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I see Wayne Smith, rugby writer for the Australian, has selected his best XV of the last fifty years. The full article is in the Australian.

There are a few things one might dispute, most notably that he has people other than Qlders in there. Unthinkable.

I will say I'm stunned no Campo? He has to have a wing spot. I thought he might go campo/moon. I think I'd go campo and moon or tune. By chance, Rob and i discussed exactly this yesterday. 

Interesting he has (his former colleague at the paper) Andrew Slack ahead of Little. I would have thought that the combination of horan and little might have got them over the line. but always did think Slack was hugely underrated.

some will disagree with his 5/8, though for different reasons. McLean or Lynagh then daylight then Larkham. Okay, perhaps not much daylight but still McLean or Lynagh.

In the forwards, surprised he rated Kefu so close to Loane. I still think Loane is the best forward I have seen.

Not sure I would have gone for Vickerman but he is probably as good a choice as any.

And a bit surprised he went for Slipper.

Otherwise, can’t argue.



15 Roger Gould

Needless to say, Matt Burke and Chris Latham strongly contested the fullback position, but no one could match the sureness under the high ball, the howitzer-like kick, the physicality and, yes, the swagger of Gould. From the moment he scored a try in each of his first three Tests against the All Blacks – the Wallabies win the 1980 series 2-1 – he reshaped the way Australia assessed fullback play.

ticlBen Tune in action against Argentina in 1997. Picture: AP

14 Ben Tune

How could I possibly select an all-time Australian XV – or at least of the last 50 years – without David Campese? Actually, quite easily. There are two sides to rugby – attack and defence. Campo was brilliant only when he had the ball in hand. Tune was the ultimate winger in my opinion, a man who would put his body on the line against anyone, even Jonah Lomu.

Andrew Slack holds the Bledisloe Cup after the Wallabies defeated the All Blacks at Eden Park in 1986. Picture: Ross Setford

13 Andrew Slack

I know this is supposed to be a contest between Australia’s two World Cup-winning outside centres Jason Little and Daniel Herbert, but from the moment that Slack played his first Tests against Wales through to the inaugural World Cup in 1987, he displayed the best hands I have ever witnessed. He led Australia to historic Grand Slams and Bledisloe Cup triumphs – in New Zealand, for goodness sake.

Tim Horan.

12 Tim Horan

No one close. Best inside centre of any country ever in my opinion.

Joe Roff dives over for a try against Argentina during the 2003 World Cup.

11 Joe Roff

I found myself drawn to two remarkably similar players for the left wing berth, Roff and the great Brendan Moon. Both covered the ground with extraordinarily long strides, making it difficult to bring them down. And then Moon had one of the greatest right-hand fends I’ve ever seen. But Roff played 86 Tests for Australia, was extraordinary during the 1999 World Cup win and turned the tide of the 2001 series against the British and Irish Lions by intercepting Jonny Wilkinson’s pass.

Stephen Larkham in action during the 2003 Rugby World Cup semi final. Picture: Gregg Porteous

10 Stephen Larkham

I will probably be run out of Queensland for not selecting Paul McLean or Michael Lynagh and both would have been fully deserving of the “10” jersey. Even Quade Cooper had a brief moment in the sun before coming unstuck. And then there is Mark Ella, who shone like Hayley’s Comet as he streaked across the sky for just 25 Tests. But for sheer consistency of brilliance over a career of 102 Tests, Larkham stood supreme. Not only did he take the ball to the line, he took it there at speeds which caught oppositions napping.

John Hipwell.

9 John Hipwell

Another awkward one, given the brilliance of 1991 World Cup-winning captain Nick Farr-Jones and the 1999 World Cup vice-captain George Gregan, while Will Genia at his peak was regarded as the best halfback in the world, one who even the All Blacks went to school on. Sadly, I never got to cover Ken Catchpole but Hipwell’s Test career spanned three decades, the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, and he was never anything short of inspirational.

Mark Loane.

