Best English team of the Pro era?

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Post by maestegmafia on Sat 16 Feb - 9:18

Thank Eddie Jones for raising this moot point but when queerying whether this is the greatest Welsh team in history allow us to also ask just how good the opposition are in a historical context..?

This England team are playing with the gusto and devastating ability of the best England teams I can remember. But how many of these players are the best in their position.... is this the greatest English team ever and will they replicate the success of previous great English teams over the next few years...?

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Post by maestegmafia on Sat 16 Feb - 10:10

15. Lewsey
14. May
13. Guscott
12. Greenwood
11. Robinson
10. Wilkinson
9. Youngs
8. Vunipola
7. Back
6. Hill
5. Johnson
4. Parling
3. Leonard
2. Hartley
1. Woodman

Looks like only one or two would feature though there are some close calls, Farrell, Tuilagi, Mako, Launchbury, kruise, George, Sinckler, Daly, Slade is not far off it either, with time a number of these may well be the names that make the illustrious list.

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Post by El Radar on Sat 16 Feb - 10:18

Geoff Parling? There's current four, Kay and Shaw who I would all consider first.

Dallaglio and Dawson are no brainers, whilst Cohen for May based on Robinson being on the other wing.

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Post by Mad for Chelsea on Sat 16 Feb - 10:23

Well, one England team won a WC, so you'd have to rate them higher right now. The current team is building nicely, and I think a few players could have a claim to be the best ever in their position, or on their way to, but not sure how many I'd have there right now. I'll have a crack anyway.

LH: Leonard had longeveity, but for me Woodman was a better player. Career unfortunately curtailed by injuries. M. Vunipola IMO deserves to be mentioned in the same bracket, a really complete player: carries, soft hands, good scrummager (nowadays), tackles, massive workrate. If he keeps up his current level for a bit longer he'd be in, but right now, I'd go Woodman, just.

Hooker: strangely England haven't had that many stand-out hookers in the pro era. Thomson was a bit flakey at line-out time, Hartley was solid all-round but not outstanding (before you get to his discipline problems, which didn't flare up much at international level, but kept him out of the side on occasion with bans). Early days for George, but I reckon he's the most complete package England have had there, now he seems to have settled into his starter role. So going to go with George, based on a bit of a hunch.

TH: has to be Vickery in his prime. Great scrummager and carrier. Stevens was unlucky that Vickery was still picked ahead of him later on in his career when perhaps he didn't deserve to. Cole is/was an excellent servant, but lacks the carrying and a few too many penalties given away. Sinckler another current player who looks the real deal, but a bit early to tell. Vickery then.

Locks: Johnson has to be one, WC winning captain and all that. A superb player, and an even better leader, he captains the side. Second spot is competitive: Shaw and Kay both excellent, as is the current crop. Actually hard to say which of the current crop is the best, but I'm going to plump with Itoje, who just has that extra something IMO.

Backrow: hard to look past the golder trifecta of Hill-Back-Dallaglio. England have had some good flankers since: Robshaw was consistently very good for a long time, Moody had a great period, etc., but Hill and Back were so good. At 8, Easter was consistently very good also, and Billy Vunipola deserves to be in the discussion. However, have to go with the golden trio.

SH: another interesting one, a bit like hooker no amazing stand-out. Bracken the best passer, Dawson the best all-round, Youngs probably the best game manager. I think you have to go with Dawson.

FH: has to be Wilkinson. In the discussion for best FH of all time IMO. Obviously played a huge part in the 03 WC success, but the difference he made to the 07 WC campaign cannot be understated for me, helping drag an average England side to the final. Farrell is a very well-rounded player, but not on the same level.

Centres: Greenwood at 12 has never really been replaced (though there was a period where Ford-Farrell worked very well). A superb all-round centre, has to be in. I actually thought England played their very best rugby with him at 13 and Catt inside him, but they won the WC with him at 12 and Tindall outside him. I reckon him and Manu Tuilagi (pre-injury woes, though he's showing signs of getting back there) would make an awesome combination, so going with them.

