I think we can all agree that the Southern Hemisphere has been the benchmark for quality in rugby over the years but in the past couple of years the gap seems to be getting much smaller, or is it? Well during the Autumn internationals both Ireland and England went unbeaten against Southern Hemisphere teams, Wales beat South Africa, Scotland beat Australia convincingly and pushed New Zealand all the way. This would suggest the North is edging ahead but there is much more to this than the last few results, today the lads in the office have had a chat about who would win in a one off match between the North and the South, there are no restrictions, if they are still playing they are available for selection. The only criteria is that they must qualify for a nation in that hemisphere, i.e C J stander would be a Northern Hemisphere player as he now only qualifies for Ireland and not South Africa. Here we go.
In my opinion the talent in the North has really flourished in the past 5 years or so, not only do we now have the big boys with all the grunt up front there are plenty of talented ball players around to compliment the brute force. So this is my pick of the Northern Hemispheres best.
1 Mako Vunipola, The best loosehead in the world, the first name on the team sheet for me.
2 Guilhem Guirado, Hard as nails and more than chips in with carries. Brings a bite to the front row.
3 Tadhg Furlong, Another easy choice, carries like a bull, hits like a train and much improved in the scrum.
4 Alun Wyn Jones, In as much for his leadership as anything but a great scrummager and absolute workhorse in the loose.
5 Maro Itoje, The ying to Jones’ yang, an incredible athlete that adds so much to the team in the loose.
6 Sean O’Brien, When fit O’Brien is one the worlds top players. The Tullow Tank lives up to his name by running over the opposition and leaving them in the dirt.
7 Hamish Watson, A hard one here but in my mind Watson is the only true 7 in the Northern Hemisphere international rugby. A proper fetcher with plenty of mongrel in him.
8 Billy Vunipola, I really struggled to leave out the legend that is Sergio Parisse here but big Billy will really compliment the other two in this barnstorming back row.
9 Conor Murray, The only Northern scrum half that could come close to Aaron Smith or Will Genia. A world class kicking game to put this monster pack in the right places.
10 Finn Russell, I’ve gone for an attacking fly half to ignite our back line, not the greatest goalkicker but our choice at 12 will alleviate that problem.
11 George North, Now I know he’s not in good form but form doesn’t count in this team. On his day North is one of the best and most brutal wingers in world rugby.
12 Owen Farrell, Probably not the most talented attacking 12 but his physicality, leadership, distribution and incredible kicking ability will be indispensable to the team.
13 Jonathan Davies, Had an incredible Lions series with his talent and smart lines really scaring the All Blacks. Looks a good partnership with Farrell.
14 Anthony Watson, All the gas and finishing ability of any world class wing. I’m a big fan of Watson and given the chances I think he would thrive.
15 Stuart Hogg, Only one choice here, scares any defence to death. Looked incredibly dangerous this Autumn and made the All Blacks look silly at times.
A few top candidates here, Warren Gatland, Joe Schmidt and Vern Cotter all being good choices but Jones is just magic, love it when he’s on your side and hate him when he’s on the opposition, Eddie is the perfect blend of wind up merchant and incredible rugby brain.
I realise this is just a Lions team with an added Frenchman but this is the team I would pick. I’m not up for picking players just to try and get their country a mention. With 5 English, 3 Irish, 3 Scottish, 3 Welshmen and 1 Frenchman it represents the state of each nations international teams quite well. There is a nice blend of good old fashioned brute force, athleticism, skill and pace and there’s more than enough to challenge any team.
We all know there are plenty of superstars south of the border, the tough part of this selection will be narrowing down the choices. Traditionally the Southern Hemisphere would dominate this encounter and given the players that have come from under the Equator you could see why. So here is the Gain Line Rugby pick of the Southern Hemisphere’s finest.
1 Tendai Mtawarira (The Beast) The area the Southern Hemisphere really does struggle, I racked my brain for an alternative, maybe Scott Sio, maybe Argentina’s Garcia Botta but I don’t think any of them offer the all round game The Beast does.
2 Dane Coles, No brainer, the blueprint all future hookers will follow, basically a class centre that can scrummage and throw into a lineout.
3 Tetaz Chapparo, When you need an anchor on the tighthead where do you look? Argentina, Chapparo is an absolute rock as the cornerstone of the scrum.
4 Eben Etzebeth, The man is a fucking behemoth. Would be the sides enforcer, they don’t come much bigger than the South African.
5 Brodie Retalick, It’s quite rare that a second row wins World Player of the World but that’s exactly what the New Zealander did. World class.
6 David Pocock, Strictly an openside but can easily fill in the number 6 shirt, stupidly strong over the ball and always puts a huge shift in defensively, a game changer.
7 Michael Hooper, Very different to Pocock, smaller, very fast and with skills that any international centre would love. A great foil to Hooper.
8 Kieran Read, Brawn on the blindside, pace on the open and now brains at 8. A smart operator, always seems to be in the right place at the right time and pops up for plenty of tries.
9 Aaron Smith, The best distributor in world rugby, puts the ball on a plate at every opportunity and still has the vision to ghost through those gaps.
10 Beauden Barrett, Yes I know this is a little All Black heavy but they are comfortably the best team in the Southern hemisphere. To be fair I would never leave Barrett out of any team. Best player on the planet.
11 Nemani Nadolo, Look, we all know he has his weaknesses defensively because he’s so big but what a weapon to have on the wing. At 21 stone he causes endless problems for the opposition.
12 Kurtley Beale, On his day he is an absolute nightmare to play against, rapid feet, great vision and an eye for a gap he can be the very best when he turns up.
13 Charles Piatau, To be honest I just wanted to get him in the team somewhere, will be the highest paid player in the world when he joins Bristol and with his performances for Ulster its easy to see why.
14 Reiko Ioane, You cant really keep him out can you? Big and strong, he just can’t stop scoring. Fancies a move to 13 but can’t see him moving any time soon as long as he keeps crossing the white line.
15 Israel Folau, Absolutely dominant under the high ball and has a knack of always beating the first man. Not got the best kicking game for a fullback but otherwise utter class.
In charge of the most successful side in history so who else could you pick? With his canny approach to mind games and his obvious talent for putting a world class side together, he could really get this side singing from the same hymn sheet.