Simon van Ryn asks could this team topple the 2015 World Cup winners? And which players would crack the All Blacks’ 2015 side?
15. Mike Brown (England): Brown was a shining light throughout England’s dismal World Cup campaign. The only player in the England back line that looked dangerous every time he got the ball in his hands. For England’s sake this writer hopes he stays fit and healthy leading up to the 2019 World Cup.
Mike Brown vs Ben Smith: Pick – Ben Smith
14. Ashley Cooper (Australia): The veteran was superb for Australia all year and has been a constant threat throughout his stellar career. Four tries throughout the World Cup would have been below par for his high standards but the countless times he set others up for a meat pie were pivotal for Australia making it all the way to the final.
Adam Ashley Cooper vs Nehe Milner Skudder: Pick – NMS
13. Wesley Fofana (France): The smooth and silky running of Fofana has him touted as one of the best centre’s to look out for in years to come. A spark for the French attack this year he was unfortunately back peddling most of the time due to the dismantling of the French pack. If the French can get it together in the next few years Fofana will shine.
Wesley Fofana vs Conrad Smith: Pick – Wesley Fofana
12. Damian De Allende (South Africa): He’s provided much needed go forward for the Springboks this year and has troubled the best on many occasions. De Allende has a massive future in test rugby and he has already shown why he could become one of South Africa’s greats.
Damian De Allende vs Ma’a Nonu: Pick – Ma’a Nonu
11. Juan Imhoff (Argentina): The pacey left winger for the Pumas was a constant threat throughout the 2015 World Cup. His elusiveness was a danger for opposing defenders and his ability to time his run into the line and hit gaps at the right moment was crucial towards Argentina’s attacking style.
Juan Imhoff vs Julian Savea: Pick – Julian Savea
10. Bernard Foley (Australia): Arguably Australia’s second best player at the tournament. He controlled Australia’s vibrant attacking style nicely and rarely faded under pressure. He produced nearly a perfect display for the Wallabies against England during pool play and was vital in the team’s hopes of lifting the cup.
Bernard Foley vs Daniel Carter: Pick – Dan Carter
9. Greg Laidlaw (Scotland): Laidlaw, the World Rugby Player of the Year nominee, was sublime throughout the duration of Scotland’s campaign. Apart from the anger he showed when Craig Joubert blew up Scotland’s chances in the quarter-final, Laidlaw produced a number of world-class performances. What was most important towards the Scottish hopes was his ability to lead from the front.
Greg Laidlaw vs Aaron Smith: Pick – Aaron Smith
8. Duane Vermeulen (South Africa): The man dubbed “Thor” was again prominent among South Africa’s aging pack. He led from the front time and time again and was at the centre of everything good about how the Springboks went about reviving their World Cup campaign towards the semi-finals.
Duane Vermeulen vs Keiran Read: Pick – Duane Vermeulen
7. David Pocock (Australia): This bloke was simply amazing in 2015. Many believe he should have received the World Player of the Year award over Dan Carter with his consistency. The Aussie media even went as far as saying that if Australia made the final without Pocock they wouldn’t stand a chance. He has been very good this year and deserves all the praise he gets.
David Pocock vs Richie McCaw: Pick – Richie McCaw
6. Scott Fardy (Australia): The hard-nosed Australian was relentless during the World Cup. The battle scars on his body and face painted a picture of his attitude to the Australian cause. He is one player everyone loves to have on their side and for that he is one of only a handful of players to crack the powerful All Blacks side of 2015.
Scott Fardy vs Jerome Kaino: Scott Fardy
5. Alun Wyn Jones (Wales): Another World Rugby Player of the Year nominee, Wynn Jones was essential to the Welsh pack. His set-piece work and defence outlines his fierce nature on the field and starting all 10 of the Welsh tests in 2015 meant that he was one of the key figures leading into the tournament.
Alun Wyn Jones vs Sam Whitelock: Pick – Sam Whitelock
4. Eben Etzebeth (South Africa): The colossal South African was a brute force throughout the World Cup and rarely took a step back in the tough exchanges. The athletic lock is a future superstar of the game and if he can continue this form and combine his skill set with some of those shown by Victor Matfield then he could become one of the world’s greatest in his position.
Eben Etzebeth vs Brodie Rettalick: Pick – Brodie Rettalick
3. Ramiro Herrera (Argentina): The big 123kg tighthead prop is a fantastic scrummager and is very handy around the park. He scrummaged superbly in 2015 and forced his opposition backwards on a number of occasions. He was a massive reason why Argentina made it so far in the World Cup as he helped lay a solid foundation for the Argie backs to play from.
Ramiro Herrera vs Owen Franks: Pick – Ramiro Herrara
2. Stephen Moore (Australia): The Australian captain was one of the great leaders at the World Cup. Humble in victory and defeat, Stephen Moore was the perfect captain for Australia. He has been a thorn in the side for many teams this year as he never takes a step back and will leave his heart out on the field in every game.
Stephen Moore vs Dane Coles: Pick – Dane Coles
1. Scott Sio (Australia): He was outstanding for the Wallabies this year and he has finally given them some ascendency at scrum time. Sio had a great World Cup before injury nearly ruined it. He made the final but succumbed to injury just after half time, however his contribution was highly valuable.
Scott Sio vs Tony Woodcock: Pick – Scott Sio
There you have it folks. Just shows you how great the 2015 All Blacks are with it being highly difficult to leave any of them out.
The Ultimate XV:
15. Ben Smith 14. Nehe Milner Skudder 13. Wesley Fofana 12. Ma’a Nonu 11. Julian Savea 10. Dan Carter 9. Aaron Smith 8. Duane Vermeulen 7. Richie McCaw 6. Scott Fardy 5. Sam Whitelock 4. Brodie Rettalick 3. Ramiro Herrera 2. Dane Coles 1. Scott Sio
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Simon van Ryn, Pundit Arena