South Africa’s most revered professional referee Jonathan Kaplan revealed the best Bledisloe XV to Keo.co.za – and it includes 10 All Blacks.
Wallabies legend Mark Ella, in the build-up to Saturday’s Bledisloe Cup/Rugby Championship opening round showdown between the trans-Tasman rivals, selected his best combined starting XV in the professional era for the Australian Newspaper.
Ella picked 1999 World Cup-winning Australian captain John Eales as his captain ahead of All Blacks 2011 and 2015 World Cup winner Richie McCaw. The latter makes Ella’s best ever XV ahead of Australia’s loose-forward Test centurion George Smith.
Kaplan and Ella agreed on 10 selections in their respective Bledisloe XVs.
Kaplan, among the most capped Test referees in the game’s history, refereed many Bledisloe Cup clashes and famously – and justifiably – awarded Australia a last minute penalty against the All Blacks at Wellington’s old Athletic Park.
Eales kicked the most magnificent of penalties to win the Test for the Wallabies.
Kaplan’s view is one of the most considered and informed, given his status as one of the game’s best referees for more than a decade.
I’ve often asked him what set McCaw apart and his response was the All Blacks captain’s knowledge of the laws, understanding of them and appreciation to play to the interpretation of whoever was refereeing. He said McCaw had an intimate knowledge of each referee’s strengths and weakness; preferences and triggers.
Kaplan has always spoken glowingly of the leadership of Eales.
I asked him on Twitter who he would make captain, Eales or McCaw?
He refused to pick one over the other saying they were two of the great leaders of professional rugby. Both had won two World Cups and both had been the premier players in their respective positions.
If there was to be a captain, then they’d be co-captains.
Kaplan then went one further and tweeted his best ever Bledisloe Cup XV.
Jonathan Kaplan’s Bledisloe Cup XV: 15. Christian Cullen (NZ), Joe Roff (Aus), Tim Horan (Aus), Ma’a Nonu (NZ), Jonah Lomu (NZ), Dan Carter (NZ), George Gregan (Aus), Kieran Read (NZ), Richie McCaw (NZ), George Smith (Aus), John Eales (Aus), Brodie Retallick (NZ), Carl Hayman (NZ), Keven Mealamu (NZ) and Tony Woodcock (NZ).
Mark Ella’s Wallabies-All Blacks XV of the professional era: Christian Cullen; Joe Roff, Tana Umaga, Tim Horan, Jonah Lomu; Daniel Carter, George Gregan; Toutai Kefu, Richie McCaw, Jerome Kaino, John Eales (c), Brodie Retallick, Carl Hayman, Phil Kearns, Tony Woodcock.