Back-three: more interesting decisions. It struck me when thinking about this that a lot of England wingers tend to go through a purple patch where they're scoring nearly every game, followed by a fairly prolonged lean patch. Think of Cohen, Luger, Cueto, Ashton. May is currently going through a purple patch, and time will tell whether he goes the same way or not, but at the moment he's paying as well as any England winger I've seen, so I'm going to put him in. Robinson has to be in there somewhere, either at wing or full-back. And for consistent excellence across a long period of time, I'm going to go with Lewsey for the final spot. I'm going to go Lewsey at FB and Robinson on the wing, but you could easily switch these around.

So there you have it:
Woodman George Vickery
Johnson Itoje
Hill Back Dallaglio
Dawson Wilkinson
Greenwood Tuilagi
May Lewsey Robinson

Bench would be something like:
M. Vunipola Thomson Stevens Shaw B. Vunipola Youngs Farrell Cohen

I realise that's a 23 made up entirely of the 03 team and the current vintage, and I've almost certainly forgotten some players, but to me that feels about right. So currently 4 players of the current squad make the starting XV, though you could dispute all of those TBH, another 4 on the bench, with a chance to stake a claim for a starting spot depending on how long they can sustain their current levels.

EDIT: seen Maes's post. Forgot about Guscott, who'd be in consideration for a centre spot, but on balance I'd go Tuilagi. Parling would be nowhere near for me. Was a decent player in an average team, no more. Shaw, Kay, and the current four are all better players IMO.

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Post by lostinwales on Sat 16 Feb - 11:17

Shaw was the best England lock in my lifetime (so far... the current top 3 are all brilliant) but he competes with Martin Johnson, which is a tough tough deal

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Post by LondonTiger on Sat 16 Feb - 11:30

Guscott was a great player, but his achievements were mainly in the amateur era.

Following is a pretty good team from the pro era:

Rowntree, Cockerill, White, Johnson, Kay, Moody, Back, Corry, Ellis, Ford, May, Greenwood, Tuilagi, Healey, Stimpson

Bench: Youngs, Genge, Cole, Parling, Croft, Youngs, Flood, Tait

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Post by maestegmafia on Sat 16 Feb - 11:39

LondonTiger wrote:Guscott was a great player, but his achievements were mainly in the amateur era.

Following is a pretty good team from the pro era:

Rowntree, Cockerill, White, Johnson, Kay, Moody, Back, Corry, Ellis, Ford, May, Greenwood, Tuilagi, Healey, Stimpson

Bench: Youngs, Genge, Cole, Parling, Croft, Youngs, Flood, Tait

Harry Ellis was a very good scrum half, good call LT.

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Post by lostinwales on Sat 16 Feb - 11:44

maestegmafia wrote:
LondonTiger wrote:Guscott was a great player, but his achievements were mainly in the amateur era.

Following is a pretty good team from the pro era:

Rowntree, Cockerill, White, Johnson, Kay, Moody, Back, Corry, Ellis, Ford, May, Greenwood, Tuilagi, Healey, Stimpson

Bench: Youngs, Genge, Cole, Parling, Croft, Youngs, Flood, Tait

Harry Ellis was a very good scrum half, good call LT.

Yes but there is a teeny weeny tigerish sort of bias to that particular selection.

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Post by LondonTiger on Sat 16 Feb - 11:47

Teeny weeny Very Happy

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Post by BamBam on Sat 16 Feb - 11:53

That Tigers England team would probably beat the best team that has been put together on another thread this morning Wink

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Post by The Oracle on Sat 16 Feb - 12:30

BamBam wrote:That Tigers England team would probably beat the best team that has been put together on another thread this morning Wink

Prove it! Wink
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Post by BigTrevsbigmac on Sat 16 Feb - 12:36

Mullan
Thompson
Vickery
Shawsie
Launchbury
Worsley
Rees
LBND
Robson
King
Voyce
Waters
Daly
Wade
Lewsey

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Post by LondonTiger on Sat 16 Feb - 12:38

To be fair, White and Johnson are not as mobile as they once were.

