All time XV – your guide to some of the greatest modern players

All time XV - your guide to some of the greatest modern players
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This is a pure opinion piece. It’s designed to stimulate and promote a debate that has and will continue forever. You could argue the toss over a few cold beers with your best mate, or a steaming hot cup of coffee with your rugby-supporting family at home, so please enjoy its ‘all time XV’ selection.

Meet your All time XV

The focus is on players in my lifetime in this all time XV. This means the late nineteen eighties and onwards. So no JPR, Gareth Edwards, Mike Gibson, Andy Irvine, Jean-Pierre Rives, Graham Price, Colin Meads or Willie John Mcbride to name a few. However, read this link for the LWOR publically voted ‘Greatest Amateur XV of all time‘.

In some ways, this makes my job slightly easier as there will be fewer players to choose from. Also, comparisons between generations is so very difficult and fraught with the potential for disagreement. Even in my era as a fan, the game has changed significantly. Rugby has transformed from an amateur pursuit to the professional game that we know and observe today.

No bias in Global XV composition

So, here goes nothing. These are opinions on who might be considered as one of the greatest. And there are going to be some glaring omissions. There may appear to be some Northern Hemisphere bias yet it holds a Global composition.

All I can say is you can’t choose where you were born! Joking aside, and from a technical standpoint, the players chosen are playing in their favoured position. No one has been shoehorned into an unfamiliar role just for the sake of it.

By the numbers: comprising this team are – three New Zealanders, three South Africans, two Australians, two Irishmen, two Frenchmen, two Englishmen, and a Welshman. It proves that this global game can comprise names from different decades that might complement the other. Just imagine some of these rugby all time XV combinations!

All time XV backs – the Piano Players

15 – Serge Blanco. Part of the best French international teams of the eighties and early nineties. Strong, attacking, and athletic. If you are in any doubt about how good he was, he’s still France’s leading ever international try scorer. Blanco would always be looking to attack meaning French fans would always get their Franc’s worth on the entrance fee.

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14 – Cheslin Kolbe. Fresh from a successful series against the Lions, Kolbe is also a World Cup winner. Blessed with a ridiculous step, just like all the best wingers and more gas than Russia’s Gazprom. Deceptively strong for a man of relatively diminutive stature too. Kolbe is also very successful at the domestic level in Europe with Toulouse.

13 – Brian O’Driscoll. When O’Driscoll burst on the scene, he was fast, elusive and weighed in with plenty of tries. As time went on he adapted his game, as the game itself changed too. His defending and strength really came to the fore as did his offloading ability. Continued to score heavily throughout a long and distinguished career.

BOD pips some current stars and probable future all-timers: Semi Radrada, Jonathan Davies, Ben Smith and Lukhanyo Am.

12 – Phillipe Sella. Another cog, like Blanco in the very successful French sides of the eighties and nineties. Perhaps not as much of an attacking enigma as Blanco, Sella had an outstanding all-round game. He briefly held the record as the world’s most capped international player.

He starts ahead of the superb Damian De Allende, cross-code World Cup winner Sonny Bill Williams and high-brow Welsh juggernaut, Jamie Roberts.

11 – Jonah Lomu. Not much more needs to be said about this gentle giant who is sadly no longer with us. Rugby’s first-ever global superstar and arguably no one has made a bigger impact on the game then this New Zealand born winger of Tongan heritage. Physically as big as, if not bigger than most forwards but with the ability to leave defenders in his wake too. Didn’t win a World Cup medal but left all fans with many enduring memories.

An honourable mention needs to go to Bryan Habana, David Campese and Shane Williams. None of them were going to usurp the big man though.

10 – Jonathan Davies. Definitely pinning my Welsh colours to the mast here. Jiffy gets ahead of Dan Carter, Michael Lynagh, Jonny Wilkinson, and Beauden Barrett.

He was a number ten who got the Welsh fans off their seats. His sidestep, pace, pass, and kick were all absolutely on point. Not noted for his defence but he had a fantastic career in rugby league so he can’t have been that scared of a physical confrontation or two!

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9 – Nick Farr-Jones. Classy Australian scrum-half Farr-Jones gets the nod here in front of Aaron Smith, George Gregan or Joost van der Westhuizen. Farr-Jones led Australia to World Cup glory in 1991. Astute on the field as well as off it, he had an accurate bullet-like pass, could attack the short side well with a darting break, and was defensively sound.

All time XV forwards – the Piano Shifters

1 – Tendai Mtawarira. Mtawarira aka “The Beast” is South Africa’s most capped prop. He started his career at tighthead and then shifted to loosehead. Mtawarira helped blaze a trail for a truly diverse South African rugby team. Strong ball-carrying ability coupled with supreme scrummaging power.

2 – John Smit. Smit captained the Boks to their second World Cup triumph. An accurate thrower and strong scrummager, he also possessed a strong on-field work ethic. Smit holds the record in South Africa for the most caps as captain. He held this internationally before being surpassed by O’Driscoll, Sergio Parisse, and McCaw.

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3 – Richard Loe. Appeared for the All-Blacks at three World Cups. Not afraid to mix it physically which led to some bans from the game for foul play. Strong like many Props as a result of a farming upbringing. He dotted down for a not too shabby six tries for NZ.

4 – Martin Johnson. Tough and uncompromising. Johnson dominated physically and through sheer force of will. This all time XV lock tasted global success as captain for England and led the Lions to victory in South Africa in 1997. Domestically he led Leicester to back-to-back Heineken Cups.

5 – John Eales. A captain fantastic for Australia who led the Wallabies to World Cup victory in 1999 whilst also collecting a winner’s medal in 1991. Nicknamed amusingly by some as nobody – as in, “nobody’s perfect”. Having all the raw talent to succeed, Eales developed a superb all round game. That along with plenty of level-headedness and on and off-field discipline gave him the platform to excel.

6 – Richard Hill. One of those players to perhaps go under the radar, although not by his coach Clive Woodward who never dropped him whilst at the helm of England. Hill would never slip below a seven out of ten in his performance on match day. He did plenty of the hard graft and unglamorous donkey work in England’s most successful ever international side. Also chipped in with a very respectable eleven international tries.

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Hill squeaks past current Springbok captain and World Cup winner Siya Kolisi.

7 – Michael Jones. A legend of the game in New Zealand and further afield. Jones was a threat in attack as well as being defensively rock solid. He was limited in his overall test appearances due to serious injury and his refusal to play on a Sunday due to his Christian faith. Jones scored the opening try in the inaugural World Cup as well as picking up a winner’s medal in that same tournament.

On this list, he is ahead of another Kiwi great and master at the breakdown, Richie McCaw, and also Wales’ favourite son, Sam Warburton.

8 – Zinzan Brooke. Concluding the all time XV and included here for his successful international career and also for his maverick ability. He’s in ahead of Thierry Dusautoir and Lawrence Dallaglio. Great hands out wide and at the line-out, Brooke had the ability to read the game well. Cementing his status as a non-conformist he casually dropped a goal from near the halfway line against England in the 1995 World Cup.


Hope you enjoyed this squad make-up. Please comment below on this all time XV if you wish, and join the conversation in our LWOS Boards forum site here.

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