Today’s Advent Calendar treat is The Rugby Blog’s 2009 World XV, which has been a few weeks in the making, and there have been some very difficult decisions to be made.
Mils Muliaina and Bryan Habana continue to impress, and still seem to be the best players in their positions in the world. Habana’s hat-trick for the Barbarians capped a fine season in which he won the Super 14 and Currie Cup with the Bulls, a Lions series and the Tri-Nations, so is thoroughly deserving of his place on one wing.
The other wing position is up for debate, but Cedric Heymans gets the nod in our team. France have had a terrific year, beating the All Blacks twice, and Heyman’s try in their victory in July cemented his position.
Tommy Bowe and Sitiveni Sivivatu both deserve a mention, and there may be other candidates that you can build a case for.
In the centres, we have selected Jamie Roberts and Brian O’Driscoll after their performances for the Lions suggested that this might be the greatest centre partnership ever. Yanick Jauzion came close, but it’s difficult to split up this pair.
At fly-half, Dan Carter missed out very narrowly, and he might feel a little aggrieved after some outstanding performances later in the year – particularly against France last week. I don’t necessarily think Morne Steyn is the best fly-half in the world, but his contributions this year have been so important – and having someone who can kick goals from almost anywhere on the park is fairly handy.
Fourie du Preez is selected at scrum-half, and given that many rugby fans think he should have been the IRB Player of the Year, it’s difficult to argue with his selection.
The front row caused a few selection headaches, and The Beast is in at loosehead after his destructive efforts in the Lions series. Zimbabwean or not, he has been a crucial part of South Africa’s success and deserves his place.
Adam Jones lines up on the other side of the scrum, with Frenchman William Servat at hooker. Some might argue that John Smit should be in both of these positions in a World XV, but whilst you would love to have him in your side as a leader of men, he isn’t necessarily the best player. Gethin Jenkins is also unfortunate to miss out after impressing for Wales, but this isn’t a bad front row.
Simon Shaw is the only Englishman in the side and lines up alongside Victor Matfield in the second row. Both have put in gargantuan performances and played key roles in the Lions series for their respective teams.
And finally, the back row. Thierry Dusautoir has led his French team by example, he has been instrumental in their aggressive performances this year, and in my view is streets ahead of Player of the Year-nominee Tom Croft.
At openside flanker, there is a raft of talent to choose from. Richie McCaw needs very little introduction, and David Pocock would have been a shoo-in if he had played more games this season – he’s already pencilled in for next year’s team, and seems to be one of the finest players around. Heinrich Brussow wears the seven shirt though after some of the most eye-catching efforts for South Africa.
Jamie Heaslip takes the final place in the side, and having won the Six Nations Grand Slam, the Heineken Cup, started all three Lions Tests and was a standout player in all of those games, he is the ideal man to have at the base of the scrum.
So here is the full lineup – let me know what you think.
15. Mils Muliaina
14. Cedric Heymans
13. Brian O’Driscoll
12. Jamie Roberts
11. Bryan Habana
10. Morne Steyn
9. Fourie du Preez
8. Jamie Heaslip
7. Heinrich Brussow
6. Thierry Dusautoir
5. Victor Matfield
4. Simon Shaw
3. Adam Jones
2. William Servat
1. Tendai Mtawarira