Wales midfielder Jamie Roberts and Scotland flanker Ryan Wilson have outlined which Southern Hemisphere stars could make a potential SANZAAR XV to take on the British and Lions.
The Lions are scheduled to tour South Africa this year, but whether the series goes ahead remains uncertain as COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc worldwide.
Numerous contingency plans – such as playing in front of no fans, staging the series in the United Kingdom, or delaying the tour until next year – have been drawn up, while the captains of the four Home Nations have been in talks with Lions bosses about the feasibility of the tour.
With there being no certainty that the tour will go ahead as planned, the concept of a hypothetical SANZAAR XV, made up of players from the Rugby Championship, to play the Lions was floated to Roberts and Wilson on the latest episode of RugbyPass Offload.
When asked which players from the All Blacks, Wallabies, Springboks and Los Pumas would make his SANZAAR XV if it was made reality, Wilson said his side would mostly be made up of New Zealanders.
“I would basically pick the whole of the New Zealand team,” the 49-test loose forward said.
“Then I would maybe chuck in Cheslin Kolbe, [Siya] Kolisi, I’d have him in there, and maybe some giant second row.”
Wilson pinpointed Springboks star Eben Etzebeth and the lock “that looks like Hagrid”, presumably the scruffy-haired and big-bearded RG Snyman, as leading candidates to fill the two second row spots.
The 31-year-old added that he would have Wallabies boss Dave Rennie, who coached Wilson during his time at Glasgow Warriors between 2017 and 2019, as the side’s head coach.
“[He would have] just a massive, mutant second row because Kiwis don’t really have giant second rows.
“Just one of those big boys from South Africa, whoever they are. That would probably be my team, and then get Dave Rennie, Australia coach, in there to coach them.”
Roberts, meanwhile, said it was “hard to disagree” with Wilson’s selections, with the 97-test veteran, who has played three tests for the Lions, also opting for South African flavour in a forward pack dominated by All Blacks.
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“Out of the Springbok pack, I’d have [Steven] Kitshoff, I would have Kolisi, [Pieter-Steph] du Toit. Probably those three in amongst a predominantly All Black pack,” he told RugbyPass Offload.
“Maybe one of the second rows as well. It needs the muscle of the South African pack.”
Roberts noted the skill set of the backs across New Zealand, Australia and South Africa would make for a more diverse backline, of which would include an All Blacks halves pairing and Springboks World Cup hero Cheslin Kolbe.
He said that regardless of who makes the cut, a SANZAAR XV, if it ever comes to fruition, would be “freakish”.
“Kolbe’s got to be in there. [He’s] an immense player. Kiwi halfbacks, maybe a few of the Aussies sprinkled in there.
“Bit of a mix in the backline, I think. I think across those three countries, there’s some special, special backs.
“It’d be a freakish side, there’s no doubt about that, but whether we’ll ever see it happen, God knows.”
In spite of the obvious talents that would come with a SANZAAR XV, Roberts added he would rather see the return of a touring Pacific Islands side.
The inaugural Pacific Islanders team, consisting of players from Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Niue and the Cook Islands, made its debut in 2004 when it toured New Zealand and Australia, playing tests against the All Blacks, Wallabies and Springboks.
Competitive but ultimately unsuccessful in all three tests, they comfortably won two other matches against a Queensland XV and New South Wales.
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Two years later, the Pacific Islanders travelled to Europe where they played three tests against Wales, Scotland and Ireland, and returned in 2008 to play tests against England, France and Italy, losing each match bar their final clash against the Azzurri.
The team hasn’t featured since then, though, with Samoa withdrawing from Pacific Islands Rugby Allegiance in 2009 due to financial reasons.
A Moana Pasifika side, made up of mostly New Zealand-based players with Fijian, Samoan, Tongan and Tokelauan heritage, made its debut appearance last month when it faced the Maori All Blacks in Hamilton.
However, that is a New Zealand Rugby-backed franchise expected to be included in Super Rugby next year, along with the Fijian Drua from Australia’s NRC.
Roberts said that he would prefer to see a collective Pacific Islands team back on the international stage rather than any kind of collaborative SANZAAR outfit.
He cited geographic limitations and differences in rugby ideologies between New Zealand, Australia and South Africa as reasons why he disapproves of a SANZAAR XV concept.
“If there was going to be another team that is a collective as countries, I’d like to see a Pacific Islands side come together.
“I think that Australia, New Zealand and South Africa are so far apart geographically and as identities as rugby countries. I think a team comprising those countries doesn’t work for me.
“The Lions is what it is because they’re part of the United Kingdom, as such. Ireland [as well], it’s the British and Irish Lions concept.
“I’d like to see the Pacific Island have something where they come together and have a touring team like the Lions.”
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