Monday 15 October 2018

WATCH: Luke Fitzgerald and Alan Quinlan pick their combined Leinster/Munster team of the professional era

Ronan O'Gara, Munster, brushes off Jonathan Sexton, Leinster.
Ronan O'Gara, Munster, brushes off Jonathan Sexton, Leinster.

Alan Quinlan and Luke Fitzgerald have picked their combined Munster and Leinster teams of the professional era .

The team they decided on includes a few surprises. No surprise however, it took some debate to decide on an outhalf.

Fitzgerald, host Independent.ie's Rugby Podcats The Left Wing, was joined by Irish Independent columnists Quinlan to make the big calls in association with Leinster's health & wellness partner, Laya Healthcare.

The front five were the only players on the field that Quinlan and Fitzgerald could agree on without debate. Cian Healy and Jerry Flannery are value for their place while surprisingly, John Hayes grabs the number three shirt ahead of Tadhg Furlong. The Bull gets the nod for his longevity but Fitzgerald said that Furlong is in the middle of "changing the game" and Quinlan admitted that "he is the best in the world".

In the second row, there could be no arguments over Paul O'Connell's selection, while unexpectedly Fitzgerald put up no fight against Donncha O'Callaghan who grabs the other spot ahead of the man who captained Leinster to three Heineken Cups and coached them to one, Leo Cullen.

The back row was a contentious issue. Sean O'Brien was agreed upon for blind side flanker with David Wallace getting the nod from both Quinlan and Fitzgerald at seven.  When it came to number 8, they were at loggerheads. Quinlan wanted Anthony Foley, Fitzgerald wanted Jamie Heaslip. Eventually, for his superior footballing ability Heaslip was chosen.

There are very few people who would argue the scrum half position. Quinlan and Fitzgerald quickly decided Conor Murray was the man for number nine. Then came outhalf…

You won't find many Leinster supporters who would have Ronan O'Gara ahead of Johnny Sexton and likewise, and probably to a greater extent, there are almost no Munstermen who would consider anyone but ROG for the number ten jersey.

Both men have seen great days in their respective club jerseys and the Irish Jersey alike. While ROG's points records and caps probably won't be caught, Sexton has the edge in terms of physicality and defensive ability. Alan Quinlan wouldn't look past O'Gara while Fitzgerald initially had Sexton in his team. After some deliberation however, Fitzgerald conceded that ROG is deserving of his spot as Ireland's best outhalf of the professional era.

"I’m happy to go with ROG, I loved playing with ROG myself so we'll go with ROG," he said.

Less debate was needed for the rest of the backs. Keith Earls, who recently won Irish Players' Player of the Year, was a shoe in for Fitzgerald's position on the left wing.

Arguably the best centre partnership of all time, Gordon D'Arcy was joined in the team by Ireland's greatest ever player, Brian O'Driscoll.

To complete the team, the former Irish internationals, decided on two foreign imports. On the right wing, Munster's Doug Howlett. With his try scoring records, both for Munster and internationally for New Zealand he was a must.

Completing the lineup at fullback, after Quinlan conceded his choice of Rob Kearney, Isa Nacewa makes the cut. Contrasting with Howlett's international prowess, Nacewa has only one appearance under his belt for Fiji. His performances for Leinster however, have been second to none in the fullback position. So good is Nacewa that Fitzgerald described him as Ireland's "the best ever foreign import".

Luke Fitzgerald and Alan Quinlan's combined Leinster/Munster team of the professional era:

Cian Healy

Jerry Flannery

John Hayes

Donncha O’Callaghan

Paul O’Connell

Sean O’Brien

David Wallace

Jamie Heaslip

Conor Murray

Ronan O’Gara

Keith Earls

Gordon D’Arcy

Brian O’Driscoll

Doug Howlett

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