With Ireland’s tour of New Zealand just around the corner, I thought I’d take the opportunity to name my All Blacks 23 for the…
Remarkably, the 1999 All Blacks were New Zealand’s only World Cup team not to contain a current or future world champion in their roster.
But who would make the best All Blacks XV not to win a World Cup based largely on their performance at the tournaments in which they competed?
What does this list tell us about the shortcomings of All Blacks teams that didn’t win the World Cup?
Who would make the Australian, South African and England line-ups not to have won the World Cup?
This is my XV (from 15 to one): Christian Cullen, Jeff Wilson, Frank Bunce, Walter Little, Jonah Lomu, Andrew Mehrtens, Graeme Bachop, Ardie Savea, Josh Kronfeld, Jerry Collins, Robin Brooke, Ian Jones, Olo Brown, Anton Oliver, Craig Dowd.
A lot of very good players have never won the World Cup while others with lofty reputations underachieved at the tournament, which is a blot on their copybook.
This especially applies to Cullen, Mehrtens and Wilson, who are all regarded as giants of the All Blacks but underwhelmed at the World Cup.
Granted, Wilson and Cullen were played out of position and Mehrtens was ill in the 1995 final when he didn’t perform at his authoritative best. In 1999, however, Mehrtens was the New Zealand player of the year. But at the World Cup, New Zealand were fourth, at that point their worst effort.
Only Lomu would make the All Blacks’ greatest World Cup XV from this list.
How senseless were the midfield picks from 1999, 2003 and 2007? Cullen, Wilson, and Leon McDonald were picked out of position with Tana Umaga largely absent in 2003, and Luke McAlister not very effective in 2007.
Bachop and Kronfeld were awesome in 1995 with Bachop one of the more underrated halfbacks and Kronfeld exactly the right type of openside for his era and the free-running approach of his team.
The strength of the front row was an issue in the 1999-07 period. Corey Flynn and Mark Hammett were hardly heavyweight hookers and Norm Hewitt was given very little chance to play. Anton Oliver from 1999 gets the nod, later becoming the All Blacks’ captain, but he was far from exceptional.
Ardie Savea is the only player picked from last year. He was awarded with the 2019 New Zealand player of the year award with his consistently strong displays. Anton Lienert-Brown rates an honourable mention.