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Post by Mr Bounce on Sat 16 Feb - 15:29

LondonTiger wrote:To be fair, White and Johnson are not as mobile as they once were.

I've heard that Big Phil Vickery is currently tearing up trees in training Very Happy

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Post by robbo277 on Sat 16 Feb - 18:44

It's hard to judge players who have retired against players who haven't. It would sound insane to say Farrell was a better player than Wilkinson, but he could be. If we win 2 World Cups and a Lions tour in the next 5 years with Farrell as captain, then it would be hard to argue against it.

A lot of our current players are lumbered with their only World Cup being the 2015 debacle when appraising their career. That 00-03 team beat all comers home and away. Even if this bunch went on to win in 2019, they haven't done what that early noughties team did.

Some of the current players definitely could be considered, but they could all do with another 4+ years of good performances before they can be considered.

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Post by LondonTiger on Sat 16 Feb - 19:24

robbo277 wrote:It's hard to judge players who have retired against players who haven't. It would sound insane to say Farrell was a better player than Wilkinson, but he could be. If we win 2 World Cups and a Lions tour in the next 5 years with Farrell as captain, then it would be hard to argue against it.

A lot of our current players are lumbered with their only World Cup being the 2015 debacle when appraising their career. That 00-03 team beat all comers home and away. Even if this bunch went on to win in 2019, they haven't done what that early noughties team did.

Some of the current players definitely could be considered, but they could all do with another 4+ years of good performances before they can be considered.

Yeah, when I compile these best ever teams I usually exclude guys still playing as their full impact is yet to be determined. Even as it is comparing guys from different decades is always tricky.

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Post by miaow on Sat 16 Feb - 20:23

15. Ugo Monye
14. Lesley Vainikolo
13. Anthony Allen
12. Jamie Noon
11. Topsy Ojo
10. Andy Goode
9. Shaun Perry

8. Pat Sanderson (c)
7. Magnus Lund
6. Sam Burgess
5. Danny Grewcock
4. Nick Kennedy
3. Paul Doran Jones
2. David Paice
1. ??




16. Perry Freshwater
17. ??
18. Tim Payne
19. Mauritz Botha
20. Phil Dowson
21. Peter Richards
22. Shane Geraghty
23. Tom Voyce

So many options in the backs, particularly the 3/4s. Harder in some of the forward positions, couldn't think of any 'best' looseheads. A few lacking in talent but not exactly the 'best' for this list.

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Post by BamBam on Sat 16 Feb - 20:36

The funny thing is that Danny Grewcock would eat both "the best Welsh locks of the pro era" for breakfast, just imagine AWJ trying to take him on Laugh

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Post by miaow on Sat 16 Feb - 20:42

Stamp on him when there's no chance of retaliation perhaps. Not so sure about eating him...

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Post by miaow on Sat 16 Feb - 20:46

Unless, of course...you mean...'eating' him... Wink Wink Wink Wink

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Post by Mr Bounce on Sat 16 Feb - 20:50

Dirty bar steward and enforcer that he was, Grewcock was also some player. To get 74 caps in the era of Johnson, Kay and Shaw shows he's no bad player. I'd rate him very highly indeed, and above most if not all of the Welsh locks since the game went pro.

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Post by BamBam on Sat 16 Feb - 20:54

Mr Bounce wrote:Dirty bar steward and enforcer that he was, Grewcock was also some player. To get 74 caps in the era of Johnson, Kay and Shaw shows he's no bad player. I'd rate him very highly indeed, and above most if not all of the Welsh locks since the game went pro.

