Below I have pulled together a starting XV plus a replacements bench based on the legends of the game who have still been plying their trade up until the end of this season. The only rules were that the player has to be older than 33 and that they must have represented their country on more than 10 occasions so here goes…
1 Andrea Lo Cicero – the Baron is the first Italian forward to have reached over 100 caps for his country and it is no wonder with his physical presence at scrum time helping ensure Italy have had a solid platform as they have climbed the world rankings during the last ten years.
2 John Smit – another international legend to have reached over 100 caps for his country, South African Smith has now announced his retirement but will be forever remembered for leading the Springboks to World Cup glory in 2007.
3 BJ Botha – another member of the World Cup winning South Africa team in 2007, Botha has been confined to just 26 appearances for his country, although he has recently signed a new deal with Irish province Munster meaning he will be around for at least two more years.
4 Paul O’Connell – there seems to be an abundance of legends continuing to ply their trade in the second row including the likes of Simon Shaw and Donnacha O’Callaghan but three time Lions tourist O’Connell takes the shirt for leading by example at every possible occasion.
5 Bakkies Botha – O’Connell is joined in the second row by the enforcer Bakkies Botha. There’s not a man alive who wouldn’t shudder at the prospect of going toe to toe with the giant South African lock.
6 Imanol Harinordoquy – the French enforced has spent the majority of his time playing at 8 for the French national side, but his physical presence anywhere in the back row will help to make dents and get his team over the gain-line.
7 Mauro Bergamasco – another Italian inclusion in the pack, Bergamasco has been a near-ever present in the Italian national side over the last 15 years and has been one of the key men in their development into the top tier of international rugby.
8 Brad Thorn – no other man in world rugby can boast a roll of honour like All Black Brad Thorn. Winners medals in the World Cup, Super XV, three nations, European Cup and Australian Rugby League is the kind of experience you can’t buy and is a welcome addition to any team.
9 Neil De Kock – ok so maybe De Kock doesn’t quite fit into the standard ‘legend’ category, he has however been a stalwart for current club Saracens and has also scored as many international points as he has appearances (10).
10. Jonny Wilkinson – the man, the legend. Led England to World Cup glory and Toulon to the Heineken Cup and could be set to lead his team to the Top 14 this week. A true legend both on and off the pitch, we are unlikely to ever see a player replicate Jonny’s commitment.
11. Mark Cueto – the Premierships leading try scorer who has 100 international points for England and has toured with the Lions. Whilst many may not see Cueto as a legend, you would struggle to find a Sale Sharks fan who would agree – a true one club man.
12. Mike Tindall – Rugby World Cup winner and most capped England centre, Tindall is still going strong at Gloucester helping to bring through some of the clubs exciting young talent in his player/coach role.
13. Brian O’Driscoll – everyone in world rugby breathed a sigh of relief when he announced earlier this month that he would be playing on for at least another year. A truly exceptional player who is adored by fans around the globe, a true legend of the game who had already amassed 125 caps for Ireland.
14. Shane Williams – the Welsh wizard is still strutting his stuff in Japan and making a real name for himself. In the Welsh land of giants Williams bucked the trend and showed you could still get over the gain line even if you aren’t 6’6″ and weigh 100kg.
15 Geordan Murphy – another one club man, Geordan Murphy has been heavily involved in much of what has been good at Leicester over the last 15 years. Tragically under-utilised by Declan Kidney for Ireland in recent years he has still managed to amass 74 caps for his country.
16. George Chuter
17. Marucs Horan
18. Allan Jacobsen
19. Nathan Hines
20. Sebastian Chabal
21. Stephen Jones
22. Ronan O’Gara
23. Hugo Southwell
It’s fair to say that a number of players have been missed off, and others narrowly miss out based on age but all in all this looks a pretty competent team with bags of experience. Do you think they could compete at the top level as one unit?