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‘True man-mountain' included in Ugo Monye’s Premiership Immortals XV

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Mark Wieland/Getty Images)

Ugo Monye has become the latest BT Sport rugby pundit to name his Premiership Immortals XV. “It’s a nice process to think back the last 20 years, players that I played with and against, and it takes you back because we can often think quite short-term when you think about the greatest players. Hopefully, a good mix of personalities, high achievers and some brilliant contributors to the Premiership,” he said.

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After fans had selected their Immortals XV via a series of online polls, Monye was the third of four BT Sport pundits to name his XV ahead of a round-table debate show on May 27 featuring Lawrence Dallaglio, Ben Kay, Austin Healey and Monye.

He was chuffed with his selection, quipping midway through the process: “Great players select themselves and I have got an unbelievable pack who have contributed so well to the Premiership and while there is debate and this is totally subjective based on emotion coupled with just sheer performances, it’s actually hard to distil 20 years of Premiership Rugby into eight players in that forward pack.”

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Wilkinson vs Farrell

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Wilkinson vs Farrell

Come the finish, he reckoned his Immortals XV was the type of team he would love to coach. “With a pack like that, you can play any way you want, and the strength of this team – while you are absolutely certain of the defensive quality you have here, it’s about feeding the speed, feeding the pace, the power and the skill in this back three… I’d love to coach this team. It would be easy.”

Monye’s front five consisted of Marcos Ayerza, Schalk Brits, Dan Cole, Martin Johnson and Maro Itoje. Then came Joe Worsley at blindside. “I played with him at England and I enjoyed what he brought because he is one of the most destructive defensive tacklers to ever play the game, but to play against an absolute nightmare and that is a compliment for any back row player,” he explained.

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“100 per cent, he was brilliant. When you think of Wasps and their defence wins championships mantra, there has probably not been a better defensive back-rower to play the game than Joe Worsley. The repeatability of these guys. When you look at the back row you need energy and it’s how they complement one another, but the amount of interactions and positive contributions he had in the game was absolutely phenomenal.”

Monye picked an old Harlequins teammate at openside. “My buddy, my skipper, champagne Chris Robshaw. We were fortunate to play together for a long time. In 2012 when we won the title, he was everything you would want from a player. He led by his actions. No seven that played in the Premiership has got more wins than him. His win percentage, for what he has done and what he stands for, he is my seven.”

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After naming Lawrence Dallaglio to finish out his pack and then Danny Care to start his backline, Monye spoke at length about his reason for going with Owen Farrell at out-half. “When you think about competitors, when you think about winners and natural-born champions, he is that guy.

“It is phenomenal what he has done and how driven he is. The metamorphose of Saracens from being this defensive kick team, the aggressor, to playing some beautiful flowing rugby, he has been at the heartbeat of that, forever driving those standards. An obvious choice for me at No10.

“We almost see his personality through his actions on the pitch, but that is Farrell the competitor but off the pitch, a student of the game, quiet, mega professional, hence why he has achieved all he has. He is going to be unfortunate in that we will appreciate him more when he has retired because of the standards that he has set and how he has driven every 10 in this country to be better.”

What Monye also especially liked about Farrell was how quickly he emerged despite the long shadow cast by his dual-code father. “When your dad is Andy Farrell, one of the greatest rugby league players ever seen in this country, you have a fear that you might forever live in his shadow. Well, he stepped out of that quite quickly, he was a teenager playing in a Premiership final. Over 100 caps now for England, multiple Premiership titles, multiple European titles, he is an incredible player in his own right.

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Monye plumped for Brad Barritt and Fraser Waters as his Immortals midfield. “The two of them in tandem, if defence wins championships there is not two better defenders and organisers. What Fraser Waters brought to the game we now appreciate, this blitz, the high-pressure defence was born from Wasps back in the early 2000s. The defensive systems we eulogise now were led by pioneers like Fraser Waters.”

Chris Ashton and Alex Goode were named in Monye’s back three and he was what he has to say about his left wing choice, Alesana Tuilagi. “One of the most feared wingers to have ever played the game, the sheer mass of the man to be able to run at that speed. I played against him in the 2012 Premiership final, played against him so many times.

“You speak to players about who intimidated you and I don’t think any professional would ever say they were intimidated but I was aware in terms of my job spec I had to be physical that day because that is what he brought. He created space for others, scored a load of tries. I felt when he was at his best there weren’t more complete players that played in our league.

“I wouldn’t ever say I tackled him. I’d said I assisted him to the ground. To say I tackled him was that I instigated some sort of contact – it was a case of I’m just standing here, I know what is coming, I’m just going to try and involve myself in this contact area to enable somebody else to finish it off. A true man-mountain.”

Ugo Monye’s Immortals XV: 15. Alex Goode; 14. Chris Ashton; 13. Fraser Waters, 12. Brad Barritt, 11. Alesana Tuilagi; 10. Owen Farrell, 9. Danny Care; 1. Marcos Ayerza, 2. Schalk Brits, 3. Dan Cole, 4. Martin Johnson, 5. Maro Itoje, 6. Joe Worsley, 7. Chris Robshaw, 8. Lawrence Dallaglio.

  • Watch BT Sport’s Premiership Immortals on BT Sport 1 from 1pm on Saturday, May 27, to see who makes the greatest Premiership XV of all time. The final episode will be followed by BT Sport’s exclusive live coverage of the Gallagher Premiership final from 2pm on BT Sport 1 btsport.com/immortals
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