Thursday, May 12, 2011

Rugby Top 200

From the “you’ve got to be joking” department, UK rugby writer for The Sunday Times Stephen Jones has named me #26 on a list of the 200 most influential people in the history of rugby football. Stephen compiled the list over several weeks in late 2010 and it has just been sent to me. I fell off my chair. He has put together an absorbing list of players, coaches, captains, administrators, journalists, commentators and all-round inspirational players.

A few years back, NZRU CEO David Moffett (#142 on the list) and I negotiated the All Blacks’ sponsorship deal with Adidas. I had previously led Steinlager’s sponsorship of the All Blacks, but there I was in 1997 negotiating with the late Robert Louis-Dreyfus the biggest sponsorship deal in New Zealand sporting history.

Some were expecting we would land Nike and plunge the All Blacks into some sort of global sporting carnival. No way. Adidas loved the values and legacy of the All Blacks, came onboard with total love and respect, and remain principal sponsor to this day. Stephen Jones calls it “one of the most successful marketing partnerships anywhere in sport”, and he’s correct. The All Blacks are the #1 ranked team in the world, they have the best historical win record of any team in sport, they are the team everyone wants to beat.

There are 22 New Zealanders on Stephen’s list – Jonah Lomu is his choice for the most influential rugby person of all time for the most electrifying performance in the history of the game, the World Cup semi-final between the All Blacks and England in 1995 in South Africa when he scored four tries. Colin Meads is 7 and my great mate Sean Fitzpatrick is 10, George Nepia 58, Vic Cavanagh 129, Don Clarke 170 and Farah Palmer 196. USA Rugby’s Nigel Melville is 111.

I’ve been through Stephen’s selection of players and picked my World XV based as much on character as on skill and achievements.

Fullback: Serge Blanco
Wingers: Jonah Lomu, David Campese
Centres: Mike Gibson, Dan Carter
Fly Half: Hugo Porta
Halfback: Gareth Edwards
No 8: Wayne Shelford
Flankers: Richie McCaw, Lawrence Dallaglio
Locks: Bill Beaumont (c), Colin Meads
Props: Wilson Whinerary, Olo Brown
Hooker: Sean Fitzpatrick
Coach: Graham Henry

Send me your own World XV selections. No South Africans or Irishmen in the side? Let the battle commence!