The Wrap: 2017 World XV announced, so who’s in your team?

Geoff Parkes Columnist

By Geoff Parkes, Geoff Parkes is a Roar Expert

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    With Test rugby now completed for the year and the prevailing mood seemingly endorsing a shift in on-field power to the northern hemisphere, will this change be reflected in The Wrap’s World Test XV for 2017?

    A combination of injury, planned rest and a dodgy mo’ rendered Ben Smith’s 2017 a ‘gap year’. Stuart Hogg’s twinkle toes lit up Murrayfield but untimely injury saw him miss Lions action and Scotland’s landmark thrashing of Australia – not enough to make this team.

    The Lions opted for the very capable Liam Williams, but it is Israel Folau’s 12 tries in ten Test matches that wins him selection.

    20-year-old All Black Reiko Ioane is a rare talent, a seamless combination of pace, poise and power, with sticky hands and a cool temperament to match. He is an easy choice.

    With Raymond Rhule ‘rhuled out’ on account of nine missed tackles in a single Test, it’s an Englishman who claims the other wing. The pacy Eliot Daly dashed for a thrilling late try to beat Wales, out-hustled Kurtley Beale to beat Australia, and crucially turned the Lions versus All Blacks decider with an outrageous 52m penalty goal – enough to edge out countryman Anthony Watson.

    Outside centre is another Lion, Welshman Jonathan Davies. Despite his ugly, skewed kick gifting Daly his opportunity in Cardiff, Davies’ defensive work and straight running in New Zealand was of the highest order, and there are no serious challengers for his spot.

    Inside centre is more complicated, New Zealand throwing up Ngani Laumape, Ryan Crotty and Sonny-Bill Williams, who all had excellent moments without ever dominating consistently. For Australia, Beale came to the fore mid-season but his northern tour was a disappointment, and his lax cover (from fullback) against England was unforgivable.

    Hooper Beale

    (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

    This position comes down to a choice in two, Springbok Jan Serfontien, and England and Lions sharpshooter Owen Farrell. But crediting Serfontein as the best performer in the Boks backline is akin to describing ‘Mel C’ as the best singer in the Spice Girls – a low bar, not really enough to win over discerning observers.

    Many fans remain unconvinced about Beauden Barrett’s ability to control matches from flyhalf, but his stamp is to influence matches at key moments rather than provide an enveloping command. Despite the claims of Johnny Sexton, a second successive International Player of the Year award is good enough pedigree to make this side.

    There were a host of star performers at halfback, with the muddled French throwing up two supremely talented young contenders in Antione Dupont and Baptiste Serin. Until he ran out of petrol against Scotland, Will Genia enjoyed his strongest year in some time, playing with focus and authority, and no other halfback comes within touching distance of Aaron Smith’s ability to throw flat bullets that create tries where conventional passing wouldn’t.

    But in a hot field, it is Connor Murray who wins out, sharp of pass and – in the age of the ‘box kick’ from the base of the breakdown – clearly the best exponent of kicking to advantage.

    To the front row, and an easy choice at hooker. Nothing shifts Malcolm Marx once he is over the ball – quick to set his feet and body weight into an immovable tripod, with strong hands to match.

    Agustin Creevy remains a gifted and combative player, unfortunately weighed down by everything that being the captain of the Jaguares and Pumas entails, and forced too often into being an apologist for his colleagues’ poor discipline.

    Ken Owens also deserves a mention, if only for convincing referee Romain Poite that the act of catching the ball and then dropping it can be construed as accidental. Dane Coles’ year was ruined by serious injury, although salivating Hurricanes fans know that they have something special in reserve in Asafo Aumua.

    Choosing a prop is complicated by the fact that the modern way is for most to play only half a match, or close to it. Although he missed the end of year tour, loose-head Joe Moody remains the rock in a solid All Blacks scrum, which not only soaked up everything thrown at it by the Lions, but gave back plenty in return.

