Former Rugby World Cup winner and All Blacks captain Sean Fitzpatrick has selected a combined XV from the confirmed England vs New Zealand semi-final line-ups, in an exclusive chat with Sky Sports in Tokyo.
Fitzpatrick, who earned 92 caps for the All Blacks from hooker, was a part of New Zealand’s 1987 World Cup-winning squad and captained his nation to another final at the 1995 World Cup in South Africa.
How many Englishman make into this Kiwi’s XV? Not many…
Read on below to find out who makes Fitzpatrick’s cut in the words of the man himself out in Japan.
Front Row: Joe Moody (New Zealand), Jamie George (England), Nepo Laulala (New Zealand)
I think at the moment, in terms of the three of them together, you would have to go with the New Zealand front row of Joe Moody, Codie Taylor and Nepo Laulala.
Moody and Laulala have been quite outstanding in terms of their ball-carrying ability, which is a huge part of rugby today.
Taylor’s lineout throwing is so good, but so is Jamie George’s. George is an outstanding player and as an individual, he gets in this XV.
Kyle Sinckler has had a great World Cup and has really stood out, but I am pretty big on scrummaging and Laulala is key to the All Blacks.
Second Row: Brodie Retallick (New Zealand), Sam Whitelock (New Zealand)
You just can’t go past Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock. They are the best locking duo in world rugby at the moment, if not ever.
Retallick, considering he’s only had around 90 minutes of rugby, has been just sensational.
Maro Itoje is world class but, unfortunately, will have to wait his time to get close to the All Blacks two.
Back-row: Scott Barrett (New Zealand), Ardie Savea (New Zealand), Kieran Read (New Zealand)
Ardie Savea, for me, will be the player of the tournament. As good as Sam Underhill has been for England, Savea would be my pick for the standout performer here in Japan.
Kieran Read had the game of his life last week against Ireland, and Billy Vunipola would have been watching that. Read is just out of this world, and his leadership is so important. He would definitely be my captain in this team.
And Scott Barrett offers something a bit different up against Tom Curry.
Underhill and Curry have been absolute finds this season, but as a back-row, I just like the look of the New Zealand three.
Barrett has been picked to do a different job and Curry can’t do what Barrett can in terms of his lineout work.
New Zealand have picked a team to beat England, while Eddie Jones has picked Curry and Underhill again to go and outplay the All Black flankers, but I can’t see it happening, especially with how the operation of the breakdown is working today.
Half-backs: Aaron Smith (New Zealand), Richie Mo’unga (New Zealand)
Aaron Smith was the half-back of the quarter-finals last weekend, so he’d be my nine over Ben Youngs.
Richie Mo’unga is probably the best 10 in world rugby at the moment, so he’d be my 10 ahead of George Ford.
There’s no arguments there I would have thought.
Centres: Owen Farrell (England), Jack Goodhue (New Zealand)
As the best kicker in world rugby right now, you’d have to have Owen Farrell in before Anton Lienert-Brown at 12 – his boot could be vital.
Manu Tuilagi has all the potential to be there but I like players who just do the job well and aren’t flashy at all, and Jack Goodhue does that for me. I haven’t seen enough in terms of Tuilagi’s fitness levels.
Back-three: Jonny May (England), Sevu Reece (New Zealand), Beauden Barrett (New Zealand)
You’d have to say Jonny May is probably the winger of the tournament so far, and earns his place in the team over George Bridge.
Sevu Reece was just phenomenal last week. The try he set up for Smith in that quarter-final was out of this world, so he’s my 14 before Anthony Watson.