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Leading coaches pick their all-time All Blacks XV

Leading coaches pick their all-time All Blacks XV

All BlacksSeptember 20, 2023

Choosing all-time sides in any sport can be contentious, but there is rarely unanimity when it comes down to the All Blacks.

So what happened when three of the All Blacks' all-time leading coaches, Sir Graham Henry, Sir Wayne Smith and Sir Steve Hansen, sat down to choose the best side they had seen play for NZR+?

Four of the eight possible forwards were the unanimous selections of the trio.

First was one of the often most overlooked players, tighthead prop Ken Gray. Flanker Richie McCaw and No8 Zinzan Brooke were the other two.

There was no other contender for the robust Gray, who was highly regarded by all who saw him for his all-round play.

McCaw faced some pressure from Sir Michael Jones, especially from Henry, who described him as the finest player he coached.

Henry and Hansen went for Tony Woodcock as their loosehead prop, but Smith went for Wilson Whineray because of his leadership qualities.

Hansen believed that while Sean Fitzpatrick had changed the hooking role during his career, Dane Coles had extended that with his style in his time. However, Henry and Smith opted for Fitzpatrick.

Hansen said that while Sir Colin Meads had been the player of the 20th century, he opted for Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock because of their partnership. However, Henry and Smith preferred a combination of Whitelock and Meads.

If Jones couldn't play on the openside flank, then Henry and Smith were happy to see him on the blindside, but Hansen opted for Ian Kirkpatrick. And that wasn't to forget the rights of Graham Mourie on the openside flank and Murray Mexted at No8 for consideration also.

There were similar results in the backs. And at halfback, each of the selectors had different preferences. Smith went for Dave Loveridge, Henry for Chris Laidlaw and Hansen for Aaron Smith.

The five-eighths had them agreeing on Dan Carter at first five-eighths and Ma'a Nonu at second. Henry said Nonu went from a player they didn't pick to one they couldn't leave out.

Centre was divided between Hansen and Henry, opting for Bruce Robertson, while Smith went for Conrad Smith.

The back three also produced unanimity.

Jonah Lomu, who they said changed rugby, and John Kirwan, while fullback was Christian Cullen. Smith said Cullen was the most skilful broken field runner you could ever see.

Beauden Barrett, also in contention at first five-eighths, was regarded as the only player who could compete with Cullen for his speed from the back.

After giving their thoughts on all the elements involved in captaincy, Richie McCaw headed off Sean Fitzpatrick for the job.

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Rain, Hail or Shine ๐ŸŒงโ˜€๏ธ There's no stopping the Front Row Daily Show from bringing you a behind the scenes look at the All Blacks training session in Bordeaux!

Full episode is live exclusively on NZR+ ๐Ÿ“บ https://t.co/r5tXQr56Xr#AllBlacks pic.twitter.com/PCq99Je3xW

โ€” All Blacks (@AllBlacks) September 19, 2023

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