Very rarely do the Wallabies and All Blacks join forces on the rugby field, but that’s exactly what is in the pipeline for later on this year according to Rob Clarke.
The interim Rugby Australia chief executive told the Daily Telegraph in a report released yesterday that his organisation has been in talks with New Zealand Rugby about forming a composite Anzac XV to take on the Wallabies at the end of the year.
“We are in deep discussions with our Kiwi friends and they have the same challenges and are looking for content and so I am hopeful we can get to four, and possibly some trials games around that as well,” Clarke told the Telegraph.
“If we can’t get a full TRC (Rugby Championship) because of the travel restrictions then we are looking at other things that we could do, a Wallabies versus Anzac invitation team. Something to be creative.”
Only once has such a side taken to the field in the past, with 12 Australians and three Kiwis combining to take on the British and Irish Lions in 1989.
Fast forward more than 30 years later, and the makeup of an Anzac XV would look vastly different to the side that was defeated 19-15 by the Lions.
A significant change in power Down Under has seen the All Blacks dominate the Wallabies for the better part of two decades, with the Australians enduring an 18-year Bledisloe Cup drought while the New Zealanders have since claimed two World Cups.
A heavy Kiwi presence would therefore be expected if the Anzac XV were to be revived in the coming months, especially if their opponent for the one-off match is a Wallabies team stripped of their marquee players.
But who exactly would make the cut from the two Australasian nations if the combined side was to picked tomorrow? Here is our selection below:
1. Joe Moody (New Zealand)
A veteran of 46 tests, Joe Moody has slowly but surely established himself as key cog in the All Blacks’ front row since the retirement of Tony Woodcock five years ago.
Probably the most damaging New Zealand prop with ball in hand, the 31-year-old is equally adept at the set piece, making him the suitable choice for the No. 1 jersey in an Anzac XV.
2. Codie Taylor (New Zealand)
Now entrenched as New Zealand’s premier rake, there are few contenders throughout Australasia that could challenge Codie Taylor for a place in an Anzac side.
A strong lineout thrower who has a proven ability to make a nuisance of himself in general play and at the breakdown, the 50-test star’s only realistic competition for a place in this side would be experienced compatriot Dane Coles.
Taylor would likely find himself marking up against incumbent Wallabies hooker Folau Fainga’a, who has earned a reputation as a try-scoring machine from the rolling maul while forming one-third of an impressive Brumbies front row.
3. Taniela Tupou (Australia)
There aren’t many Australian forwards who warrant selection over their New Zealand counterparts in this squad, but there’s little doubt that Taniela Tupou’s blockbusting exploits can be matched by anyone on the eastern side of the Tasman Sea.
The Tongan Thor is renowned for his top-end pace (by prop standards) and brutal physicality when on attack, and his 132kg frame would certainly cause headaches for the Wallabies defence.
Tupou’s absence from Dave Rennie’s side would likely be filled by Brumbies skipper Allan Alaalatoa, whose scrummaging prowess and leadership qualities would give the Wallabies some much-needed stability and experience.
4. Scott Barrett (New Zealand)
Newly-instated Crusaders captain Scott Barrett has plenty of quality about him in all aspects of the game, to the point where he will be challenging for a starting spot in the All Blacks throughout the next World Cup cycle.
With Brodie Retallick out of the picture as his two-year sabbatical with the Kobelco Steelers in Japan continues, Barrett will surely be the next port of call for both New Zealand and the Anzac XV.
There are few alternatives in Australia for the lock spot, with the likes of Rory Arnold and Adam Coleman having departed to take up contracts overseas, while Izack Rodda has had his deal with the Reds and Rugby Australia terminated.
5. Sam Whitelock (New Zealand)
Similarly to his Super Rugby and international teammate Barrett, Sam Whitelock stands as the obvious choice to pack down in the second row.
With 117 tests under his belt, the three-time Super Rugby champion has a plethora of experience to boot, and while it could be argued he’s becoming a shadow of his former self as he enters the twilight of his career, Australia can’t offer any better candidates.
Unless Rennie is willing to bank on some fresh, uncapped talent to bolster his options at lock, Barrett and Whitelock’s opposites could well consist of players such as Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Rob Simmons, Matt Philip and or Ned Hanigan.
6. Ardie Savea (New Zealand)
A 2019 World Rugby player of the year nominee, there should be no debating Ardie Savea’s selection in this side.
The barnstorming Hurricanes loose forward is capable of playing in every position across the back row, and can do so with devastating effect through his powerful leg drive and energetic presence on attack.
That isn’t to say the Wallabies aren’t without some noteworthy players in their blindside flanker stocks, with the likes of Jack Dempsey, Pete Samu and Rob Valetini all vying for the Australian No. 6 jersey.
7. Michael Hooper (Australia)
As is the case with Savea, long-serving Wallabies captain Michael Hooper has the profile befitting a spot in an Anzac XV thanks to his leadership capabilities and consistency both with and without the ball.
