In 1823 William Webb Ellis disregarded the rules of football (at the time not separated into codes) and picked up the ball, thus giving birth to the origins of Rugby Union.
In 1871, England and Scotland played the first recorded international game, and after twelve years of “friendlies”, the inaugural home union’s championship was formed.
In 1886 the International Rugby Board was formed by the unions of Scotland, Wales and Ireland and so began the beginnings of the great game we know today.
So what is the greatest rugby XV of all time? Impossible to ask, impossible to answer!
But for the risk of opening myself to endless questioning and debate, I shall attempt to do what no man has ever done before. Behold, the greatest XV of all time:
15 – Fullback: Serge Blanco – France 93 caps
Serge was the greatest attacking fullback of all time, and a gentleman on the field. He scored 38 tries, most of them from deep. Not as defensively brilliant as some 15s, he made the game look effortless.
RUNNER UP: Gavin Hastings – Scotland
14 – Wing: David Campese – Australia 101 caps
With a goose step and desire to attack at all costs, causing him to be a average defender and mistake maker. But when it worked, did it work! He dazzled his way to a world record 64 test tries.
RUNNER UP: John Kirwan – New Zealand
13 – Centre: Philippe Sella – France 111 caps
An attacker so stunning that few realised his defensive strength. A weaving magician who had the “strength of a bull and the touch of a piano player.” A Five Nations superman with 50 appearences.
RUNNER UP: Tana Umaga – New Zealand
12 – Centre: Tim Horan
With two World Cups – and 1999’s player of the tournament – and the lightest feet even seen. A great defender, brilliant pace, runner of the cleanest attack, and a great decision maker.
RUNNER UP: Will Carling – England
11 – Wing: Jonah Lomu – New Zealand 63 caps
Youngest man to wear the black jersey and the most unstoppable force ever seen in rugby. Became the first global rugby sensation – and singlehandedly ran through entire teams. Terrifying.
RUNNER UP: Gerald Davies – Wales
9 – Scrum Half: Gareth Edwards – Wales 53 caps
Edwards was regarded by many as the greatest player of all time, and the catalyst for the Welsh golden age. Won ten caps for the Lions with series victories over both the All Blacks and Springboks.
RUNNER UP: Joost van der Westhuizen – South Africa
10 – Flyhalf FOUR WAY TIE: Barry John – Wales, Hugo Porta – Argentina, Mark Ella – Australia, Jonny Wilkinson – England
8 – Number Eight: Mervyn Davies – Wales 38 caps
Played all of his matches consecutively and was the figure head of the Welsh pack of the 1970’s. Played in two victorious Lions tours, won two Grand slams and three triple crowns.
RUNNER UP: Brian Lochore – New Zealand
7 – Flanker: Michael Jones – New Zealand 55 caps
The Iceman revolutionised this position, following the ball religiously – while his faith famously prevented him playing Sundays. Regarded by purists as the finest flanker in the game’s history.
RUNNER UP: Wavell Wakefield – England
6 – Flanker: Francois Pienaar – South Africa 29 caps
Francois captained Transvaal to be Super 10 and Currie Cup champions in 1993 before marking the world by winning the 1995 World Cup. A man far beyond a rugby player with his global impact.
RUNNER UP: Graham Mourie – New Zealand
5 – Lock: Colin Meads – New Zealand 55 caps
Pinetree was the most devastating forward of his era, and visions of him with ball in one hand still would haunt many ex-players. A monster who could not be stopped, he is the iconic All Black
RUNNER UP: Willie-John Mcbride – Ireland
4 – Lock: John Eales – Australia 86 caps
The most successful Wallaby captain – and the highest points scoring forward in history. The iconic Queensland lock was the linchpin of the Australian golden age from 1999 into the new millennium.
RUNNER UP: Martin Johnson – England
3 – Prop: Jason Leonard – England 114 caps
The most durable prop of all time with three series appearances with the Lions, and responsible for anchoring what became the world’s strongest scrum leading up to a World Cup win in 2003.
RUNNER UP: David Sole – Scotland
2 – Hooker: Sean Fitzpatrick – New Zealand 92 caps
The most capped captain of New Zealand – 51 times. Sean is alongside Meads as the most influential All Black ever. Key for Auckland’s and New Zealand’s complete supremacy in the late 1990’s.
RUNNER UP: Keith Wood – Ireland
1 – Prop: Wilson Whineray – New Zealand 32 caps
One of the All Blacks’ most enduring captains, with 25 wins as leader – and probably the first rugby prop that could run with the pill, and play both sides of the scrum. An Enduring Kiwi icon.
RUNNER UP: Os du Randt – South Africa