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The most complete team in World Cup history?
« on: September 05, 2007, 03:17:59 AM »

The most complete team in World Cup history?
(Rugby News Service) Friday 24 August 2007

 David Kirk: Captain of the most complete World Cup winning team?

Four nations have lifted the Webb Ellis Cup to date in New Zealand, Australia (twice), South Africa and England, but which of the World Cup winning teams could be described as the most complete?

That was the question put to some of the greatest players to have graced the tournament in its 20-year history when VISA, the Worldwide Partner of RWC 2007, brought them together for a few days of discussion in Paris.

Would it be the All Blacks of 1987, the Wallabies in 1991 or perhaps 1999, the Springboks of 1995 or, more recently, the England team that became the first northern hemisphere champions four years ago?

For Philippe Sella, the most capped French player of all time until earlier this month when surpassed by Fabien Pelous, it was the first Australian winners who got his vote.

“Maybe it is the ’91 team of Australia, when they beat England at Twickenham because that team as well was very good, the English team. They [Australia] had a lot of good players,” Sella recalled.

Something special

John Eales played in both of Australia’s successes, captaining them to victory in 1999, so is perfectly qualified to answer the question whether the 1991 Wallabies were more complete than their successors eight years later?

“I think if you looked at the players that were in both, by the time the second World Cup came round we were better players than we were in the first,” admitted Eales.

“But if you looked at the team that was further away from all the opposition at the time that they won, it would have been Zinzan’s team in 1987. They were well and truly the best team in the world for a few years.”

Martin Johnson, England’s victorious captain in 2003, added: “They took the game to a new level then. I remember as a schoolboy watching that, that was a pretty special team.”

What then of the Springboks who won the World Cup on home soil amid all the emotional scenes in 1995, how did they compare to the inaugural champions from New Zealand?

“I can’t help thinking that if the All Blacks had won that final in ’95, would we not be comparing that team of ’95 to that team of ’87?” pondered Joel Stransky, whose extra time drop goal won that final, to former All Black Zinzan Brooke.

A different level
“That team of All Blacks on paper in ’95 was an incredible side and you had the likes of Lomu, who was just an incredibly special player, you had Josh Kronfeld, you had yourself, the forwards, you had half backs. It was really a complete side.

“I would go with the ’95 All Blacks, and I think for the simple reason they had a special team and they had the match breaker of all match breakers in their team.”

Stransky, though, was in the minority with Johnson and Eales united in their belief that the All Blacks of 1987 with the likes of John Kirwan, Buck Shelford, Michael Jones, Sean Fitzpatrick, Grant Fox, David Kirk et al deserve the mantle.

“I mean the ’87 All Blacks took the game to a new level and they were so far ahead of the rest of the field it would be difficult to argue against the ’87 All Blacks,” admitted Johnson.

Eales added: “I think you’ve got to go on who created the biggest gap between the other teams in the world and so that’s why I’d go for the ’87 All Black team.”

“I totally agree with him,” added Brooke, a member of that All Black team.

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