Completely agree. He gets a bad rep, but the idea that he deserves a place in an oh so amusing team selection like the one above is pretty laughable, when the same poster has to use AWJ as the best his team can come up with Laugh

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Post by BamBam on Sat 16 Feb - 20:58

https://twitter.com/benkay5/status/944961145273765889?s=21

Found a tweet where Ben Kay replies to miaow about his opinion on  Danny Grewcock

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Post by mikey_dragon on Sat 16 Feb - 21:25

BamBam wrote:The funny thing is that Danny Grewcock would eat both "the best Welsh locks of the pro era" for breakfast, just imagine AWJ trying to take him on Laugh

Grewcock stamps on scrum-halves heads when they aren’t looking being the big hard knock that he is. I doubt he’d try it with Jake Ball or Beard, both bigger and harder than he is Very Happy.

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Post by BamBam on Sat 16 Feb - 21:39

Finally, it's 2019 mikey, you let it all out, never keep it repressed again. Tell the world how much you like Ball and Beard being big and hard

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Post by mikey_dragon on Sat 16 Feb - 21:46

BamBam wrote:Finally, it's 2019 mikey, you let it all out, never keep it repressed again. Tell the world how much you like Ball and Beard being big and hard

mikey_dragon wrote:
BamBam wrote:The funny thing is that Danny Grewcock would eat both "the best Welsh locks of the pro era" for breakfast, just imagine AWJ trying to take him on Laugh

Grewcock stamps on scrum-halves heads when they aren’t looking being the big hard knock that he is. I doubt he’d try it with Jake Ball or Beard, both bigger and harder than he is Very Happy.

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Post by No 7&1/2 on Sat 16 Feb - 21:53

The lock combo would be pretty good for the coming weekend. I can only wish the 6 actually played there for England. If Burgess had continued after the world cup and played flanker i think he'd have gone on to be a pretty special player. Didn't see much of Allen as a 13 for England. He was an inside centre for Leicester and can't remember him at outside for England.

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Post by robbo277 on Sat 16 Feb - 22:13

No 7&1/2 wrote:The lock combo would be pretty good for the coming weekend. I can only wish the 6 actually played there for England. If Burgess had continued after the world cup and played flanker i think he'd have gone on to be a pretty special player. Didn't see much of Allen as a 13 for England. He was an inside  centre for Leicester and can't remember him at outside for England.

Played 2 games for England in an Autumn series. Think 2005 while he was still at Gloucester? In a world where Shontayne Hape had like 20 (?) England caps, Allen is an odd pick.

Bell, Freshwater and Hobson could all answer some of your questions at prop.

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Post by Sharkey06 on Sat 16 Feb - 22:19

Grewcock was a karate blackbelt - I think he could have taken the 'tough guys' Beard and Ball with one hand tied behind his back. Doesn't mean he wasn't a cheap shot merchant - just ask Stan Collymore.

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Post by miaow on Sat 16 Feb - 22:45

BamBam wrote:https://twitter.com/benkay5/status/944961145273765889?s=21

Found a tweet where Ben Kay replies to miaow about his opinion on  Danny Grewcock

Recycled, dubiously relevant second-hand banter. The true sign of a bantersaurus rex... Whistle

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Post by miaow on Sat 16 Feb - 22:49

Grewcock's in there because:

1. He'd get sent off regularly so would hardly be on the pitch
2. Is a poohouse. The modern game (bar France) has left that style of rugby behind. Now locks need to be woke and write bad poetry to be considered good. Hadn't you heard?

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Post by Mad for Chelsea on Sat 16 Feb - 23:45

Surely the shoe-in for the centre partnership is Noon-Erinle? I think they actually started a game together too, so have the added bonus of experience. Very Happy

Ojo's also a bit of a funny choice if we're going on on-field performances? He only played two games (against NZ on an end of season tour), in the first he scored two tries, and he was OK in the second too. Obviously off-field behaviour was... questionable.

