Gregor Paul: Rugby's world XV

By Gregor Paul

All Blacks dominate a World XV chosen by Gregor Paul. But there are one or two surprise packages to spice the mix.

15: Juan Martin Hernandez
(Argentina)

The 24-year-old has held a starting spot with the giant French club Stade Francais for a few years now. That only happens if you are seriously good.

A brilliant strike runner with an uncanny sense of timing, Hernandez, below, has added much needed rapier to the Pumas' bludgeon.

14: Lote Tuqiri
(Australia)

In August, Tuqiri picked off Jerry Collins' long pass at Eden Park and set sail for the white line yonder. Carl Hayman, probably because he had suffered a major head knock, thought about giving chase. And then he realised there was no point. Tuqiri has so much pace, so much power and a growing rugby intelligence - chasing would have been futile.

13: Brian O'Driscoll
(Ireland)

All that bleating about his shoulder last year made everyone forget what a supreme talent O'Driscoll is. In two tests out here in June, he was by some distance the best back on the field.

Blessed with everything you need to thrive in the increasingly physical midfield, O'Driscoll also has that X-factor of being able to score tries no one else could.

12: Luke McAlister
(New Zealand)

McAlister came of age this season, particularly on the end of year tour where he was in startling form. He threatens the line, can play first receiver, can kick, can tackle and is one of the best runners in the business from broken play. No wonder the European big boys want to sign him.

11: Sitiveni Sivivatu
(New Zealand)

In South Africa earlier this year, Sivivatu looked a defensive liability. By the end of the All Black tour to Europe, he was hailed by backs coach Wayne Smith as the best defensive wing in the world.

That was maybe a bit far-fetched but chuck this guy the ball and watch him dance. Which is exactly what both the French and Welsh did.

10: Daniel Carter
(New Zealand)

This really doesn't need any explanation. Carter is probably the greatest first-five ever to play the game and he's still learning his craft. For the record, not one milli-second of thought was given to selecting Ireland's Ronan O'Gara.

9: Ruan Pienaar
(South Africa)

The 22-year-old halfback scored the most memorable try of the inaugural Super 14 and was more than handy every time he played for the Sharks or Boks. He looks quick enough to get by on the wing and strong enough to play in the backrow. If the Boks weren't killing themselves with their own selection politics Pienaar would start every test and make a real difference.

8: Sebastien Chabal
(France)

The Sale No 8 - known in Manchester as Seabass - is probably going to be ignored by French coach Bernard Laporte for next year's World Cup. Laporte doesn't like the way Seabass can blast his way through five tacklers and then rest for a couple of minutes. No question Chabal's workrate could be improved but his contribution when he makes the effort is more telling than plenty of No 8s who bust their gut for the full 80.

7: Richie McCaw
(New Zealand)

Just like Carter, McCaw's inclusion hardly needs to be justified. He was here, there and everywhere in 2006 and in Brisbane played as well as anyone could possibly play, according to Graham Henry.

6: Jason White
(Scotland)

The greatest travesty of the 2005 Lions tour was the initial non-selection of White. The Scottish captain tackles as hard as Jerry Collins and is a genuine lineout option. He gets around the paddock, too, and can leave a path of debris in his wake when he carries the ball.

5: Victor Matfield
(South Africa)

The big South African lock upped his quota of cheap shots this year. It wasn't pretty to watch but it made him more effective as it niggled away at opponents and distracted them from what they should have been doing.

He's the most consistent and reliable lineout forward in the world and exactly the sort of bloke teams don't want to play against.

4: Paul O'Connell
(Ireland)

O'Connell was feckless when he came here with the Lions and world class when he came back with Ireland this year. Takes control in the air, mixes it up on the ground with some classic enforcer stuff and roams like a Celtic Colin Meads.

3: Carl Hayman
(New Zealand)

No other tighthead could have emulated Hayman's Twickenham feat of destroying the English scrum and then covering the better part of 100m to get on the end of a famous sweeping move to score a classic try. He is the rock on which the current All Black success has been built.

2: John Smit
(South Africa)

It's Matfield who gets all the plaudits for the South African lineout being as good as it is. But Smit, left, puts the ball on the money every time. He gets stuck in at the scrum and does his bit in the loose.

1: Tony Woodcock
(New Zealand)

The quiet hard man of the All Black front row gets better each year. Wallabies coach 'Knuckles' Connolly fingered him as destroying his side's scrum. And Woodcock must have the best range of skills of any prop on the planet.

Stats provided by

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a1 at 22 Sep 2014 03:01:27 Processing Time: 850ms