McCaw, Read head seven All Blacks included in 'Team of Decade'

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The Rugby Paper's Brendan Gallagher made his assessment of the 'Teenies' and looked into what lies in rugby's future as well as selecting his team of the decade.


McCaw headed off Wales and British & Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton for the open side flanker role. It had been a dead heat between the pair but Gallagher claimed McCaw proved more enduring when it came to injuries and as captain to two World Cup wins he couldn't be left out.


Read headed off Italian Sergio Parisse, Welshman Toby Faletau and South African hard man Duane Vermeulen on the basis of his share in two World Cup win and a third place in Japan.


"Deadly in the wide channels, [he] never had a bad game."


Gallagher said the choice of Barrett at first five-eighths was the flip of a coin with Ireland's Johnny Sexton and another unnamed player but he decided on Barrett 'for his sheer X-factor and untouchable gas'. He found it unbelievable that he was switched to fullback for the World Cup.


Savea was one of those Kiwis who seemed to peter out at 27, Gallagher said.


"But for the first five or six years of this decade Savea was sensational had racked up 46 tries in 54 Tests when he quit for French club rugby in 2017," he said.


Smith had been a Rolls Royce centre who Gallagher felt contributed as much, if not more than any single Kiwi to successive World Cup titles in 2011 and 2015, he said.


Franks had helped prove New Zealand's scrummaging was not the alleged Achilles heel of the All Blacks game that many felt. He and Tony Woodcock had changed that perception while Franks had 'always been excellent on the ball'.


"Two World Cup campaigns, two gold medals," he said.


Others chosen in the side were: [fullback] Australian Israel Folau, [centre], [right wing] Canada's DTH van der Merwe, [centre] Welshman Jonathan Davies, [halfback] Ireland's Conor Murray,[loosehead prop] South Africa's Tendai Mtawarira, [hooker] South African Schalk Brits [lock] Welshman Alun Wyn Jones], [blindside flanker] and Australian David Pocock.


Retiring coach Steve Hansen wasn't forgotten as he and fellow New Zealander Wales coach Warren Gatland had enjoyed the best of times during the decade.


In also acknowledging the advance of technology in the game, Gallagher said he suspected the next decade would see more technological advances such as microchips being imbedded in match balls and while they had the ability to further improve the ability to get calls right, they would contribute to more slowing up of the game.


As a final thought, Gallagher felt that while the All Blacks had been to the fore in dominating the decades and that it had been impressive stuff, the sight of 'South Africa morphing into a properly inclusive team full of world class players of colour is what the long lens of history will see as the most significant story of the decade'.


"If South African rugby can continue to harness the incredible athletic talent of all its citizens on the rugby pitch, they would well emerge as the dominant rugby nation of the next decade," he said.




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