BY CURTIS WOODWARD
It has been a very long time since any combined World XVII side could lay claim to being favourites if they ever ran out to play the mighty Australian Kangaroos.
Oh how times have changed.
Australia is no longer the irresistible force of rugby league (for now, anyway).
No more Cameron Smith, Johnathan Thurston, Billy Slater or Cooper Cronk.
Last weekend, they were beaten by a New Zealand side missing Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Issac Luke and Nelson Asofa-Solomona. Yeah, Australia had a few missing but no country does depth like the Kangaroos.
Your writer has put together a World XVII for the ages – wait until you see the forward pack.
Fully fit, against a fully fit Kangaroos outfit, this World side would decimate the Aussies.
By 20 points!
But is that such a bad thing?
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck is an obvious choice at fullback but I had some tough decisions to make on the flanks.
Jamayne Isaako was the NRL Rookie of the Year, Jermaine McGillvary had an outstanding World Cup while David Fusitua was the NRL’s best finisher in 2018. Still, I went with Sydney Roosters recruit Ryan Hall and the Storm’s Fijian flyer Suliasi Vunivalu. Both are strong, quick and first-class scorers.
I went with the future in the centres and picked Kiwi pair Esan Marsters and Joey Manu ahead of English ace Kallum Watkins and Samoa’s Joey Leilua.
The halves, surprisingly, were pretty straight forward. Shaun Johnson and Gareth Widdop are a notch or two better than the rest of the international playmakers.
Typical SHAUN JOHNSON decides to score with about 20 seconds left in a test match against England.#NZ #Kiwis #England #UK #testmatch #warriors #kiwi #nrl #rugbyleague #football #matchwinner #champion #nzwarriors #auckland pic.twitter.com/s8GxthfnBr— Nrl Best Tries Hits and Biffs (@NBiffs) August 10, 2018
Here we go – the engine room. This was tough. So many good pigs doing awesome things.
My starting props are Andrew Fifita and Jesse Bromwich with tyros Nelson Asofa-Solomona and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves on the bench. I did have James Graham at one stage for his leadership and the Burgess twins were there for a while but I couldn’t go passed the Kiwi duo.
Honourable mentions to Tonga’s Sio Siua Taukieaho and England’s Chris Hill.
Josh Hodgson was an obvious starter at hooker but I like Issac Luke on the bench too.
And what about the horsepower at the back of the scrum?
Get this: Sam Burgess, Tevita Pangai Junior and Jason Taumalolo with Viliami Kikau from the bench!
1 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck – New Zealand
2 Ryan Hall – England
3 Esan Marsters – New Zealand
4 Joseph Manu – New Zealand
5 Suliasi Vunivalu – Fiji
6 Gareth Widdop – England
7 Shaun Johnson – New Zealand
8 Andrew Fifita – Tonga
9 Josh Hodgson – England
10 Jesse Bromwich – New Zealand
11 Tevita Pangai Junior – Tonga
12 Sam Burgess – England
13 Jason Taumalolo – Tonga
14 Issac Luke – New Zealand
15 Viliami Kikau – Fiji
16 Jared Waerea-Hargreaves – New Zealand
17 Nelson Asofa-Solomona – New Zealand