    It is his direct series opponent, Irish beast Tadgh Furlong, who emerges as a clear winner at tight-head. As for the other fatties, whatever claims Sekope Kepu may have had were extinguished in Edinburgh, and hopefully Steven Kitshoff will continue his rise in 2018 – both as a formidable front-rower and a flag bearer for the quota system (minimum of one ginger in every team).

    By far the most hotly contested position is lock – outstanding tall timber dotted all around the globe. Consider a field of Leone Nakarawa, Alun Wyn-Jones, George Kruis, Joe Launchbury, Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes, Iain Henderson, Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock, Eben Etzebeth and Adam Coleman – any of whom would grace this side.

    Duane Vermeulen of South Africa (L) tries to tackie Brodie Retallick of New Zealand (R) during the Rugby Championship Test rugby union match between the New Zealand All Blacks and South Africa Springboks at Eden Park in Auckland on September 14, 2013. New Zealand won 29-15. AFP PHOTO / Michael Bradley

    (Source: AFP PHOTO / Michael Bradley)

    Retallick’s consistency and superior hand skills give him the nod for one spot, but who for the other? In regular circumstances, Etzebeth might have the best claim but, as a victim of a declining side and burnout, he needs a rest. Itoje returned from New Zealand with his ‘likely lad’ reputation fully re-configured to ‘the real deal’ and, although he missed the tour, Launchbury’s leadership and form for Wasps and England has been compelling.

    At blindside flanker, Peter O’Mahony led Munster to the Pro 12 final and was man of the match in the Six Nations decider, but was one of the few tourists to go backwards in New Zealand. Liam Squire has emerged as first choice for the All Blacks, John Barclay finished the year off in style, right in the thick of Scotland’s resurgence and the Puma’s Pablo Matera was consistently among their best.

    But are any of them worthy of a place in this side? Or is this an opportunity to squeeze in an extra lock?

    Michael Hooper and Siya Kolisi both enjoyed stand-out Test performances, and it is tempting to find a place for Lions captain Sam Warburton, although missing the second half of the year counts against him.

    Thus open-side comes down to a race in two – Sam Cane and Sean O’Brien. Both offer a contrast in styles – Cane’s defensive display against Wales something to behold, with O’Brien scoring the Test try of the year and offering more by way of ball carrying. It’s a coin toss which – because rugby is a team game – O’Brien loses by a whisker, courtesy of disparaging comments made against his coaches following the Lions tour, tarnishing a Lions effort that didn’t deserve to be tarnished.

    At No.8, Amanaki Mafi goes close on Super Rugby form alone, Louis Picamoles remains a clear standout for France and Toby Faletau cemented his reputation in the elite cohort. Billy Vunipola, unfortunately, was too crocked too often to be considered.

    But even if Kieran Read didn’t match the heights of his 2013 World Player of The Year gong, measuring him against others rather than against his own standards cements his selection. Time will tell if the 2019 World Cup is a bridge too far, but for now at least, he remains the best in the business.


    (AAP Image/SNPA, Ross Setford)

    Thus The Wrap’s World XV for 2017 is:

    Israel Folau (Australia)
    Rieko Ioane (New Zealand)
    Jonathan Davies (Wales)
    Owen Farrell (England)
    Eliot Daly (England)
    Beauden Barrett (New Zealand)
    Connor Murray (Ireland)
    Keiran Read (New Zealand)
    Sam Cane (New Zealand)
    Maro Itoje (England)
    Joe Launchbury (England)
    Brodie Retallick (New Zealand)
    Tadgh Furlong (Ireland)
    Malcolm Marx (South Africa)
    Joe Moody (New Zealand)

    I’ll leave it to readers to sort the bench out. This is a best World XV, not a match day squad of 23 because a) they’re not playing against anybody; b) it would be a cop-out to pick two halfbacks and four props etc; and c) you will hopefully excuse me using the remaining space instead to inform you about the release (finally) of my book, A World In Union Conflict: The Global Battle For Rugby Supremacy.

