Arguments about rugby are as old as the game itself.

It is likely that, after England lost the very first international to Scotland in 1871, there were heated debates in the press, and the limited number of clubhouses that existed back then, about who should replace Frederick Stokes of Blackheath as captain.

In that spirit, here is some ammunition for you to start a heated discussion about in your own clubhouse bar.

Imagine you are putting a hypothetical team together for a one-off match against an unknown opponent. Who would be your starting front eight?

Before you get started, take a look at our choices for the greatest pack of the modern era.

Setting the criteria

Rather than jump straight in and choose our front eight, we were restricted by some parameters for the choices.

These boiled down to three key criteria:

  • Players had to have played the bulk or all of their career since the advent of professionalism in 1995
  • Anyone picked had to have already retired
  • To really complicate matters, we restricted ourselves to no more than one player from each nation.

As you can probably imagine, that final bullet point created the most problems! For example, it is probably not a stretch to suggest that the first name on your list is going to be All Blacks legend, Richie McCaw. So, no room then for Tony Woodcock, Kieran Read, or Brad Thorn.

Likewise, it was impossible to leave out Martin Johnson, but that meant no place for Phil Vickery, or Lawrence Dallaglio.

Choosing a front row

Os du Randt was an obvious choice at loose head, although there was a twinge of regret as it meant no place for his fellow South African, Victor Matfield, in the second row.

“The Ox” was a massive presence for South Africa in his career, a tenure that was bookended by two World Cup winning medals in 1995 and 2007.

Alongside du Randt in the front row is Mario Ledesma. The rise of Argentina from outsiders to a place at the top table of international rugby has been driven by the likes of Ledesma and his Puma colleague, Marcus Ayerza.

Ledesma anchored the Argentinian pack for 15 years and was virtually ever-present throughout that period.

The tradition for “best ever” sides like this is for them to be notionally pitted against an all-universe team of behemoths. The chances are that their front row will all be huge monsters. To counter that, you need a tight head well-versed in the dark arts, who can cause mayhem in the scrum.

Adam Jones proved himself the master at doing this throughout a lengthy career that included over 100 international appearances and a key role on two Lions tours.

Filling the two remaining places in the back row

As you have read, Richie McCaw was the clear first choice to be inked onto the team sheet at openside flanker. It is hard to argue with such a dominant career that covered 15 years and 148 internationals, with 110 of them as skipper. It has been suggested that he managed to referee most of those games too!

On the other side of the scrum, the choice for the blindside came down to Thierry Dusautoir or David Pocock. After a lengthy argument, the Frenchman got the nod.

One of the key factors was his extraordinary performance in the 2011 World Cup final, when he made 38 tackles and often seemed to be taking on the All Blacks single-handed. In a one-off game, we are looking for one-off performances, and his game that day was one of the best ever.

Many of the obvious candidates for number eight came from countries with a representative already selected. As you have read, Lawrence Dallaglio and Kieran Read could not be considered. Handily though, we had not chosen anyone from Italy, so Sergio Parisse was an obvious and very worthy choice.

It is a statistical quirk of the game that someone as good as him has been on the losing side in more internationals than any other player. However, he was a marvellous performer for both club and country throughout his long career, and very much justifies his place.

A second row partner for Martin Johnson

Martin Johnson was a clear and obvious choice for our eight. As well as being one of the best second row forwards ever, he was also an absolutely inspirational leader of both England and the British Lions.

His second row partner was not such a straightforward choice, but Paul O’Connell got the nod because of his longevity, strength, and influence.

Because it is impossible to pick who should be pack leader out of McCaw and Johnson, it is easiest to say neither of them and go with O’Connell.

The final line up and bench players

Given the importance these days of the “impact” players or “finishers” coming off the bench, and the fact you will have noticed that there are no Australian or Scottish players in the side, we have picked three bench players to tick both of those boxes.

Here is our final line up:

  1. Os du Randt
  2. Mario Ledesma
  3. Adam Jones
  4. Martin Johnson
  5. Paul O’Connell
  6. Thierry Dusautoir
  7. Richie McCaw
  8. Sergio Parisse

Replacements: Tom Smith, David Pocock, and Mamuka Gorgodze from Georgia.

Next month, you can read our choices for the back division, too.

Get in touch

When it comes to picking your own pack, your choices are personal to you. However, from a financial planning perspective, choices can be complex, and mistakes can be costly. That is where we can help.

Email or call 01625 529 499 for more information.