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Post by BamBam on Sun 17 Feb - 0:18

miaow wrote:Grewcock's in there because:

1. He'd get sent off regularly so would hardly be on the pitch
2. Is a poohouse. The modern game (bar France) has left that style of rugby behind. Now locks need to be woke and write bad poetry to be considered good. Hadn't you heard?

And yet he'd still walk into any team your bunch could scrape together laughing

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Post by miaow on Sun 17 Feb - 0:41

Hahahahahaha...no

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Post by LondonTiger on Sun 17 Feb - 9:06

robbo277 wrote:
No 7&1/2 wrote:The lock combo would be pretty good for the coming weekend. I can only wish the 6 actually played there for England. If Burgess had continued after the world cup and played flanker i think he'd have gone on to be a pretty special player. Didn't see much of Allen as a 13 for England. He was an inside  centre for Leicester and can't remember him at outside for England.

Played 2 games for England in an Autumn series. Think 2005 while he was still at Gloucester? In a world where Shontayne Hape had like 20 (?) England caps, Allen is an odd pick.

Bell, Freshwater and Hobson could all answer some of your questions at prop.

And Tim Payne. I agree with Miaow that he was poor, especially covering TH from the bench, being as he was a LH.

Allen was picked in Robinson's last 2 games in charge when barely 20 and of the back of half a dozen club starts. He was poor, but he developed into a much better player than that.

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Post by ebop on Sun 17 Feb - 10:35

maestegmafia wrote:Is this the greatest English team ever and will they replicate the success of previous great English teams over the next few years...?
Previous ‘great’ English teams?

Umm, there’s only been one, the RWC winners

Or are you going by 6Ns standards?
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Post by Scottrf on Sun 17 Feb - 10:59

Rugby was around 100 years before the World Cup started.

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Post by ebop on Sun 17 Feb - 11:01

And England were middling pre RWC. RWC 2003 is the greatest achievement to date. Unless we’re talking 6Ns only. All those grand slams against also rans equaling ‘greatness’.
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Post by Scottrf on Sun 17 Feb - 11:06

Zzzzzz New Zealand the greatest team ever and only team worth talking about, we know.

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Post by Mad for Chelsea on Sun 17 Feb - 11:13

To be fair, the topic is "best English team of the pro era". It's hard to argue with ebop that since 95 you can only really rate the WC team as great in that time. Late 90s team was pretty good, but a long way short of great IMO, and no team since then deserves that accolade. Yet. Let's see what happens for the rest of the 6N and the WC in Sept.

If we include pre pro era teams then it's a different (and probably quite a bit harder) discussion of course.

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Post by ebop on Sun 17 Feb - 11:13

Given up have you Scottrf? This current England team doesn’t have a patch on the Johnson / Wilkinson era. That team was special in the way they controlled and exerted dominance no matter where they played.
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Post by Collapse2005 on Sun 17 Feb - 12:20

I think this England side is up there but possibly not quite as good as the 2003 version. Let see though, if they continue on the same trajectory anytjing is possible.

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Post by Rugby Fan on Sun 17 Feb - 12:58

You often hear "the 2003 side" used as shorthand for Woodward's tenure but the 2000/01 season side played the best rugby we saw during his years, and the players were slightly different.

Brian Ashton was still attack coach at the time. We beat Australia, Argentina and South Africa in the autumn, and then scored tries for fun in the Six Nations. We beat France 48-19, which was quite a feat given that same French side had beaten New Zealand 42-33 only a couple of months earlier.

We won the title that year but didn't get a Grand Slam, as the Ireland match was delayed until the following season, and we lost in Dublin.

Iain Balshaw played a blinder at full-back, and its a crying shame that the Lions tour seemed to be the undoing of him. Jason Robinson was baby steps into his union career, so Cohen had one wing, with Healey or Luger on the other. If Balshaw had kept his form, I don't think Lewsey would have made the England starting 15.

