The best of the best: My world XV

The Neutral View From Sweden Roar Guru

By , The Neutral View From Sweden is a Roar Guru

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    Alrighty, it is time for Coach Neutral to show his hand.

    My selection criteria are pretty simple, I have picked what I consider to be the best XV in the world right now, on recent form, not reputation over the years. Well, almost. Every coach is allowed to have personal favourite or two.

    While most players are selected on individual brilliance solely (to be fair, I think all of them are brilliant), some are picked a little bit more to balance the team and give them an edge in every single aspect of the game.

    1 Joe Moody
    I want my side to completely destroy the other team’s front row at scrum time, so picking Moody is a no-brainer. But I want more than scrum dominance, I want soft hands, heads-up play in the loose and deep knowledge in dark arts also. Moody brings it all.

    2 Malcolm Marx
    It easy to get carried away and lose perspective after one standout game, but have we ever seen a game like that from a hooker before? And Marx is not a one hit wonder, he has been outstanding in a Lions team that has gone from the bottom to the top (almost) in two years time and since his introduction in the Springboks, the calls for bringing back Bismarck has gone missing.

    3 Owen Franks
    Almost ten years of excellence in All Blacks duty and still improving. What is not to like about that? His nous to find his opponent’s scrum weakness and make them wish they were somewhere else is off the scale.

    Can the man read minds? And just like Moody, outside the scrum, he can be trusted to execute everything from brutal and life-changing tackles to flair moves that would make most backs green of envy.

    4 Brodie Retallick
    The most complete rugby player in the world and he performs at the same consistently high level that is reserved for the legends of the game. If Colin Meads and Richie McCaw had a love child, the result would be Brodie. Is there anything he can’t do? And I am not only speaking about his abilities on the rugby field, I am speaking off the field also.

    5 Maro Itoje
    The rise and rise of Itoje has been remarkable to witness. The kid delivers and proves doubters wrong on a weekly basis. A physical wonderchild with athletic abilities – that no-one matches in the rugby world – in sweet harmony with leadership and energy that lifts even tried and tested veterans. On top of that, he is seriously smart – on and off the field – and reads referees and offside lines like an open book.

    6 Sam Warburton (c)
    In a team that would bring more fire and fury than Donald Trump even can dream of, there is a need for a calm head with horse whispering skills to handle the refs, and Warburton is the best around. That he is an absolute beast at the breakdown with no regards what so ever for his personal safety with very underrated hands and skills help his cause also.

    7 Sam Cane
    In a team filled with stars, there is a need someone who does some heavy lifting and looks forward to ‘leg-days’ in the gym. I also like the idea of a seven that master the clean-out tackle with the same precision Conor McGregor lands his left hand (and with the same devastating effect).

    8 Kieran Read
    With Warburton and Cane heavy involved in the nitty-gritty stuff, Read would be able to roam in the wider channels where he is simply the best. And with Read around, any possible weakness Marx have as a lineout thrower is negated.

    9 Aaron Smith
    One of the first players on my team sheet. Plays on a different level than any other scrum-half in the world. His passes are so crisp that they could cut through diamonds and the speed of thought, legs and hands are frightening. And to come back to this level after all the commotion he had to deal with – and still dealing with – off the pitch tells a story of incredible mental strength.

    10 Owen Farrell
    Even my team will have an off day at times and for those days I want a kicker I can rely on to slot home pressure kicks. But I am not selecting Farrell solely for his kicking skills. He is a dedicated and well-rounded flyhalf with a mind committed to improving himself and the team. Also handy to have a direct line to Daddy Farrell is we should need some tactical advice.

    11 Rieko Ioane
    The latest flash flyer from the wing production line down in New Zealand. With ball in hand, he might be the fastest man in rugby these days. Reads the game very well and is totally fearless in contact situations. If a defender wants to take Ioane down, he better bring a couple of friends and a sledgehammer.

    12 Ryan Crotty
    The aim for my team is not only to score ten tries on average, but we would proud ourself to keep clean sheets also. Crotty is Mr Reliable that cleans up after everyone else and firmly closes any minor gaps that might occur on a bad day.

    13 Jonathan Davies
    Moulded in the same fabric as Crotty, he gives you 80 mistake-free minutes. Just like Crotty, he keeps things nice and tidy, and the pressure these two would put on the opponents would make it hard for them to even get out of their own 22 with the ball in hand.

    14 Israel Folau
    With so much talent around him – and coach who believes in him, plays him in the right position, and design tactics to get the pill out wide a lot – he would be able to showcase his strengths non-stop.

    15 Ben Smith
    Every coach has a few favourite players that they will put their trust in even at the darkest night. To me, Ben Smith is that player. On average he makes about three four mistakes a season. There are no flaws or weaknesses in his game and if there was a Nobel Prize in Rugby Smarts, Ben Smith would have won it every single year.

    Impact players
    16 Tendai Mtawarira

    Has found a new spring in his step this year and carries the ball into contact like a … beast. He has seen it all, and found a scrum solution.

    17 Dane Coles
    Would have been a shoe-in this team a year ago, but concussions and Marx have forced him out of the starting XV; in the last stanza, he is a handful to contain, and won’t miss his jumpers, to close out a game.

    18 Tadgh Furlong
    When your lungs are burning after 60 minutes of hurt from Franks, the low-slung Furlong is a menacing nightmare for any opponent in open play or in the set piece.

    19 Eben Etzebeth
    Almost a coin toss between him and Itoje and Retallick; choosing between them is probably a ‘horses for courses’ decision on the day. Breaks the first tackle more often than not, and is a constant threat at the front of opponents’ lineout.

    20 CJ Stander
    Covers all three positions in the back row and that is very handy. A hard man to put down in the tackle, especially in the red zone.

    21 Will Genia
    Sports the same haircut and playing style as Aaron Smith, so there will be no confusion when Aaron gets a rest around the 60-minute mark. Still has the gas to snipe into the gap, and hates to lose.

    22 Beauden Barrett
    Not the best player in the world in my book, but he is the best impact player in the world, capable of turning the match around in one surprising play.

    23 Kurtley Beale
    Like Stander, he covers a lot of positions and only knows one speed: full.

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