For the last few months rumours have been circulating that next year the All Blacks, South Africa and Australia could come together to create a SANZAR team. If this happens the idea is for them to play the Lions at Twickenham, in memory of all those who lost their lives during the battle of Gallipoli, in 1915.
It would be a special day, a historic day and an amazing tribute to those soldiers. It gets the blood racing too and I just couldn’t resist picking my own SANZAR team to play the Lions…
Tendai Mtawarira – 26 years of age 35 caps – “The beast” as he is more commonly known, he probably doesn’t understand it when a coach asks him to go easy. He has huge physical presence in all aspects of the game and is just the character a team will need to get on top of what will be a formidably well drilled Lions scrum.
Bismarck Du Plessis – 28 years of 45 caps – Sometimes on the wrong side of aggressive, but when he channels this emotion and gets it right he is a match winner. He is a hooker for the big occasion, combining physicality and mobility to get around the park and win a huge amount of ball. His man of the match performance at Ellis Park highlighted that he is still top of his game.
Owen Franks – 24 years of age 34 caps – A corner stone of the All Blacks scrum at just 24 years old, and for good reason. A mobile player who loves to carry the ball and support the ball carrier in the tight, he doesn’t lose anything in the scrum with consistently strong performances at tight head. Calm, strong and professional perhaps the calmest head in this front row?
Eben Etzebeth – 20 years of age 3 caps – There is no doubt that at 6ft8 and 18 stone the 20 year old who made his debut vs. England this summer has the raw materials to be the Boks enforcer. In Super rugby he has shown that he is more than just a big lad though, the world’s best combine intelligence with power.
Sam Whitelock – 23 years of age 28 caps – The athletic lock completes a very young engine room but his prowess in the line out will be key, if Du Plessis and Whitelock can get on the same wave length then they can control the air and starve the opposition. His work rate will also be a corner stone of an experienced and physical XV.
Willem Alberts – 28 years of age 11 caps – Possibly not the best blindside in the world but he will give the pack more go forward and physicality to dominate the opposition. A very good reader of the game both in defence and attack. Remember 2010 when he scored successive tries against Wales, England and Scotland?
Richie McCaw – 31 years of age 106 caps – A flick of the coin could have decided the difference between McCaw and Australian talisman David Pocock but McCaw is a World cup winning captain, a legend of the modern game and it would be wrong not to include him in this little piece of history.
Pierre Spies – 27 years of age 50 caps – Here’s an amazing fact, the 6ft5 16 stone power house of the Springbok back row won one of his caps on the wing! A replacement for Jongi Nokwe in the third Lions test -testament to his incredible pace. Spies will trouble any defence in the tight or in the loose.
Will Genia – 24 years of age 38 caps – Genia burst onto the scene and after some second season blues looks to have reclaimed his best form, just what you need in a scrum half, strong and feisty around the breakdown with the pace and pass to create options outside of him.
Dan Carter – 30 years of age 87 caps – Who else? With Genia inside of him the mercurial Carter will have all the time in the world to run the show. Just the man you’d want pulling the strings on an occasion like this, creates tries, scores tries and kicks the points.
Bryan Habana – 29 years of age 77 caps – 75 of his 77 caps have been in the starting line-up, a testament to the wingers longevity and consistent form. Perhaps not as fast as he was, but still more than fast enough to smoke most players in the world, he has upped his work rate in other areas of the game and importantly is still scoring tries.
James O’Connor – 22 years of age 37 caps – I perhaps would have picked Sonny Bill Williams but as the seemingly untameable talent is returning to league, I have gone with the young Wallaby. Some might say a left field pick at Inside Centre but I see the multi-talented O’Connor fitting in nicely to the Australian midfield in between Qaude Cooper and Adam Ashley Cooper (with Barnes on the bench). His line breaking ability will create lots of space for those outside him and he has the hands to make sure my outside backs can exploit this.
Conrad Smith – 30 years of age 58 caps – Known as “snakey” in the Southern Hemisphere because of his movement on the pitch, he should probably be called the Brain, or the General. The archetype modern centre, he gets the most out of his midfield partner, is a rock in the All Blacks defence and knows were the try line is.
Israel Dagg – 24 years of age 15 caps – Moved to wing but to good not to include. Whether finishing off a team move or touching down after a superb solo effort he is equally as brilliant, a modern Christian Cullen. Fast, strong and creative he will also offer world class support under the high ball.
Kurtley Beale – 23 years of age 25 caps – You have to be seriously good to oust a World Cup winning Full Back from his position, but Beale really is that good. In every aspect of the game from counter attacking, to taking the high ball Beale is up there among the best and still has a long career ahead of him. He will also play with Rebels buddy O’Connor.
French soldiers also fought bravely at the battle of Gallipoli, it would be fantastic to see the French join up with the Lions to add some considerable strength, but logistically the Lions team will already be in place so if this is to happen, and I think I can say we all hope so, the French are sadly unlikely to be involved.
So that’s my SANZAR team, what’s yours? Why not leave yours on a comment below, or how about a Lions team that you think could beat the Southern Hemisphere? Alternately tweet me @AshesRugbyBoy or @TalkRugbyUnion with your ideas.