You’d be hard pressed to find many players who can match the 99-cap flanker’s commitment to the cause for any team, and that alone makes him a shoe-in for the openside flanker position.
That would hand a rare opening in the No. 7 jerseys, with Reds skipper Liam Wright and former Australia U20 standout Fraser McReight among two of the most promising players in the country who could fill Hooper’s boots.
8. Sam Cane (New Zealand)
The departure of ex-All Blacks captain Kieran Read has highlighted the lack of potential successors in the No. 8 position across New Zealand.
Savea’s versatility may see him play there later in the year, and the emergence of Blues youngter Hoskins Sotutu has been promising, but it would be criminal not to include newly-announced All Blacks skipper Sam Cane in this side.
The explosive yet accurate tackling machine would form a tantalising match-up against either Fijian-born loose forward Isi Naisarni, or exciting Reds rookie Harry Wilson.
9. Aaron Smith (New Zealand)
He’ll be closing in on his 32nd birthday by the time this fixture comes to fruition, but All Blacks veteran Aaron Smith remains one of the best halfbacks in the world.
The 92-test scrumhalf’s pass is as crisp as they come, and he’ll continue to be a staple in the All Blacks lineup for as long as he stays in New Zealand, which will be at least until the end of next year.
Will Genia’s international retirement, meanwhile, will open a number of chances for unproven prospects – including Tate McDermott, Jake Gordon and Joe Powell – to flourish for the Wallabies in tandem with Nic White.
10. Beauden Barrett (New Zealand)
Not much needs to be said about the class that Beauden Barrett wields, with two World Rugby player of the year accolades from three nominations speaking volumes of his standing within the international rugby fraternity.
The experiment to play the new Blues recruit at fullback last year in a dual playmaking role with Crusaders pivot Richie Mo’unga didn’t reap the desired rewards, so it wouldn’t surprise to see the 28-year-old reinstated back at No. 10.
11. Marika Koroibete (Australia)
As last year’s recipient of the John Eales Medal as the best player in Australia, it only seems right that Marika Koroibete claims the left wing spot in what would otherwise be a heavily-contested position.
The former NRL flyer was in inspired form for the Wallabies in 2019, standing out from a lacklustre bunch to score five tries in eight tests to secure a place in this team ahead of All Blacks stars George Bridge and Rieko Ioane.
12. Anton Lienert-Brown (New Zealand)
One of New Zealand’s most consistent performers in recent years, Anton Lienert-Brown has been a frequent figure in the All Blacks’ match day squads since his test debut against the Wallabies in 2016.
The 43-test midfielder has since gone on to prove his worth in the international arena through his versatility, agility and array of distribution skills, all of which have set him up to become a long-standing member of the All Blacks backline for years to come.
It would be a tough ask for any Australian second-five-eighth to mark Lienert-Brown, which might be uncapped Melbourne Rebels midfielder Billy Meakes or explosive Reds rookie Hunter Paisami.
13. James O’Connor (Australia)
Plenty will argue All Blacks centre Jack Goodhue’s all-round talent makes him worthy of a place in this Anzac XV, but it’s equally difficult to deny the impact James O’Connor has had on both the Reds and Wallabies since returning to Australia last year.
Whether it was straightening his side’s attack with a strong carry into contact or setting up teammates through his exceptional playmaking attributes, the 29-year-old was in spectacular form for Queensland prior to Super Rugby’s suspension in March.
His absence from the Australian backline would be difficult to replace, but a reliable fallback option would be hard-hitting Brumbies veteran Tevita Kuridrani.
14. Sevu Reece (New Zealand)
One of the most exciting players in Super Rugby, Sevu Reece’s inclusion in an Anzac XV is almost non-negotiable considering the power-packed value he brings to the table.
Extremely strong with plenty of speed to burn, the 22-year-old’s physical attributes are second to none, making him a handful for the Australian defence, as he was in the second Bledisloe Cup test in Auckland last year.
15. Jordie Barrett (New Zealand)
The debate surrounding who should be selected as New Zealand’s starting fullback remains unsolved as both Damian McKenzie and Jordie Barrett continued to impress on a weekly basis before Super Rugby came to a standstill.
However, Barrett’s inclusion in this side is purely on the grounds that McKenzie’s electric value as a super sub would work wonders against a tiring Australian defence.
Basing that selection solely on McKenzie’s off-the-bench impact, though, would discredit Barrett’s improved form and incredible goalkicking, which would create plenty of problems for either Dane Haylett-Petty or Tom Banks.
16. Dane Coles (New Zealand)
17. Scott Sio (Australia)
18. Nepo Laulala (New Zealand)
19. Patrick Tuipulotu (New Zealand)
20. Luke Jacobson (New Zealand)
21. TJ Peranara (New Zealand)
22. Richie Mo’unga (New Zealand)
23. Damian McKenzie (New Zealand)
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