Willow and Gabs' Rugby Championship Dream Team
The Rugby Championship has come to a close with the All Blacks clinching another classy title win. We have assembled our dream team squad of the championship, the best of the best, the creme de la creme of the southern hemisphere rugby elite. Forget northern hemisphere, this is where the big boys play.
Sekope Kepu (Prop, Australia) - Willow
After Kepu ran in the 60 metre try to the huge embarrassment of the Chiefs, I thought Sekope had peaked but his performance in this Rugby Championship has proved that he’s only getting better. Kepu’s 80 cap experience has been evident in the scrum as Sekope has dominated his opposition easily with his not insubstantial 125kg frame. He’s also been putting points on the board, notably his hard fought try in Canberra against the Pumas. What’s better than a prop that can score like a back?
Augustin Creevy (Hooker, Argentina) - Gabs
Argentina’s best player, by far, with excellent leadership skills. Creevy is the best hooker in the
championship, well known for hitting double-figure tackle counts. An incredibly dynamic
player with worlds of experience behind him, who at the age of 32 does not seem to be stopping anytime soon.
Tendai Nihal ‘Beast’ Mtawarirah (Prop, South Africa) - Gabs
The name “beast” is not to be taken lightly. Coming in at a whopping 116kg, Mtawarirah is by far one of the best props in the world. Purely because of his reputation it would be rude to leave him out of our squad; however, his work rate is not to be debated with. Although he missed the last test, he still holds a spot in our dream team.
Eben Etzebeth (Lock, South Africa) - Gabs
The engine behind South Africa’s lineouts, Etzebeth has been put to the test during the somewhat difficult championship for South Africa. His leadership skills were trialled and tested throughout and never failed. He’s got biceps big enough to have their own post-code and in spite of his temper he’s been a top class player even earning himself another captaincy role for South Africa’s end of year tour.
Scott Barrett (Lock, New Zealand) - Gabs
It seems that there’s something in the Barrett gene pool that is unique to the world of rugby. Although Scott has had considerably less game time than the likes of his brother Beauden, Scott has a bright future ahead of him as an All Black. In the 57-0 win over South Africa, Barrett was thrown into the flanker position and played amazingly despite being out of position, even scoring a try. Definitely keep an eye out for him in the future.
Pablo Matera (Blind-side Flanker, Argentina) - Willow
The Argentinian blindside flanker has put in some massive hits this championship, which make me wince even behind the protection of a tv screen. Definitely one of the stars of the Pumas, he has an untiring work ethic and even after their numerous defeats still came out and smashed the opposition each time.
Michael hooper (Open-side Flanker, Australia) - Gabs
Your ideal open-side flanker with impeccable leadership skills (also, look how cool he is). Probably one of my top rugby idols purely because of his work-rate. He’s played every minute of the championship, and for a forward that is some hard work. You’ll have seen him make numerous breaks during games, with the speed of a back and strength of a forward he isn't easy to stop.
Keiran Reid (8, New Zealand) - Willow
A no brainer choice here. Kieran makes the right decisions on the park, knowing when to press
the advantage and go for a lineout instead of taking an easy 3 points from the posts. His captaincy has pulled the All Blacks through a championship where they haven’t been exceedingly convincing, especially in the first two Bledisloe fixtures. His leadership has led to the All Blacks winning yet another Rugby Championship and surely will lead them to many more.
Aaron Smith (Scrum-Half, New Zealand) - Willow
Many say he is the best player in the world. Contentious as that title may be, he is undoubtedly the best half-back out there. Aaron has brushed aside controversy surrounding him in his personal life by his stellar performance on the pitch. He was central in their thrashing of South Africa, being quick to the breakdown and shipping out beautiful passes which made the eight try drubbing possible.
Elton Jantijes (Fly-Half, South Africa) - Gabs
The most consistent kicker of the championship. Chosen over the likes of Barrett and Foley
purely because of his accuracy from the tee. Definitely one of South Africa’s best players
who has brought the previously struggling side a glimmer of hope in this championship. (despite the 57-0 loss...)
Reece Hodge (Winger, Australia) - Willow
Hodge hasn’t been the first choice in the Aussie team, but due to Haylett-Petty’s injury has had
the chance to come into the backline and has surprised many with his performance. He’s tipped over some long-range kicks that Foley tapped out of and has put in an outstanding performance on the wing, using his massive 6 foot 3 inch frame to shoulder past unlucky defenders to the try line.
Kurtley Beale (Centre, Australia) - Gabs
There has been much controversy surrounding his name in the later years of his career; many
were surprised to see him play in the championship after his brief stint with Wasps in the UK. The ideal utility back who can play at fullback, centre or ten, his handling and distribution skills are not to be refuted. His gameplay often includes a grubber or cross-field kick which most of the time lead to tries being scored. We prefer him at centre purely because of his performance in the centres in the championship as his handling skills add a spark to the Wallabies’ game.
Anton Lienert-Brown (Outside Centre, New Zealand) -Willow
He hasn’t been the main choice for outside centre in the All Blacks but his performance in the
championship has cemented his claim as a world class player. Hansen has said that he loves Anton’s versatility as he can play both inside and outside centre which has been evident as he has fitted seamlessly into the All Blacks squad. Anton has brought out some beautiful passes this championship and has been a solid foundation for his team mates to capitalise from.
Rieko Ioane (Winger, New Zealand) - Willow
Reiko controversially replaced Julian Savea as winger and nobody has questioned this change
after his 5 tries in the championship, joint highest with Folau. It's not only his high score count that sets him out, he’s incredibly strong as well, brushing off defenders left and right. He also demonstrates a maturity on the pitch above and beyond his 20 years which bagged him Man of the Match against Australia in the second Bledisloe.
Damian McKenzie (Fullback, New Zealand) - Willow
My boy Damian has stepped up in the absence of Ben Smith and shown that he’s just as good, and in my humble and not biased opinion at all, better. He seamlessly fits into first receiver when the All Blacks go into attack and in a heartbeat can be back in defence if ball is turned over to receive the opposition's kick. He has consistently run around people this championship, easily finding gaps in the defence, breaking the game apart and opening play up for New Zealand. The fact that Steve Hansen has admitted that Damian is better at fly half than fullback evidences the massive amount of talent he has. Watch out Beauden.
Commiserations to :
Isreal Folau - usually an all-star player, but after much debate, the debate lasting all of two minutes, was not included in our dream team. The main reason he wasn’t included was because Damian was picked over him, something that I am still marginally upset about. (Gabs)
Nico Sanchez - an amazing fly-half for Argentina who had several moments of glory but off the tee was not as great as Elton.