8 Mark Loane

A two-way contest – Loane versus Toutai Kefu. No one else approaches them. Kefu was a mesmerising ballrunner, one who will always be remembered for ensuring John Eales finished his career as a winner against the All Blacks in 2001. But it was under Loane’s leadership that Queensland enjoyed its first golden age and in doing so brought Australia into world leadership in the game. “A Train Without a Station” was his nickname and that was how he took the ball up.

David Pocock. Picture: Getty Images

7 David Pocock

Gee, it a hazardous job selecting an all-time Australian side. George Smith deserves to be hailed for the astonishing service he gave Australia … and kept on giving. David Wilson was an underrated but still brilliant openside flanker, so too Simon Poidevin, Jeff Miller, Phil Waugh and Michael Hooper. But over two World Cups, 2011 and 2015, Pocock was very nearly the best player on the globe. Indeed, had Australia beaten the All Blacks in the 2015 World Cup final – which, admittedly, they were never really likely to do despite getting within four points – he would have beaten Dan Carter for the award. We are, of course, talking about the man who played No 8 in that tournament but I will always see him with a “7” on his back.

Tony Shaw.

6 Tony Shaw

One-third of the so-called “Holy Trinity” with Paul McLean and Loane. A ferocious competitor, one who struck fear into opposing teams. Poidevin played enough at “6” to be considered, so too his counterpart in the 1999 World Cup side, Matt Cockbain, and even the enigmatic Rocky Elsom who led Australia right up to the brink of the 2011 World Cup before being dropped as skipper. Yet Shaw was unyielding, the ideal man to lead Australia to a series win over Five Nations champs Wales in 1978 and then to hold a depleted injury-hit Wallabies together at Eden Park in August that year to record the Wallabies’ most famous victory at the All Blacks’ fortress.

John Eales holding the Bledisloe Cup in 1998.

5 John Eales

Captain. Best player I ever covered.

Dan Vickerman in 2011. Picture: AAP

4 Dan Vickerman

Their careers were separated by 20-odd years but Vickerman would have enjoyed playing alongside Shaw. They were both take-no-prisoners types of players. While Australia did have the occasional lineout ace like David Hillhouse, Peter McLean, Steve Cutler and Steve Williams in the 1970s and 1980s, over the past two decades it has produced some seriously impressive second-rowers: David Giffin, Garrick Morgan, Rod McCall, Justin Harrison, Nathan Sharpe. But Vickerman stood tallest.

Ewen McKenzie and daughter Hannah in 1994.

3 Ewen McKenzie

Taniela Tupou is reshaping how Australians think of tighthead props. Suddenly it’s a very sexy position. But until he came along, however, tighthead was very much a place for piano movers. Andy McIntyre cemented himself there on the 1984 Grand Slam tour, while Andrew Blades ensured the Australian scrum wasn’t going anywhere during the 1999 World Cup campaign. But McKenzie played 51 Tests in one of the most gruelling positions and still had enough energy left over to become one of Australia’s finest coaches.

Phil Kearns in action against the All Blacks in 1998.

2 Phil Kearns

In most people’s minds, this is a no-brainer. Kearns, a dual World Cup-winner is regarded as one of the greats of Australian rugby. No complaints here. But he stood on some great shoulders, none broader than Tom Lawton who dramatically reshaped global opinion about the Wallabies scrum on the 1984 tour of Great Britain. And I’m not convinced that if I wanted a hooker to play for my life that I wouldn’t pick Michael Foley, who knows more about scrums that virtually any man in the game. But how could you not give the jersey to the man who gave the two-fingered salute to Sean Fitzpatrick?

James Slipper. Picture: Darren England

1 James Slipper

Not an especially fashionable position, loosehead. Indeed, most serious contenders have played a significant amount of their careers at tighthead where the scrummaging demands are ever fiercer. Topo Rodriguez played all his Tests for Australia at loosehead but before that he was regarded as the world’s most fearsome tighthead for the Pumas. World Cup looseheads Tony Daly and Richard Harry both put in tremendous shifts in the “1” jersey but Slipper – the only Wallaby in the current Test side – has put together a century of internationals for Australia and rightly been regarded as one of the best all-round looseheads – a good scrummager but also highly useful in attack and defence – in world rugby. While Hipwell played in the first Test I ever covered back in 1971, Slipper was there in the most recent.


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