Following on from yesterday’s alternate team, here’s Sportsfreak’s take on New Zealand’s greatest ever RWC team. There’s only one qualifier – form at RWC’s is the only consideration. This is why one of NZ’s greatest ever Fullbacks (Christian Cullen) and Wingers (Jeff Wilson) don’t come into consideration as they never really delivered at a RWC while others (eg John Drake) do.
15. John Gallagher – “Kipper” revolutionised Fullback play in 1987 and is our greatest ever RWC Fullback. Glen Osborne (1995) and Israel Dagg (who was outstanding in 2011) are highly commended.
14. JK – Along with Michael Jones and Jonah – our greatest RWC All Blacks.
13. Frank Bunce – as everyone knows, the All Blacks and the Number 13 don’t mix well at RWC’s. Bunce’s battle with Japie Mulder in the 1995 Final was one of the great match-ups in RWC history. Joe Stanley was a personal favourite of ours (and got a winners medal which eluded Bunce) but Bunces better all round game in 1995 gets him over the line.
12. Maa Nonu. Held up the All Black backline in 2011 despite the ongoing changes in the number 10 jersey that occurred throughout the tournament. Semi-final game vs the Wallabies one of his best games in Black ever. Absolutely critical this time around too.
11. Jonah. That is all.
10. Grant Fox. Wouldn’t survive in the modern game as his incessant use of the up-and-under would be shut down, along with his failure to attack the line, but back in 1987 his goal-kicking and use of the conservative rules in place at the time which promoted kicking won out supreme.
9. Graham Bachop. The best Halfback at the 1995 tournament (where he was simply outstanding). Made Fox and especially Mehrtens who was green in 95 look better than they were at times. Piri Weepu was outstanding in 2011 until the final so misses out.
8. Zinny. Gets in ahead of Buck due to the fact he was a better all-round player despite the lack of a winners medal that Buck got (remembering Shelford shouldn’t have played in the 1987 Final).
7. Michael Jones. The. Greatest. Ever. Ritchie needs a second medal to take this mantle.
6. Alan Whetton. One of our most underrated RWC players who held the 1991 team together off the field (when things had really disintegrated) and his try scoring exploits in 1987 were well documented.
5. Brad Thorn. A winner in every aspect of the game and proved this in 2011.
4. Murray Pierce. Played in one RWC and got a winners medal. The 1987 side had plenty of players who ran around in the loose with ball in hand (Garry Whetton, Steve McDowell et al) but this was only due to the graft in the tight and lineout work of the big Wellington Policeman.
3. John Drake. Supremely skilled and an unlikely looking Prop who was highly educated and intelligent, Drakey was the first member of the 1987 side to pass away. Sadly missed (especially for his comments as a colour guy for Sky where these skills appear to be sadly lacking these days).
2. Sean Fitzpatrick. Not everyone’s Cup-of-tea, Fitzy modernised the Hooking position with his lineout accuracy, and ability in the loose with ball in hand. One weakness was captaincy and an inability to change tactics during a game (this really became evident during the 1995 final) but a great RWC All Black none-the-less.
1. Olo Brown. Arguably New Zealand’s greatest Tighthead Prop and certainly our best RWC one.