans has been a solid cog in both the London Irish and Sale packs during his time in England. Playing for the Exiles during a difficult time, Evans was still able to shine in his three years there.

After playing for Biarritz in France, he returned to England with Sale and has become a Steve Diamond favourite. Evans has made 122 Sharks appearances and has been a regular in the side for nearly five years.

4. Ian Jones – Gloucester, Wasps

Due to the All Blacks’ selection policy, New Zealanders often come to England in the later stages of their career, either when their international career is over or it is clear selection is not on the cards. One player who can’t be accused of seeing a last big payday is Ian Jones. He arrived in England age 32 and with 105 international caps, but was an important part of Gloucester’s lineout in a two year spell from 1999 to 2001.

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Jones announced his retirement after these two years but was tempted back into playing by Wasps for another season.

3. John Afoa – Gloucester, Bristol Bears

A simple selection at tighthead, where the evergreen John Afoa has become a massive fan favourite at two clubs. Afoa followed countryman Greg Sommerville to Gloucester and was a massive success even in light of the large salary he earned. In four years at Kingsholm Afoa made over 100 appearances and was remarkably consistent and durable. Even for a New Zealand forward, his all-round ball skills and play around the field was remarkable.

In 2018 he joined Bristol and appeared in every league match as they survived their first season back in the Premiership. At age 36, Afoa is still hungry for more and fully deserved being named in the 2018/19 Gallagher Premiership team of the season.

2. Trevor Leota – Wasps

In an alternate universe it could have been Dylan Hartley on this list. In fact, such is the scarcity of All Black hooker in England the selection criteria for this team has been relaxed slightly to include Trevor Leota.

The Auckland-born hooker represented Samoa internationally but spent most of his career with Wasps. He came to England in 1997 and went on to make 147 appearances in an eight year spell.

1. Craig Dowd – Wasps

Rounding off the Premiership New Zealand XV is Craig Dowd. He played for Wasps during their most successful Premiership years, rounding off a fine career in which he won 60 All Black caps. Between 2001 and 2005 Dowd formed part of a squad that won the league title in three successive years.

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After retiring he stayed at Wasps as a coach before returning to New Zealand in 2009.

Replacements

  • Clarke Dermody – London Irish
  • Carl Hayman – Newcastle Falcons
  • Chris Jack – Saracens
  • Jeremy Thrush – Gloucester
  • Zinzan Brooke – Harlequins
  • Steven Luatua – Bristol Bears
  • Andrew Blowers – Northampton Saints

Premiership New Zealand XV

This XV of New Zealanders has been selected on the basis of the contribution made in England to their team(s), rather than necessarily the player’s reputation for the All Blacks or before they arrived in England.

There are several players not on this list whose reputation preceded them and they did not have the expected impact in England. Others such as Willi Heinz or Thomas Waldrom would deserve inclusion, but switched international allegiances to England.

 

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