Despite England leading against Wales when Sam Burgess left the fray (in the only big game he started), Stuart Lancaster has been vilified in the press for selecting a player new to the game of rugby union.
Did Lancaster get carried away with child-like wonder at the prospect of running a Rugby League superstar at 12? Maybe. It did, however, get us thinking – what would a team look like if we had all the world’s athletes to choose from? Well, ours would look like this:
- Hakuhō Shō (Sumo, Mongolia, 1.93m, 157kg). One of the most celebrated sumo wrestlers in history and, at 30, still in his pomp, Hakuhō has the makings of a cracking loosehead. Possessing dynamism, balance and speed, weighing in at a solid 346lbs and not afraid to lead with his head if needs be, he’d be more than a handful for even the most gnarled prop forward.
- Phil Taylor (Darts, England, 1.73m, no official weight figure available, but fair to say he’s on the lumpy side). An eminent coach once described his ideal pack as “seven bastards and a ball-handler” and who are we to shun that sound advice? With the guys either side of him averaging 375lbs and capable of propping up a block of flats, we feel we can afford to lose some athleticism at hooker in favour of accuracy and that’s exactly what we’d get from the sixteen-time World Darts Champion. He’d be free to wander from set-piece to set-piece as long as his arrows were straight and true at line-out time.
- Butterbean (Boxing, USA, 1.80m 193kg). A low centre-of-gravity and an argument-ending right hand sees Butterbean forming the cornerstone of our scrum. No pack is complete without an enforcer or two and a man who can punch holes through a fire door is a pretty decent start.
- The Undertaker (Professional Wrestling, USA, 2.08m, 136kg). Rugby is a gentleman’s game and never has it had a more delightful crop of internationals than now. Who wouldn’t welcome Richie McCaw, Stephen Moore, Thierry Dusautoir or Chris Robshaw to marry their sister? However, it’s gone too far, with interviews and press conferences littered with mind-numbing platitudes and niceties. The game needs a villain or two, so we’re going for the colossal social media hand-grenade who once famously said, “I don’t make mistakes: I bury them”.
- Brian Shaw (Strongman, USA, 2.03m, 197kg). At 434lbs, or 31 stone in old money, Shaw, the reigning World’s Strongest Man, might be a tad hard to lift at line-out time. However, he could probably wave a flanker around like a touch judge’s flag and his power in mauls and scrums would be much like a normal lock forward, albeit one driving a small truck. Suspect cardio could limit his influence later in the game, but we reckon he’d get his second wind in the bar.
- Vitali Klitschko (Boxing, Ukraine, 2.01m, 112kg). Statesman, academic, lover and fighter, Vitali has a PhD and the second best knockout-to-fight ratio of any champion in heavyweight boxing history. More importantly, and unlike his younger brother, he would never lose to a half-witted bigot like Tyson Fury. He’d be a shrewd, imposing skipper and unlikely to end up on the wrong end of many marginal decisions.
- Jon Jones (MMA, USA, 1.93m, 93kg). A controversial figure and mixed martial arts’ most dominant fighter, Jones would be in his element in the tackle and around the breakdown. His mastery of Brazilian jiu-jitsu and other dark arts could probably be applied to most rucks, although only in the unlikely scenario of the opposing team being willing to do any more than ask politely for their ball back.
- Teddy Riner (Judo, France, 2.04, 131kg). Contemporary back-rowers need great technique at the breakdown to either remove opponents from over the ball or remain firmly in place themselves. The eight-time heavyweight World Champion and London Olympics’ gold medallist judoka could throw the average openside several rows back into the stands, should the mood take him, and that’s good enough for us.
Watch this space to see who makes our backline…