    The book has already been critically acclaimed by a number of leading rugby writers and, for anyone with more than a passing eye for the game, an interest in what commercial and political factors are driving rugby forward. A concern or curiosity for what that might mean in the future for fans, players and rugby nations (particularly those that aren’t England or France), you should find it an interesting and thought-provoking read.

    The book is available worldwide in both paperback and digital form through Amazon, iBooks, Google Books, Kobo,, and, among other outlets. Search by author name.

    There is also retail distribution in New Zealand through Unity Books (stores in Auckland and Wellington) or enquire through your local Paper Plus outlet.

    Otherwise, you’re welcome to buy (paperback only) directly from which for Australia, is the fastest option.

    Let me at this point acknowledge the contribution of Nick Bishop, whose expert advice and ‘cruel to be kind’ editing was both invaluable and massively appreciated. Thanks also to everyone at The Roar for providing both the forum and the opportunity to write about rugby.

    Back next week for a final wrap of a huge year in rugby!

    Geoff Parkes
    Geoff Parkes

    Geoff is a Melbourne-based sports fanatic and writer who started contributing to The Roar in 2012 under the pen name Allanthus. His first book, A World in Union Conflict; The Global Battle For Rugby Supremacy, was released in December 2017 to critical acclaim. For details on the book visit Meanwhile, his twin goals of achieving a single figure golf handicap and owning a fast racehorse remain tantalisingly out of reach.

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    The Crowd Says (249)

    • December 11th 2017 @ 6:54am
      Fionn said | December 11th 2017 @ 6:54am | ! Report

      Good side. Cheers, Geoff

      • Columnist

        December 11th 2017 @ 7:08am
        Geoff Parkes said | December 11th 2017 @ 7:08am | ! Report

        Cheers Fionn. It feels like six AB’s is one too many, but that’s not really a reason to deselect Cane.
        Loose forwards/Lock was certainly the most difficult area to nail down.

        • December 11th 2017 @ 12:21pm
          Bahaha said | December 11th 2017 @ 12:21pm | ! Report

          One Australian too many

          • December 11th 2017 @ 2:36pm
            Fionn said | December 11th 2017 @ 2:36pm | ! Report


        • December 11th 2017 @ 3:53pm
          cuw said | December 11th 2017 @ 3:53pm | ! Report

          Good day Geoff Parkes, nice team – but –

          i prefer a 23 just to be in line with the “LAWS” 🙂

          Stuart Hogg (Scotland) – with Ben Smith out, HOgg is the best around , easily.
          Rieko Ioane (New Zealand)
          Jonathan Davies (Wales)
          Geoffrey Doumayrou (France) – Played little test rugger but is fantastic for LAROCHELLE. watch him if u can.
          Eliot Daly (England)
          Beauden Barrett (New Zealand)
          Connor Murray (Ireland)
          Keiran Read (New Zealand) / Sergio Parerisse – i will be happy with either as my captain. and i dont think there is much difference between the two in style of playing.
          Sam Cane (New Zealand)
          Pablo Matera (Argentina) – if he played for another team he will be recognized as one of the top 3 in the world.
          Leone Nakarawa (Fiji) – for me he is the best – easily. its a pity people see very little of him play.
          Brodie Retallick (New Zealand)
          Tadgh Furlong (Ireland)
          Malcolm Marx (South Africa)
          Joe Moody (New Zealand)

          Jamie George (England) – i think he is a traditional – back to basics/ old school – hooker
          Tendai Mtawarira (South Africa) – at 98 tests he is a warrior
          Nepo Laulala (New Zealand) – noone got the better of him this season.
          Eben Etzebeth (South Africa) – i don’t think there is noone more physical – legally – than EE.
          Francois Louw (South Africa) – i think he is the best 7 in the world atm.
          Aaron Smith(New Zealand) – at the end of the day, there is noone better at passing accurately
          Camille Lopez (France) – too bad he broke a leg when in the form of his life…..
          Liam Williams (Wales) – good at both 14 and 15

          • Roar Guru

            December 11th 2017 @ 4:44pm
            Harry Jones said | December 11th 2017 @ 4:44pm | ! Report

