Thinking and talking about rugby every day for 50+ years
4 June 2015
There we were the other day; two blokes sitting at home on a rainy afternoon in Wellington. We had nothing to do except pass the time of day away. The wives were out shopping and like the diligent husbands we are we were waiting at home for them. It was too early for a beer, there was tea in the pot and a new cake on the plate. But when we started talking about the composition of the 2015 All Blacks World Cup team the cake got ignored and the tea went cold.
Obviously one of the two blokes was myself; not quite a self-claiming world authority on the game but not far off - depending on how I feel on some days! The other man was my good friend and a great friend of the All Blacks - Graham McNally of Dubai.
Let me introduce you to Graham. He works for Emirates Airlines and it's funny but he turns up all over the world at significant rugby matches - and rarely misses an All Black test match wherever it is played. What a job he has! He drifts in and out all over the planet to the point where some of us light-heartedly call him 'Fog.' (Geddit?)
Graham's a good bloke and we've been cobbers since I started going up to the Dubai Sevens in 1999. He has only one mark against his name and that is that if in doubt he always plugs for the Canterbury player first. Just joking...
Make no mistake though this bloke knows the game; he can weigh up each player of recent years against all others because, well, he has seen them ALL in action in ALL their test outings. Most importantly via his red-and-black thinking he reckons he has a good knowledge of the conservative and loyal way Steve Hansen will go with his picks this year.
So Fog and The Prince (self-claimed!!) decided while waiting for the gals, based on the form of last year and the Super 15 form we've seen this year, to have a crack at picking the best 31 players Steve Hansen will pick to take to the Rugby World Cup this year. (Each team is allowed 31)
We two blokes came at our views from two different leanings; I think I am still some kind of professional observer from the media boxes while Graham has a closeness of contact with the current players via seeing them close-up and knowing many of them quite well.
So here is what we came up with; To misquote slightly old Sam Malone from behind the bar of 'Cheers' '- It's only two men's opinions.' See what you think...
Fullback; Ben Smith with Charles Piutau (if he can be pulled out of his contract difficulties in France)
Wings; Julian Savea and Waisake Naholo (That's only two you say - but though Piutau could play there, read on below.) (Naholo turns out to be onlu 'uncapped' player, although I recall how brilliant he was at the Rugby World Cup Sevens in Moscow in 2013)
Centre; Conrad Smith and Melakai Fekitoa
Midfield; Ma'a Nonu and Sonnybill Williams
First-five; Daniel Carter, Colin Slade and Beauden Barrett (Now this was the interesting bit. My mate with the read and black occluded vision reckons that the late run at this position by Daniel Carter will mean Hansen WILL take him. Loyalty and all that. Colin Slade will also be there as he offers back-up all over the back line. And there there's Beauden Barrett, who while being an outstanding no.10, might also find himself getting time ON THE WING this year to allow Carter to start in the games and build into form. That means there might be no place in the World Cup team for such excellent outer backs as Israel Dagg, Cory Jane, Ryan Crotty or Piutau (if the contract thing is too tough) And even Aaron Cruden wouldn't make it should he recover in time from injury.)
Halfbacks; Aaron Smith, TJ Perenara and Andy Ellis. (The last-named is running hotter this year I believe than Augustine Pulu. But there is a lot of earnest debate about Ellis we hear. As for Brad Webber, promising though he is, he will not crack it in Hansen's thinking - this year at least)
[So those are our backs - I pushed hard for Nehe Milner-Skudder to be included, under the heading of 'there ought to be at least one player in the backs the world hasn't seen before'...but in the end we have gone with the conservative approach of what we believe Steve Hansen and the other selectors will do.]
Many of the forwards pick themselves;
Number eight; Kieran Read
Flankers; Richie McCaw, Sam Cane, Jerome Kaino and Liam Messam (just ahead of Victor Vito)
Locks; Brodie Retallick, Same Whitelock, Luke Romano and Jeremy Thrush. (No Pat Tuipolotu - we already know he is out for the year)
Props; Owen and Ben Franks, Wyatt Crockett, Tony Woodcock and Charles Faumuina.
Hookers; Dane Coles, Keven Mealamu and Hika Elliot.
IN SUMMARY: We reckon these are about our best 31 players of the moment. I myself, say that the team has too many players in it's ranks who are past their best years, or who are knocked about from the collision game rugby has become. But we have a coach who will not go very far outside those he knows - plus they are on his books too - remember that.
Will this team win the Rugby World Cup? From this distance I am inclined to say 'no' at first instinct - I feel that South Africa and England will be more favoured and with more blood coursing through their younger and home-influenced players.
