Saturday 21 October 2017

Ireland-New Zealand combined XV: We pick the best side from the world's top two teams

New Zealand's Ryan Crotty evades Conor Murray to score his last-gasp try at the Aviva Stadium in 2013
New Zealand's Ryan Crotty evades Conor Murray to score his last-gasp try at the Aviva Stadium in 2013

Michael Verney

The Irish rugby team are currently on the crest of a wave and have jumped to number two in the world rankings following their 35-21 win over Wales in the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.

Buoyed by their Six Nations success, Joe Schmidt's all-conquering side have attained Ireland's highest-ever ranking with only the mighty All Blacks ahead of them.

With the Rugby World Cup just over a month away and lofty notions of a dream final against Steve Hansen's 2011 Web Ellis Cup winners on the brain, we set about predicting how many Irish players would make the New Zealand side.

Backs

15. Rob Kearney (Ireland)

One of the toughest selection calls with two dynamic full-backs available but with worriers over the fitness of Israel Dagg the smart call is Kearney, who has consistently excelled at the highest level throughout a glittering international and club career.

kearney.jpg
Ireland's Rob Kearney

14. Tommy Bowe (Ireland)

Kearney is joined by Irish team mate Bowe in the backline. While the Ulster winger might not be seen to best effect under Joe Schmidt's kicking game, his electrifying pace and killer instinct in the opposition 22 secure a place.

973756_2.jpg
Tommy Bowe, Ireland, is tackled by Alun Wyn Jones

13. Conrad Smith (New Zealand)

Smith has formed one of the most successful centre partnerships in international rugby with Ma'a Nonu and the Hurricanes' number 13 offers an attacking spark which often sets his team mates alight. A tremendous leader.

Wales-NZ_app5.jpg
Conrad Smith of the All Blacks celebrates at the end of the match during the International match between Wales and the New Zealand All Blacks at the Millennium Stadium

12. Ma'a Nonu (New Zealand)

Robbie Henshaw is one of the most exciting prospects in world rugby but Nonu has nearly 100 caps in the famous black shirt and the Hurricanes' inside centre offers a huge attacking threat and an uncanny ability to break the gain line.

rugbychampionship.jpg
Ma'a Nonu of New Zealand tackles Israel Folau of Australia during The Rugby Championship match between the New Zealand All Blacks and the Australian Wallabies at Forsyth Barr Stadium last year. The Wallabies stand in the way of an 18th straight win for the All Blacks which would set a new world record. Photo credit: Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images

11. Julian Savea (New Zealand)

Despite being just 25-years-old and a relative rookie at senior international level, the Hurricanes' winger has already accumulated 150 points and has the ability to create and score at will. Savea is one of the most lethal attacking weapons in world rugby.

dc5b168d89a272c53d5f9ff20ecade80.jpg
Julian Savea, New Zealand, is tackled by Sean OBrien, Ireland. Guinness Series International, Ireland v New Zealand, Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road, Dublin.

10. Jonathan Sexton (Ireland)

Four years ago this would have been a completely different debate but with Dan Carter's growing years and injury-prone body, Sexton nails down the out-half spot on the back of a string of game-winning performances in this year's Six Nations.

GettyImages1467150754.jpg
Ireland fly half Jonathan Sexton kicks a penalty watched by Paul O' Connell during the RBS Six Nations match between Scotland and Ireland at Murrayfield

9. Conor Murray (Ireland)

It's only right that Sexton should be joined by his partner in crime Murray, who has thrived at the highest level since arriving at the eleventh hour for the 2011 tournament. Adds tactical nous, an accurate boot and an array of passes in the crucial scrum-half spot.

938947.jpg
While Conor Murray admitted the prospect of a Grand Slam is a tantalising prospect, he says the squad will do their best not to get carried away.

Forwards:

1. Cian Healy (Ireland)

A bitterly close battle between Healy and the vastly-experienced Tony Woodcock but the Leinster loosehead prop narrowly makes the cut due to his ability to make the hard yards when big games are in the melting pot.

PANews_P-d5b6a43d-9c8b-40b8-bcac-236325c347f1_I1.jpg
Cian Healy, left, is still battling neck trouble as Ireland approach their World Cup warm-up matches

2. Keven Mealamu (New Zealand)

The Blues hooker continues to defy his age and even at 36, Mealamu is one of the most consistent players in the game with his deadly-accurate lineout throwing and strong scrummaging beating Rory Best for the number two jersey.

NZ 2.jpg
(L-R) Ben Franks, Keven Mealamu and Joe Moody of the All Blacks pack down for a scrum. Photo credit: Phil Walter/Getty Images

3. Owen Franks (New Zealand)

Franks, younger brother of fellow All Black Ben, beats Mike Ross for the front row spot. The Crusaders' tighthead prop has almost been an ever-present since his senior debut in 2009 and continues to improve each season.

NZ.jpg
Englands Manu Tuilagi, center, attempts to bust the tackle of New Zealands Owen Franks, left, and Richie McCaw

4. Paul O'Connell (Ireland)

The man simply bleeds green and his extraordinary performances in this year's Six Nations deservedly earned him the player of the tournament award. What an appropriate sendoff a World Cup medal would be for the Limerick giant.

ire10.jpg
14 July 2015; Ireland's Paul O'Connell during squad training. Sportsground, Galway. Picture credit: Seb Daly / SPORTSFILE

5. Brodie Retallick (New Zealand)

The thoughts of a O'Connell/Retallick second row partnership would excite even the most sedate rugby follower. The 2014 World Player of the Year has quickly developed into a potent attacking threat and a dominant aerial force.

19a26c4b9fea503526d6d192b1e4bbb8.jpg
Paul OConnell, Ireland, goes for the ball in a lineout against Brodie Retallick, New Zealand.

6. Jerome Kaino (New Zealand)

Kaino's vast experience sees off Peter O'Mahony's growing talent. The Blues' blindside flanker played in almost every minute of their last World Cup and is one of the most devastating forwards in world rugby.

Wales-NZ_app2.jpg
Jerome Kaino (R) of the All Blacks scores his sides second try as Leigh Halfpenny (L) of Wales challenges during the International match between Wales and New Zealand at the Millennium Stadium

7. Richie McCaw (New Zealand)

McCaw is heartbeat of the New Zealand and a symbol of national pride having battled through the 2011 campaign despite crippling injury. He led his side to their first World Cup success in 24 years and his impending retirement will leave a massive void.

nz1.jpg
New Zealand's flanker and Captain Richie McCaw is tackled during the test match between South Africa and New Zealand

8. Kieran Read (New Zealand)

Another selection headache but the Crusaders' number 8 shades his battle with Jamie Heaslip. Read's consistent brilliance and outstanding displays of leadership make him a certainty on every All Black team sheet.

read.jpg
New Zealand All Blacks' Kieran Read (L) is tackled by Australian Wallabies' Michael Hooper (7) during their Bledisloe Cup rugby match in Sydney August 8, 2015. REUTERS/David Gray TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Online Editors

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport