Jonny Wilkinson picks his non-English World Cup Dream Team
Last Updated: 15/08/15 4:16pm
Jonny Wilkinson famously won the World Cup for England with a drop goal in 2003, but if he had to pick a non-English World Cup Dream Team, who would he choose?
We posed the question to him, and Jonny revealed one player per day as we build towards the World Cup warm ups.
How many of these players would have made your team?
15 Serge Blanco, 14 Christophe Dominici, 13 Brian O'Driscoll, 12 Tim Horan, 11 Jonah Lomu, 10 Carter, Larkham, Fox, Stransky, Lynagh, 9 Gary Armstrong, 8 Pat Lam, 7 Richie McCaw, 6 Francois Pienaar, 5 John Eales, 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Craig Dowd, 2 Keith Wood, 1 David Sole.
Full-back – Serge Blanco
Serge Blanco typified French rugby at its best with his audacity, ambition and flair. He was most famous for his scintillating counter-attacks, frequently running the ball out of seemingly impossible situations.
Blanco appeared in the inaugural 1987 World Cup where he scored the winning try in the nail biting 30-24 semi-final victory over Australia, before falling short to New Zealand in the next round.
Venezulean-born Blanco captained Les Bleus four years later, but their title hopes ended at the quarter-final stages, and retirement shortly followed for the full-back.
While explaining Blanco’s inclusion at full-back, Wikinson said: “It didn’t matter that he was in his own in-goal area or right by your line, you knew that this guy was probably going to score or if not he was going to do everything it took to make sure someone else did”
Right wing – Christophe Dominici
The man chosen to take the right wing berth of the dream team is Frenchman Christophe Dominici.
“His opportunism, his flair, his game reading, his sheer explosivity to really change a game is something that sticks in my memory” said Wilkinson.
Dominci appeared in three World Cups for his country in 1999, 2003 and 2007, scoring eight tries over that time.
The winger’s finest moment came in the 1999 tournament, where his pace caught the eye, particularly in France’s shock semi-final win over firm favourites New Zealand, during which he sliced through the New Zealand defence to score.
Outside centre - Brian O'Driscoll
A veteran of four World Cups, Brian O’Driscoll made a name for himself on the World Stage for his unwavering consistency in defence and dazzling skills in attack.
O’Driscoll is the all-time Irish try scorer and has led his country more times than any other player.
In 2011, Ireland were led by O’Driscoll to their highest placing of the tournament, entering their quarter-final with four wins from four in the pool stages.
Speaking about the four-time British and Irish Lions tourist, Wilkinson said: “The ability to change the game in a second, a heartbeat, with his movement, with his skill, his game reading but also his leadership.”
Inside Centre – Tim Horan
At inside centre is a man described by Wilkinson as: “A guy that knew how to win, knew how to play the game. His body language suggested he didn’t really know how to fail or what mistakes were, what under performance was.”
Tim Horan won 80 caps for Australia over an 11-year career, scoring 30 tries and winning the Webb Ellis trophy on two occasions - 1991 and 1999.
He made his World Cup debut in the 1991 tournament where he scored four tries as the Wallabies tasted success on the world stage for the first time.
However, it was at the 1999 tournament when Horan truly shone, scoring two tries, including the fastest of the tournament, after just 92 seconds of the opening game against Romania.
His eye-catching performances not only helped his team gain the title of World Champions, but personal accolades too, as Horan was named the Player of the Tournament.
Left Wing - Jonah Lomu
One of the most recognisable characters in World Rugby and a man who sparked fear in the eyes of opposition defences.
Jonah Lomu burst on to the scene at the 1995 with his eye catching performances and devastating runs, most recognisably against England in the 1995 tournament, where he steamrollered his way to 4 tries.
Lomu scored seven tries during the 1995 World Cup and added a further eight in 1999, making him the top try scorer of the tournament.
Wilkinson said: “The guy is quite a remarkable rugby legend and deserves to be so. No Rugby World cup team would be complete without him.”
Fly Half – Lynagh, Carter, Larkham, Stransky, Fox
“This is the key position for any World Cup winning team. You need guys that are going to lead and continue to do so right to the final seconds when it gets very, very tough” said Wilkinson.
The five individuals causing the deliberations had a somewhat Southern Hemisphere feel to them and came in the form of Australia’s Michael Lynagh and Stephen Larkham, New Zealand’s Dan Carter and Grant Fox and Joel Stransky representing South Africa.
The group boasts four Rugby World Cup winners, and between them the five have amassed 553 points.
Each individual played their part in their countries’ successes and all possessed the qualities to take the pivotal spot in the team.
Scrum-half – Gary Armstrong
It was a Scotsman that got the nod from Wilkinson at scrum-half in his dream team.
Former Newcastle Falcons player Gary Armstrong represented his country 51 times over eleven years, making his debut in Scotand’s 31-12 defeat at the hands of Australia at Murraryfield.
Armstrong went on to be named Scotland captain and led his side to the 1999 Five Nations title.
The scrum-half appeared at the 1991, 1995 and 1999 World Cups, scoring two tries in nine games. However, his greatest success at the tournament undoubtedly came when he lead his side to the semi-finals in 1991.
Wilkinson said: “The sheer aggression and resilience of the guy, his sheer character meant that anything, any ball that wasn’t good enough to go out to the number ten was never going to go out to the number ten. He would deal with everything himself and that meant control of the game”
No 8 – Pat Lam
Despite being capped for the All Blacks in 1992 in a non-test game against Sydney, it was in the blue of Samoa in which Lam made his impact on the international stage.
The former Newcastle Falcons and Northampton Saints No 8 made his international debut for Samoa in his country’s famous 16-13 upset of Wales in 1999.
In total Lam played in three World Cups and helped Samoa to reach the quarter-final stages in both the 1991 and 1995 tournaments, exceeding expectations in the process.
It was Lam’s uniqueness that gained him his place in Wilkinson’s dream team.
Talking about his former teammate he said: “Pat Lam was one of the most creative, instinctive players as well as bringing his own brand of leadership and the way he saw the game.”
No 7 Flanker – Richie McCaw
New Zealand’s talismanic captain Richie McCaw led his country to World Cup glory in 2011.
Despite the All Blacks’ dominance on the world stage and their permanent presence in the knock-out stages of the World Cup, New Zealand had failed to win the competition since 1987.
With pressure mounting on three-time IRB world player of the year McCaw and his side, the World Cup tournament reached home soil in 2011.
Finishing second best was no longer an option and in front of a hoard of passionate fans McCaw guided his men to a nail-biting 7-6 victory over France, cementing his place in history.
“A guy that has stood the test of time and has remained at the best, the highest level of the game for that time” said Wilkinson.
No 6 Flanker – Francois Pienaar
An iconic figure in the sport of Rugby, Francois Pienaar was the victorious captain in a World Cup with a strong political underlay.
The image of Pienaar receiving the Webb Ellis trophy from Nelson Mandela following their 1995 World Cup triumph is an image that propelled the flanker to become a symbol of South Africa’s revival on the world’s sporting stage as well as one of the all-time great Springboks.
Despite his ruthless and relentless approach to the all-round game and his 100% win record in the tournament, it was his well-documented leadership skills that cemented his place in the team for Wilkinson.
He said: “Approaching a World Cup in our own country I think people can understand the pressure on the home team and to think about the pressure on the home captain - think about what this guy must have been going through in South Africa at that time. To see how he dealt with it I think is a lesson to all of us”.
No 5 Lock – John Eales
A two-times World Cup winner. Eales lead his side to glory in 1999 after defeating France 35-12 at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff.
The Brisbane born lock made 15 appearances in the tournament, amassing 13 points, all of which came from his boot, a remarkable feat for a forward.
Eales was described by Wilkinson as “intelligent, another massive leader, gets himself around the park and brings another angle of goal kicking”.
Following his World Cup triumph, Eales was awarded the Order of Australia for his services to the community and rugby.
No 4 Lock – Bakkies Botha
“Someone incredibly fierce but very very down to earth” and “at times he’s exactly what a team needs,” according to Wilkinson.
Bakkies Botha made his World Cup debut in 2003, scoring three tries for South Africa.
His second Rugby World Cup appearance followed in 2007 where he played a pivotal role in the Springboks' charge to the sport's biggest prize.
Botha struck up a formidable partnership with Victor Matfield, with the pair appearing together on 46 occasions. Their close to telepathic understanding of each other made them a key cog in an unstoppable South African side during their 2007 success in France.
Tighthead prop – Craig Dowd
Dowd had a reputation as a versatile and formidable prop during his playing days, winning 60 caps between 1993 and 2000.
By the 1995 Rugby World Cup, Dowd has established himself in the All Blacks side, becoming an ever present cornerstone of their pack, missing only the quarter-final victory over Scotland during their 1995 campaign.
Dowd boasts an impressive number of wins in World Cups, losing just three games, however one of these loses came against neighbours Australia, denying Dowd and his teammates the taste of World Cup glory.
Wilkinson said: “As with all tight heads what you want is someone who doesn’t take no for an answer, someone who is maybe a little quieter but someone you just don’t mess with”.
Hooker – Keith Wood
“You need someone here in this position who can bring you the set piece control but at the same time I think they need to be aggressive, be someone that runs hard, someone that doesn’t stop, never gives up,” said Wilkinson of Wood.
Wood made ten world cup appearances for his country over three tournaments, racking up five tries in the process.
His first World Cup appearance came against Japan in Bloemfontein during the 1995 World Cup, while Ireland's quarter-final loss to France in the 2003 World Cup marked the veteran's retirement from the game.
The former IRB player of the year’s finest World Cup moment undoubtedly coming against USA in 1999 in which he crossed the line on four occasions.
Loosehead Prop – David Sole
Scottish loosehead prop David Sole appeared in both the 1987 and 1991 World Cups.
Sole’s Scotland team made it to the semi-final stage in 1991, their best performance at a World Cup to date, before coming unstuck to old rivals England on their home soil.
Despite his position in the dark depths of the front row he was seen by Wilkinson as “someone who inspired and brought energy to the game” with impact.
Sole scored three tries for Scotland, and played three tests for the British and Irish Lions during the 1989 tour to Australia.