            Agree on Louw; but I think the new laws are moving away from the fetcher-slower…

            • December 11th 2017 @ 5:04pm
              cuw said | December 11th 2017 @ 5:04pm | ! Report

              NAH i think what has happened is that the fetcher is going it alone now and the defensive line stands back leaving less numbers at a ruck.

              so the strong guys are having a better time – at least that is what happens in Europe now.

              hence guys like Flow , Sam Underhill. Chris Cloete , Josh Navidi , Justin Tipuric , SOB, etc are much valued.

              maybe u wanna watch LAROCHELLE – who play a FIJIAN center as their 7 – LAVANI BOTIA 😀
              i think he has played 7s as well and is so quick around the park.

              and WASPS have a young guy – Jack Willis , who i think Eddie will like come 2019. he is still on the bench but is as quick and effective as Underhill.

              • Roar Guru

                December 11th 2017 @ 10:56pm
                Harry Jones said | December 11th 2017 @ 10:56pm | ! Report

                Yes, I agree, but the modern 7 has to be able to play a Cane-Louw-Robshaw-Matera-type game

              • December 12th 2017 @ 8:30pm
                cuw said | December 12th 2017 @ 8:30pm | ! Report

                so who is LMRC ?? a Frenchie ? 🙂

          • Columnist

            December 11th 2017 @ 5:04pm
            Geoff Parkes said | December 11th 2017 @ 5:04pm | ! Report

            Lots of really good players in there CUW…

    • Roar Guru

      December 11th 2017 @ 6:57am
      Sam Taulelei said | December 11th 2017 @ 6:57am | ! Report


      Congratulations on the publication of your book. Looking forward to reading it.

      • Columnist

        December 11th 2017 @ 7:03am
        Geoff Parkes said | December 11th 2017 @ 7:03am | ! Report

        Thanks Sam.

        One more quick indulgence re the book… for anyone who does buy it AND who enjoys it, it would be great if you could visit Amazon and give the book a rating or even a quick comment or review.

        Without the marketing budget of JK Rowling or Dan Brown, this is now how the world works – on-line reviews and sharing information and comments through your own social media networks.


    • Roar Guru

      December 11th 2017 @ 7:02am
      Diggercane said | December 11th 2017 @ 7:02am | ! Report


      • Columnist

        December 11th 2017 @ 7:14am
        Geoff Parkes said | December 11th 2017 @ 7:14am | ! Report

        Sorry for disappointing you and the Serfontein family by choosing FN Farrell mate! 🙂

        • Roar Guru

          December 11th 2017 @ 7:56am
          Diggercane said | December 11th 2017 @ 7:56am | ! Report

          Hahaha, I am sure I will manage my disappointment! 🙂

          In all seriousness, its a good team, some very difficult decisions to make in there.

          And I am thoroughly enjoying your book Geoff, approx. 2/3 way through, to see the ‘business; as it were laid bare has been an eye opener for me. We often separate along the lines of North v South but the unique challenges faced by each individual union is astounding when looked at along with the plight of the PI nations and players, its mind boggling it works at all.

          Congratulations on your book and thank you for your efforts throughout the year each week in entertaining us couch consumers 🙂

          • Columnist

            December 11th 2017 @ 8:59am
            Geoff Parkes said | December 11th 2017 @ 8:59am | ! Report

            That’s an interesting point Digger, one the Irish guys on here make consistently.

            The old NH v SH divide is misleading, and while regional alliances are important (eg SANZAAR) it is important to consider individual rugby nations in their own right, as each have particular challenges and are impacted differently by the evolution of professional rugby.

            Thanks as always for your contributions and kind words.

            • Roar Guru

              December 11th 2017 @ 12:41pm
              Poth Ale said | December 11th 2017 @ 12:41pm | ! Report

              Spot on Geoff. Have banged on about it for quite some time. Shall find out easiest way to get copy of your book and shall enjoy it with a glass of wine or three over the Xmas break.

              No quibbles with your team. We could be here until next December arguing over different ones.

