Here at Pundit Arena HQ we decided to put our heads together and compile a team of the best players we feel would represent the Northern Hemisphere.
Taking into account raw skill, dedication and top performances over the last year of international rugby, we give you the Northern Hemisphere XV.
15. Leigh Halfpenny – Wales
Leigh Halfpenny was a tough selection for full-back, given the strength in depth in full back in the Northern Hemisphere (Kearney, Hogg, Brown etc.).
The Wales international is arguably the best place-kicker in world rugby. His kicking style is unique but effective. For such a small man, standing at just over 5 foot 8 inches, Halfpenny’s aerial ability is impressive to say the least.
The man with the scrum cap lights up the Millenium Stadium when in action. His game sense is also world class and his reading of the game, especially as a full-back, is crucial to Wales’ success.
14. Tommy Bowe – Ireland
An Irish fan-favourite, the Ulster man is one of the best wingers in the air. His aerial game is key to Ireland’s game plan with Bowe now being sent in chase of many box-kicks from the boot of Conor Murray.
Bowe has adapted his game over the years but still has a fantastic turn of pace and the eye to run superb lines in his armour. Bowe has the try scoring touch and has touched down for many memorable tries for the boys in green. Yoann Huget of France was a close second.
13. Jonathan Davies – Wales
At thirteen, we have chosen Jonathan Davies of Wales. The outside centre is in fantastic form for his country of late. His huge physical stature is utilised by coach, Warren Gatland, for many a crash-ball off set-plays. However his handling and offloading are also a key features to Davies’ game.
Davies is one of the few centres who is capable of mixing up his game. When needed he can go extremely physical or he can also shine in open-play, showcasing his dynamism.
12. Wesley Fofana – France
One of only two French men in the team, Fofana is a natural rugby player. He possess a great physique along with ball skills that most rugby players would envy. His pace is electric, while his footwork is magnificent.
Fofana has shone in an unorganised and non-structured French back-line. The Clermont clubman has been sensational for his club in the last couple of years and is always one that one you can rely on for a try in the time of need.
If France are to have a successful World Cup campaign, Fofana must play well.
11. George North – Wales
While only being 22 years of age, North has amassed over 5o international caps and has scored 24 international tries. Taking that into account, his selection in itself is self-explanatory.
The Northampton winger stands at 6ft 4in and weighs in at 17st 2lb. On his day North can turn on ”beast mode”. The Welsh man combines extreme physical strength with dazzling feet and can turn a match on its head in a matter of minutes.
Critics have been vocal about his international performances of late. However, North silenced those critics with a hat-trick of tries in Rome a fortnight ago. Expect North to be a World Cup sensation.
10. Johnny Sexton – Ireland
At out-half, Ireland and Racing Metro’s number 10 gets the nod. Sexton inspired and conducted his side to a record-equalling ten successive victories, including triumphs against Australia, South Africa and England.
With the help of Joe Schmidt, Ireland have tailored their game plan to each specific game. Sexton has demonstrated his willingness to adapt game by game with his kicking and running games constantly to the fore.
The Dublin native contributed 58 points as Ireland claimed back to back 6 Nations titles for the first time since 1949.
9. Conor Murray – Ireland
While Rhys Webb and Ben Youngs have starred for their respective countries of late, it’s Ireland’s Conor Murray who has been selected.
Murray has been a model of consistency for Ireland over the past few seasons. The Munster man’s physique allows him to apply a very solid defensive game while his sharp passing and effective kicking game has garnered praise globally.
Murray’s sniping runs from the back of rucks have become a trademark of his and defences across the globe will have to be very wary come September.
1. Joe Marler – England
The Harlequins club man has been a key component to Stuart Lancaster’s side. His scrummaging capabilities make him a certain on the England teamsheet, even with two loosehead Lions in Mako Vunipola and Alex Corbisiero present too.
The loosehead prop made a big impression in this year’s 6 Nations with strong ball-carrying, big tackles and impressive mobility. Anchored by the front-row trio of Marler, Dylan Hartley and Dan Cole, the English pack are a match for any team.
2. Guilhem Guirado -France
This may be a surprise selection for some but over the past 12 months Guilhem Guirado of France has been the most consistent hooker in the Northern Hemisphere.
The 28-year-old Toulon player has been a success for club and country of late. His line-out throwing was one of the few positives for France during the this year’s 6 Nations. Guirado started all five of France’s games in this year’s championship throughout Philippe Saint-Andre’s chopping and changing, which is an achievement in itself.
Honourable mentions must go to Rory Best and Dylan Hartley.
3. Dan Cole – England
Cole follows in the footsteps of team-mate Joe Marler in making this team. The 50 times capped England international has made a name for himself as one of the most feared prop forwards in the game. His scrummaging power and technique has often provided England with an extremely solid platform on which to build attacks and execute pre-planned offensive moves.
Cole’s work may often go unnoticed, with the backline gaining significant praise, but many of these scores would not have come to fruition but for the presence of the Leicester clubman.
4. Alun Wyn Jones – Wales
With age, Wyn-Jones has improved. The Wales and Lions lock has been a mainstay in the Welsh side for many years. His work-rate around the breakdown is second to none and his leadership in the line-out is always evident.
In the absence of Sam Warburton, the Ospreys man skippered The Lions in the famous third test triumph in Australia in 2013, and since then has been remarkable for his country. With Luke Charteris as his second-row partner, combined they are one of the most deadly second-row duos around.
5. Paul O’Connell – Ireland
Well, where do you start with this man? A giant in every way, O’Connell has led Ireland to succesive 6 Nations titles. Deservedly so, the Munster man was named 6 Nations Player Of The Championship last week.
Along with Alun Wyn Jones his work rate is unbelievable. O’Connell’s leadership, charisma, strength and power have been crucial to Ireland’s success of late.
With Brian O’Driscoll having departed the scene this time last year, the presence of O’Connell has become more important. The Munster man has duly delivered and O’Connell’s performances during the World Cup will be critical if Ireland are to succeed.
6. Peter O’Mahony – Ireland
At blindside flanker, Peter O’Mahony is our choice. The Munster and Ireland number six is renowned for his determination, strength and aggression in all sectors. His work at the breakdown is phenomenal and his attributes in the line-out are going from strength to strength under the watchful eye of Paul O’Connell.
With Sean O’Brien returning to full fitness and the ever-reliable Jamie Heaslip in situ, the Irish back-row is a forced to be reckoned with.
He shows here that he’s just as passionate as Big Paulie too…
7. Sam Warburton – Wales
After overcoming a couple of significant injuries, Sam Warburton is now back to his best. The openside flanker is a machine. His upper body strength causes significant problems for any opposition and his tackling and breakdown techniques are normally immaculate.
Warburton is also renowned for his leadership skills and has the honour of being tour captain for a series-winning Lions squad. At the tender age of 26, Warburton has plenty left in the tank and if he is to continue his present form, he will go down as one of Wales’ best.
8. Sergio Parisse – Italy
Italy’s sole representative on this Northern Hemisphere selection, Parisse is the heartbeat of Italian rugby. Unfortunately for the Italians they have had more bad days than good, but Parisse has always managed to display quality throughout.
The Stade Francais number eight is a supreme rugby player. His ball skills, power and mobility make him one of the most decorated and dynamic back-rows in the game. The Argentinian born has carried a struggling Italian team for many years and pips Ireland’s Jamie Heaslip to the spot.
Seán Murphy, Pundit Arena.