Gregor Paul selects his World XV for 2015 which features 6 All Blacks, 3 Australians and Argentinians, and 1 Fijian, Georgian and Scotsman — and nobody from South Africa, England, Ireland, Wales or France.
15 Ben Smith (New Zealand):
Ben from all accounts had an outrageously good season. He captained the Highlanders to the most unlikely Super Rugby title and then inspired the All Blacks to a World Cup victory. His aerial skills and footwork are unbelievable.
14 Adam Ashley-Cooper(Australia):
Ashley-Cooper is the Wallaby version of Smith. He’s a superb all-round footballer who continually does the right thing. Has pace, footwork, awareness and the ability to covert half-chances. Was deadly at the World Cup.
13 Mark Bennett (Scotland):
A rugged, tough ball runner with innate timing. Picked off the intercept try in the World Cup quarter-final that should have sunk Australia and contributed some big tackling and deft passing.
New Zealand Rugby, the Highlanders and Manawatu Rugby have announced that Aaron Smith has re-committed through until at least the end of the 2019 season.
26-Year-old Smith, who has played 41 Tests for the All Blacks, 78 games (including 60 consecutive matches) for the Highlanders and more than 40 matches for the Manawatu Turbos, has become an integral part of the All Blacks and Highlanders success over the last few years. He was a standout player for the Highlanders this season, helping the team to their inaugural Super Rugby title and carried his form into the All Blacks season.
The Test scrumhalf said, “I’m really excited and thankful for the commitment shown from New Zealand Rugby, including the Highlanders and Manawatu Turbos.
Hurricanes flyer Nehe Milner-Skudder will make his Test debut for the All Blacks in The Rugby Championship decider against the Wallabies.
The All Blacks and Wallabies go head-to-head in Sydney on Saturday, dead-locked at the Top of the table on 9 points each.
The 24-year-old Milner-Skudder will feature on the right wing in 1 of several changes to the All Blacks side which beat the Springboks in Johannesburg in Round 2.
Julian Savea is back on the left wing and will play his 1st Test of 2015, with Ben Smith moving back to fullback.
Sonny Bill Williams is at No 12, while Dan Carter is back at flyhalf for his 105th Test match.
In the run-on forward pack, Jerome Kaino comes in at blindside flank, while Luke Romano comes in at lock.
There are just 2 changes to the bench, with Nepo Laulala providing tighthead prop cover and Sam Cane coming in to cover the loose forwards.
The New Zealand All Blacks team to face the Springboks in The Rugby Championship on Saturday at Emirates Airline Park contains 2 Test debutants amongst other changes.
Lock James Broadhurst and flyhalf Lima Sopoaga will line up to make their Test debuts for the All Blacks. Sopoaga comes in for Daniel Carter at flyhalf and Broadhurst takes over from Luke Romano.
In other changes in the starting 15, Dane Coles comes in at hooker, with Liam Messam at blindside flank. In the backs, Aaron Smith returns to the starting scrumhalf position, while the world-record midfield combo of Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith is back.
As well, with a desire to continue to give Israel Dagg more game time, Ben Smith is named on the right wing.
On the bench, Ben Franks comes in as reserve prop alongside Wyatt Crockett, Codie Taylor retains the reserve hooker jersey, Sam Whitelock is reserve lock, with Victor Vito covering the loose forwards. TJ Perenara is reserve scrumhalf, with Beauden Barrett and Malakai Fekitoa the other backs on the pine.
Broadhurst and Sopoaga will be surrounded by a hugely experienced All Blacks side, with the starting forward pack boasting a total of exactly 500 Test caps, with a further 320 caps in the starting backline and 217 on the bench.
New Zealand All Blacks coach Steve Hansen will have some big selection decisions to make this week, as his team prepares to take on South Africa’s Springboks at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg.
Having rested the bulk of the All Blacks who featured in the all-New Zealand Super Rugby Final (between the Hurricanes and Highlanders) in the 1st 2 Tests of the year, he has to decide how many of them will now be unleashed on the Springboks.
Ben Smith, Aaron Smith, Conrad Smith, Malakai Fekitoa, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett, Dane Coles, Ben Franks, Victor Vito and James Broadhurst are all keen to get a run against Springboks in their Rugby Championship outing on Saturday.
Probably the most interesting selection would be what combination he chooses to oppose South Africa’s exciting new midfield pairing of Jesse Kriel and Damian de Allende.
The past few years has seen Rugby’s world be dominated by one group of Villains that we have come to respect, hate, admire, deride, sledge and applaud. Let’s take a look at these Bad Guys and their alter-egos – whilst not forgetting that most of these guys eventually get their comeuppance. – Enjoy!
15. Ben Smith -Keyser Soze – The usual Suspects
This is one of those moments where we are lulled into a false sense of security. The guy looks harmless enough and seems to melt into the background when surrounded by other more unsavory types. But it is with the Big reveal that things unfold and the manipulator truly emerges.
After much speculation in the media the Highlanders are happy to announce today that Aaron Smith has re-signed with the Highlanders for two more years through to the end of the Super Rugby season in 2016.
Smith said “I love living and playing rugby in Dunedin, it’s my home and I couldn’t think of a better place to be.”
“I love the team and can’t wait to get back out on the field in front of our home fans in 2015”.
Jamie Joseph has named his Highlanders side to take on the Rebels this Friday night at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.
Shaun Treeby comes in at the expense of Phil Burleigh who sits out the match due to injury.
Aaron Smith has had an early reminder of the standards that go along with being an All Black, the young Manawatu halfback benched for Saturday’s test against the Springboks for breaking a team recovery protocol.