              • Columnist

                December 11th 2017 @ 6:24pm
                Geoff Parkes said | December 11th 2017 @ 6:24pm | ! Report

                Cheers PA

    • December 11th 2017 @ 7:29am
      riddler said | December 11th 2017 @ 7:29am | ! Report

      nice team geoff..

      good luck with the book!

    • Roar Guru

      December 11th 2017 @ 7:42am
      Machooka said | December 11th 2017 @ 7:42am | ! Report

      Old Scoop here G… sigh.

      Wtf is with FN Farrell?

      Does your book have pictures?

      Thanks… enough questions for today.

      • Roar Guru

        December 11th 2017 @ 7:54am
        Wal said | December 11th 2017 @ 7:54am | ! Report

        Pop up pictures?

      • Columnist

        December 11th 2017 @ 8:06am
        Geoff Parkes said | December 11th 2017 @ 8:06am | ! Report

        No pics Chook.

        But there are couple of blank pages so if you get your crayons out you’ll be able to keep yourself gainfully occupied!

      • December 11th 2017 @ 10:31am
        scottd said | December 11th 2017 @ 10:31am | ! Report

        Big writing?

      • December 11th 2017 @ 12:20pm
        Marto said | December 11th 2017 @ 12:20pm | ! Report


        Still unhappy Hoops ,Foley, ( The ICEMAN ) Robertson, Phipps, Kepu, Simmons, Hanigan ,Beale and Dempsey didn’t make the team ?

    • December 11th 2017 @ 8:14am
      The Slow Eater said | December 11th 2017 @ 8:14am | ! Report

      Thanks Geoff. A strong team. No wonder the All Blacks are the best in the world with 6/15 in the first choice tram.

      All the best with the book.

      • Columnist

        December 11th 2017 @ 8:52am
        Geoff Parkes said | December 11th 2017 @ 8:52am | ! Report

        Cheers Slow Eater.

        It’s interesting that with most people considering that the AB’s have come back to the field this year, they still have a high number of players the best or close to be best in the world in their position.

        Perhaps that’s more reflective of the relative inexperience of players in the other positions? Or more reflective of other nations closing the gap but not quite being there yet?

        eg Scotland’s performances against NZ and Aust were great, but that needs to happen more often and more consistently before we start seriously considering guys for World XV’s.

      • December 11th 2017 @ 10:08am
        Jumbo said | December 11th 2017 @ 10:08am | ! Report

        It’s a shame ben smith and dagg weren’t able to press their case this year, even nms if he wasn’t made of glass.

        • Columnist

          December 11th 2017 @ 10:28am
          Geoff Parkes said | December 11th 2017 @ 10:28am | ! Report

          Big year for NMS next year Jumbo. He needs a sustained run without injury, and there was a hint this year that he’d lost a touch of pace?

          • December 11th 2017 @ 12:14pm
            Rugby Tragic said | December 11th 2017 @ 12:14pm | ! Report

            That showed up when he broke clear in Albany, as a winger he should have had the pace to score that try on his own which Barrett’s support. Sure he did score it on the return pass behind Barrett’s back but one would have though that Naholo or Dagg even would have scored it on their own.

            • December 11th 2017 @ 4:10pm
              cuw said | December 11th 2017 @ 4:10pm | ! Report

              NMS seems to have lost a lot of pace AND is not moving well also. pity

              wonder if u watched the Dubai 7S ??

              NZ v England – Sam Dickson ran 40meters . after about 30 it looked like he was running in the sand dunes of the empty quarter 😀

              that was really funny , maybe there is a video on youtube .

              • Roar Guru

                December 11th 2017 @ 5:00pm
                Harry Jones said | December 11th 2017 @ 5:00pm | ! Report


                One of the funniest moments in rugby I’ve ever seen

              • December 11th 2017 @ 5:11pm
                cuw said | December 11th 2017 @ 5:11pm | ! Report

                and to be in the crowd cheering him and laughing (drunk) at the same time – priceless 😛

                guess that was one of the top3 moments in Dubai.

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