It’s always interesting to select a World XV heading into a World Cup and then see how much it might have changed by the end of the competition. The players who often come through are from the smaller nations. We simply haven’t seen them play enough rugby at the top level to know how good they are.
At this stage the World XV is usually dominated by the top nations and it is frequently a good guide to see who might go on to win. Any team that wins the World Cup usually has five players who would make the World XV.
After a full European season and a Super XV season my starting line-up looks like this:
- Kurtley Beale (Australia)
- Chris Ashton (England)
- Brian O’Driscoll (Ireland)
- Ma’a Nonu (New Zealand)
- James O’Connor (Australia)
- Dan Carter (New Zealand)
- Will Genia (Australia)
- Thomas Domingo (France)
- Stephen Moore (Australia)
- Martin Castrogiovani (Italy)
- Patricio Albacete (Argentina)
- Victor Matfield (South Africa)
- Jerome Kaino (New Zealand)
- David Pocock (Australia)
- Sergio Parisse (Italy)
I don’t for a moment think this will look the same after the World Cup. The most obvious casualties are in the midfield where we are waiting for someone new to happen. Many people will say that Sonny Bill has already happened, but I have yet to see him dominate (or even play very well) in a really big game. We shall see.
The front row is very close and you could just as easily argue for Andrew Sheridan, Bismarck du Plessis, Keven Mealamu, Owen Franks, Nicolas Mas and Soane Tonga’uiha. Likewise the second row is starting to creak, with Ignacio Fernandez Lobbe and Batthies Botha past their very best and the likes of Courtney Lawes and Richie Gray as yet unproven at the very top level.
The most obvious omission is Quade Cooper who has been scintillating all year, but has to get in past Dan Carter. I suspect whoever of those two is in the best team from the World Cup at the end of the year will also be a World Cup winner. On the basis of the above team Australia will turn out to be world champions as they have the requisite five and yet I expect New Zealand to win.
But tell me where I have gone wrong – and let’s keep it polite – because I would love to know what you think. Is it right that I have picked a team without a Welshman, a Scotsman or a Pacific Islander and with only one player from the current world champions South Africa?