Steve Thompson and Ben Kay weren't in the frame either: West and Greening were starting hookers, with Regan on the bench. Grewcock partnered Johnson, with Corry providing lock and back row cover. Corry was playing some of his best rugby at the time, as he showed on the Lions tour that summer.

Leonard was still a starting prop alongside Vickery. Woodman was on the bench occasionally, and White also got a start that season. They all went to the World Cup.

Catt and Greenwood made the midfield. After Brian Ashton left, there was less of a role for creative players like Catt and Healey. Instead, we relied heavily on Jason Robinson's individual brilliance, and the power of Tindall and Lewsey. We all remember the key role Catt played at the World Cup against Wales and France at the World Cup but he was actually a late recall, and had been out of favour.

Could that 2001 side have won a World Cup if it had been played that year? I think so.

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Post by Mr Bounce on Sun 17 Feb - 15:27

I actually think that the RWC 2003 squad peaked about 12 months prior to the World Cup itself. Not by much, but I felt that they were playing better and harder-nosed in late 2002. I don't want to take anything away from their achievements in '03, but Autumn 02 beats Autumn '03 England in my book. Not by much, but I think they had JUST that little bit more.

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Post by Ricardo74 on Mon 18 Feb - 8:36

Mr Bounce wrote:I actually think that the RWC 2003 squad peaked about 12 months prior to the World Cup itself. Not by much, but I felt that they were playing better and harder-nosed in late 2002. I don't want to take anything away from their achievements in '03, but Autumn 02 beats Autumn '03 England in my book. Not by much, but I think they had JUST that little bit more.

For me the away victories in Summer 2003 were better than the home sweep in late 2002. We beat them at HQ and they said, "okay, come and do it on our patch". So we did. Obviously the crowning glory came a little later in the year...

So, difficult to put a case for anyone other than the 2003 vintage.

There are some names from earlier on who I think merit inclusion in the discussion, if not the 23. Ben Clarke - the first "million pound rugby player" was a different class back rower to those from earlier eras, fitter, faster, with good hands as well as being a tough bugger. I always liked Tim Rodber too, but don't think he's in this conversation. Tim Stimpson at full-back, perhaps?

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Post by LordDowlais on Mon 18 Feb - 9:48

Scottrf wrote:Rugby was around 100 years before the World Cup started..


Were talking about the pro era..... picard


The best English side I have ever seen in the pro era are the one's that won the world cup, but they were at their best circa 2000/2001. They were coming to an end at the WC in 2003, but boy, I do not think I will ever see a better pack again in my lifetime. Players like Neil Back, Richard Hill, Jason Leonard, Lawrence Dallaglio, Trevor Woodman, Martin Johnson.

Then you had Billy Whizz (Jason Robinson), what a player he was, Will Greenwood, and a Welshman, Josh Lewsey Wink . The rest of the backs were decent, but those three really took advantage of probably the best pack to grace the pro era.

Ooohh, and lets not forget Mike Catt. He was some player as well.

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Post by rodders on Mon 18 Feb - 10:15

15 Robinson
14 Lewsey
13 Tuilagi
12 Greenwood
11 May
10 Farrell
9 Dawson
8 Billy V
6 Hill
7 Back
5 Johnson
4 Itoji
3 Vickery
2 George
1 Woodman
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Post by BamBam on Mon 18 Feb - 11:06

Think people are seriously underrating Dallaglio, Billy V is great but he's got a long way to go to be ahead of him in the list of England no 8s

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Post by Gooseberry on Mon 18 Feb - 11:13

Is George North the greatest English winger?


BamBam wrote:Think people are seriously underrating Dallaglio, Billy V is great but he's got a long way to go to be ahead of him in the list of England no 8s

he had a great eye for the white line thats for sure Rolling Eyes

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Post by LondonTiger on Mon 18 Feb - 12:01

rodders wrote:15 Robinson
14 Lewsey

I would swap these two around, as they lined up throughout 2003. Certainly Lewsey would not get in my team as a winger.

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