Following the 6 Nations, I found myself putting together my World XV but only containing players that had not been capped internationally. I really enjoyed putting the team together and had some really good conversations around it with a number of friends.
As I was watching the early rounds of the Rugby Championship, I found an idea forming in my mind of another World XV, this time picking the best possible XV while only selecting one player from each country. When I initially told a few friends of my intentions, I thought that it would take a long time to select the team, however I shocked myself by getting the XV together in just 2 days. However, having then discussed it with a few friends as I was about to write it, they suggested a couple of players that I had completely forgot and I ended up spending the next week switching the odd player to make a stronger line-up. I’ve given it a couple of weeks now to make sure I’m happy with my squad and now I feel confident enough to lock it in on here.
Obviously there are some nations I don’t know that well so I may have missed a few names. Let me know what you guys think and what your XV would be!
1: Rabah Slimani – The Frenchman can play both sides of the scrum and is arguably one of the most dangerous scrummagers in the 6 Nations. Add into that good ball skills in the loose and he’s a solid selection to start off the front row
2: Malcolm Marx – The Lions hooker is arguably one of the best in the world at his position, being a strong carrier but also like an extra flanker at the breakdown. How do the Springboks follow up legends like John Smith and Bismarck du Plessis? With Malcolm Marx!
3: Tadhg Furlong – Arguably the best tighthead prop in the world at this moment, Furlong is a destructive scrummager and ball carrier, while also having the deft hands to keep the play alive
4: Brodie Retallick – Some people may be surprised by me using my New Zealand representative in the tight five, but Retallick is head and shoulders ahead of everyone else at his position. Great in the tight and the loose, even given New Zealand’s strength in depth they miss him when he’s unavailable
5: Leone Nakarawa – For a long time I was certain my Fijian representative was going to be in the backs (for obvious reasons), then I remembered Nakarawa. A Gold medal winner at Rio 2016, the Racing 92 lock provides a slight of hand that no other player in his position can provide. There may be better players at his position, but none as fun to watch!
6: Jake Polledri – Perhaps this is my Gloucester bias coming through, but Polledri quickly became my obvious Italian pick when I looked at the positions they could legitimately contribute to this squad. He may only be 22 years old and in his second year of professional rugby, but you would not think that if you watched him play. I’ve seen a number of his games for Gloucester and Italy and can only remember a couple of occasions where I have seen go backwards in contact, while he also has the pace to cause trouble when he breaks through the defensive line
7: David Pocock – The 7 shirt was always going to be filled by an Australian when I started making this list, the question was “who?” Pocock’s versatility means that he often plays elsewhere in the back row to accommodate Michael Hooper, but I would consider he Zimbabwe-born openside the best in the world at his position. When he gets over the ball, it’s all but impossible to (legally) get him off it!
8: Samu Manoa – Realistically, fly half or number 8 were the only positions where I felt the USA could contribute, however I felt that I had a better option that AJ MacGinty at 10 so chose to include Samu Manoa. One of the stars of the Northampton team when he was there and part of the Toulon galacticos, he is another strong runner and tackler while his experience at lock allows him to also contribute at the lineout. Now at Cardiff, I’m looking forward to seeing how he does in the Pro14
9: Sonatane Takulua – This was going to be Greig Laidlaw’s spot until a last-minute change elsewhere in the back. While he may not have the best kicking game in open play, Takulua is a dangerous attacker and will always be a threat if given a little space
10: Nicolás Sánchez – Had I been compiling this team following the Summer Tests, this positions would have been filled very differently, however Sánchez looked back to his best in the Rugby Championship. A reliable goal-kicker and a talented playmaker, I would argue that the Argentinian is often overlooked when discussing the best fly halves in the world
11: DTH van der Merwe – A player I expected to shine at Newcastle but who never got a chance, the Canadian has been a prolific scorer for Glasgow and the Scarlets as well as for his country. Despite Canada exiting RWC2015 at the pool stages, van der Merwe still managed to score 4 tries in the tournament, only 6 players scored more in the entire tournament that year!
12: Owen Farrell – I would argue at the moment that there is a lack of top quality talent in the centres. Hadleigh Parkes was close to getting the nod, however the Welsh selection was needed elsewhere, so Owen Farrell gets the nod. Despite being a natural 10 (arguably one of the bet in the world) he has spent much of his recent international career at inside centre, where he uses his talents as a second playmaker to aid the 10 in the running of the backline and put his fellow backs through with pinpoint passes and kicks
13: Jonathan Davies – In my eyes the best outside centre of recent years, Davies was the clear selection for me at this position. Effective in attack and defence and with a cultured left boot, Wales and the Scarlets both benefit heavily from his involvement on the pitch
14: Tim Nanai-Williams – Nanai-Williams has played for Samoa at 10 but is much more dangerous further out, most notably on the wing or at 15. He is by no means the biggest player on the pitch, but he has a blend of pace and footwork that will punish any defender who commits to early
15: Stuart Hogg – Telusa Veainu was set to take the 15 spot until I realised that his last cap was in 2016! A quick switch at 9 freed up a spot for Stuart Hogg who was on the list for a long while previously. With ball in hand, Hogg is one of the most exciting and destructive attackers and his monster boot adds another string to his bow. Had he not got injured at the start of the tour, he would have likely been pushing to start the Lions Tests