NZ Dream Team

New Zealand – Rugby World Cup Dream Team and 31-Player Squad

Based on performances in the first 7 World Cups, here is a dream New Zealand squad, comprising a starting 15, a second 15, and one extra player to make up the 31. It is hard enough to select a squad of 31 from current players, the more so to pare down to 31 from a history of 136 World Cup performers, so inevitably this selection will spark some debate and outright disagreement.

New Zealand - RWC Dream Team and Squad

 Starting XV SquadsGamesStartSub OnTriesConvPenDropPointsWinner
1PropTony Woodcock211101100051
2HookerSean Fitzpatrick317170100051
3PropSteve McDowell211110100051
4LockBrad Thorn2141043000151
5LockGary Whetton212120000001
6FlankerMichael Jones27703000151
7FlankerRichie McCaw3161333000151
8Number 8Zinzan Brooke310100300118
9Scrum-halfDavid Kirk16605000251
10Fly-halfAndrew Mehrtens210100125333163
11WingJonah Lomu2111101500075
12CentreAaron Mauger2761400123
13CentreConrad Smith29814000201
14WingJohn Kirwan2111107000351
15FullbackMils Muliaina312120900045
PropCraig Dowd21110110005
HookerKeven Mealamu3141222000101
PropRichard Loe3109110005
LockAli Williams3161153000150.5
LockIan Jones31312100000
FlankerAlan Whetton2111105000251
FlankerJosh Kronfeld210100400020
Number 8Wayne Shelford15502000101
Scrum-halfJustin Marshall2109110005
Fly-halfGrant Fox2101000373111701
WingJoe Rokocoko28801100055
CentreJoe Stanley16603000151
CentreMa’a Nonu29724000201
WingDoug Howlett210821300065
FullbackJeff Wilson211110900045
ExtraDan Carter3108233571109

Let’s start at the coal face with the front rows. It is compelling to look first towards forwards who have contributed to winning the World Cup; often tight and tense matches, it is upfront where these games are won and lost. So I have gone for Woodcock, Fitzpatrick, and McDowell, all winners, and Woodcock can even boast the sole try in the 2011 final. Fitzpatrick was a young gun in1987 replacing the injured Andy Dalton, but went on to captain in subsequent years and, with 17, has played the most matches in the World Cup of any All Black. The backup is impressive too; Dowd and Loe add significant enforcement capability, if any were ever to be needed, and through gritted teeth I close out the front row squad members with Mealamu. I would much rather select Andrew Hore, but the stats don’t support this.

Thorn and Gary Whetton may not be everyone’s choice at Lock, but both have played a lot of World Cup rugby. Thorn is also a winner and has contributed tries; Whetton skippered the side in 1991 as well as winning in 1987. As backup I have gone for Ian Jones and Ali Williams.

A back row of Jones, McCaw, and Brooke needs no apology; the first two being World Cup winners and Zinzan even having that semi-final drop goal on his CV. On the bench, there is Alan Whetton, with an impressive 5 tries, Josh Kronfeld who was quite brilliant in 1995, always appearing on Lomu’s shoulder near the try line, and at number 8, the ultimate hard man in Buck Shelford, who unquestionably landed the best punch in World Cup history in Huw Richards of Wales in the 1987 semi-final. Amazingly, it went unsanctioned.

On to the little guys! Kirk was not only a winning captain, but contributed a crazy 5 tries in 6 matches, and backed up by Marshall who edged Bachop for selection. At 10, there are really three going for two places, and it is impossible to leave out either Mehrtens or Fox on their stats. Mehrtens starts on the basis have a better running game. This means Carter misses out.

In the centres it was harder to find stand out performers. I have gone for two ball players in Mauger and Conrad Smith, supported by Nonu and Smokin’ Joe Stanley from the bench, which just leaves the back three.

On the left, it has to be Lomu, the World Cup’s overall top try scorer, and partnered with another powerful unit in Kirwan on the right. And at fullback Muliaina has a peerless record. The supporting trio is also pretty frightening, with tries galore from Howlett, Rokocoko, and Wilson.

This leaves one final slot in the squad, and I have to go for Carter. He offers so much and his World Cup has been badly and unluckily affected by injury; Dan’s the man.

My squad skipper is Sean Fitzpatrick, and for coach I am going back to 1987 and Brian Lochore, really the only coach not to be tarred with some kind of failure, presiding over a World Cup winning side who were head and shoulders above everyone else that year.