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'Psychopath', 'melted welly': Tom Varndell names his Ultimate XV

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)

Former England wing Tom Varndell, the long-time all-time Premiership try-scorer until his tally of 92 was surpassed last year by Chris Ashton, has named an Ultimate XV consisting of players encountered across his lengthy career. The retired 37-year-old won four Test caps while also starring for Leicester and Wasps in a club CV that also included stints with Bristol, Scarlets and Yorkshire.


Now working for Elite Athlete Management, a global sports management company, he made a guest appearance on this week’s RugbyPass Offload show. After talking through his career, he finished his interview by naming an XV made up of the best players he played with or against. Here is how his selection announcement unfolded:

“Loosehead, Marcos Ayerza. Played with him at Leicester Tigers. Ultimate professional. Hardly ever got injured. He was unbelievable. Really talented bloke. My hooker would be George Chuter. Great character, great clubman as well at Leicester Tigers. Very talented player as well.

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Wade vs Ashton
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Wade vs Ashton

“Julian White would be my tighthead prop. Absolute psychopath. You’d never ever want to piss off Julian. He was a very quiet bloke, but he was one of those guys who would be very unapproachable but just an unbelievable player.

“No4, Martin Johnson. He was my first captain at Tigers. He speaks for himself. He was just unreal. Simon Shaw would be my other lock. Man mountain and a great bloke on and off the pitch and he knew how to have a good time.


“No6 was Tom Croft. He was probably one of the best athletes I have ever seen on a rugby pitch. I actually think he beat me in a couple of sprints as well, he was just so talented and just an unbelievable athlete.

“No7 was Tom Rees. He was one of my captains at Wasps. His career got cut short quite soon but he would have gone on to be captain of England and probably got about 100 caps. He was a very talented boy. James Haskell, No8. Terrible banter, an absolute shithouse, but in terms of his work ethic and the way he played on the pitch he was unbelievable.


“Joe Simpson would be my No9. He is one of the most talented scrum-halves to play the game. Didn’t get many England caps but lightning quick. Just such a talented boy. Really, really good and a nice bloke as well.

“Andy Goode would be my No10. Physically was in the worst condition, like a melted welly, but in terms of his skill set, he had one of the best passes in the game and his kicking game was unreal. Plus, he put me in for my first try for Tigers. He was so talented.

“In the backs, we have got Lote Tuqiri who shoved my head up my own arse during the Australia match. He was one of my idols growing up and he was just a hell of a player. When he came over to Tigers and he managed to play against me, he was just as good. He was such a good player, such a big bloke as well.

“Aaron Mauger would be my No12. The most skillful player I ever played with. Really good for youngsters coming through the system as well. Had a lot of time for boys. Great player.


“Mathew Tait would be my No13. I played with him all the way through age-group stuff, known him for a long time and again, he didn’t get as many England caps as he should have but he was so professional, worked so hard off the pitch and on it.

“Then No14 would be Alesana Tuilagi. Just an incredible player. Devastating with the ball in hand. He was almost impossible to stop when he was on his day.

“Geordan Murphy would be my No15. He was just quality, both on the international stage and at club level. Bit of a mentor for me and yeah, just a fantastic player.”

Varndell finished off his appearance on the show by taking on a quickfire Q&A challenge:

RugbyPass Offload: Best player you ever played with?
Tom Varndell: Geordan Murphy.

RPO: Best player you ever played against?
TV: Lote Tuqiri.

RPO: Biggest fight you witnessed in training?
TV: Alesana versus Lewis Moody. Playing a game of touch and Alesana got touched about 25 times, but he has carried on running and scored a try and Lewis Moody has just come out of nowhere and absolutely belted him in the back of the head. It all erupts, crazy, and then Martin Johnson grabs hold of Lewis and knocks him clean out. It was horrendous.

RPO: Three players with you in a cab on the way to the biggest party of your lives?
TV: Christian Wade, Danny Cipriani and Luke Narraway.

RPO: And finally, a player who has rubbed you up the wrong way in your career?
TV: Chris Ashton. I’ll say no more.


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