We simply have a lot of questions about our squad and its ability to stay the course. However I say that knowing that this current New Zealand squad certainly knows how to win games - they have shown that in abundance in recent years (12 wins from 14 games last year).
As for 'Fog?' - what did he think? Well, sitting there with his tea cup balanced on his knee, I didn't directly ask him the above question but I suspect he hopes that his man Richie (he's a red-and-blacker you know) will be the one holding the Webb Ellis trophy highest on finals day.
UNLUCKY TO MISS OUT: We made a list of these as well. I also think that from the above 'chosen 31' there will be at least three serious injuries which will mean they will NOT travel to the Cup. So keep the following list in mind too; (And remember the Stephen Donald story). We think the aforementioned Dagg, Jane, Milner-Skudder, Pulu and Webber will miss out, but go close. Plus Pat Osborne, Ryan Crotty, Robbie Fruean, Lima Sopoaga, Matt Todd, Victor Vito, Brad Shields, Blade Thomson, James Broadhurst, Dominic Bird, Joe Moody, James Parsons, Jeff Toomaga-Allen and Uncle Tom Cobbley. But we'll see.
Meantime, the ladies have returned with bulging shopping parcels (dammit - we two men are now poorer) ... and McNally and I have therefore to come out of our dream world and come back to reality.
'Yes dear, I'll boil the jug again...'
It was a fun exercise.
Let me know what you think of this team...at firstname.lastname@example.org
Today, on this day the Springboks were welcomed back into World Rugby
11 years to the day after the last NZ v SA game they are back! But the ABs win in a Johannesburg thriller by 27-24.
Llanelli and Wales
23 internationals for Wales 1972–80
5 internationals for British Isles 1971–80
Llanelli, Richmond and Wales
52 internationals for Wales 1993-2002
3 internationals for British Lions
Llanelli, Richmond, Cardiff and Wales
32 internationals for Wales 1995-2002
One of the big names of Welsh rugby through the 1970s, Derek Quinnell was a rugged and durable forward who could, and did, play in various positions in international matches. Later, his two sons Scott and Craig, who were bigger physically than he was, both played for Wales and one of them followed him into a British Lions touring team.
Derek Quinnell hit the headlines when he was named for the 1971 British Isles tour to New Zealand as the only uncapped player in the side. While on tour he made his international debut against the All Blacks at Wellington. His first game for Wales was as a replacement against France in Cardiff in 1972. In his long career, which included three tours for the British Isles, he played in four teams that beat various All Black sides, which could be a record for a British player – twice in tests for the British Isles, once for the Barbarians and once for his club Llanelli, in its famous game in 1972.
When his playing days were over Quinnell was quickly promoted, first to being a Welsh selector and then as assistant coach of the Welsh team for the Rugby World Cup in 1987.
The first of his sons, Scott, made his debut only 13 years after his father quit. Scott became hugely popular with Welsh fans throughout a career which lasted ten seasons. He was a massive man and his barging runs from the number eight position were seen as a symbol of hope for Welsh rugby that success would follow if everyone could follow the example set by big Scott.
His career had a number of twists and turns. He was lured to rugby league in 1995 and played for Wigan. That meant he missed the World Cup that year. But with the arrival of the professional rugby union game he was back by 1997. He tried his hand with the Richmond club in London but when they fell on hard times he went back to his home town of Llanelli. In his time he went on two Lions tours but in one, to South Africa in 1997, he did not play in any of the test matches. It was in 2001 that he really showed what he could do. In that year’s Lions team he played in his usual bustling style and was rewarded with selection in the three test matches against Australia. The legion of British fans who followed the tour loved him and, one suspects, the Aussie fans admired him.
He played well after returning home but grew weary of the consistent back and knee problems and after playing against Canada in Millennium Stadium in 2002 he waved to the crowds afterwards and announced his retirement. He had had a long and illustrious career.
Craig Quinnell was the younger of the two test-playing brothers. He first appeared against Fiji in 1995, a game won by Wales by only 19-15 (two tries each). He was dropped after that, and took 3 years to regain a starting test position. Craig was a lock forward similar in style to his older brother and some respects played in his shadow, though when the two were together they were a powerhouse pair for Welsh teams.
A third brother Gavin played professionally in Wales as well.
The family lines of this family were added to with the addition of the great Barry John into the mix. Derek Quinnell and Barry were brothers-in-law which makes all the boys the nephews of the former great flyhalf.
How many test matches did Alan Whetton play for the All Blacks? 34,35 or 36?