The midfield maestros that form the centre partnership are the focus of the latest Royall Lyme Rugby World Cup XV squad selection. While it was tempting to pick an established partnership, I went instead for two players who each excelled for their countries in the 12 and 13 shirts.
12 – Australia’s Tim Horan
— Indy Sport (@IndySport) June 10, 2015
Tim Horan played in three Rugby World Cups for Australia between 1991 and 1999 and won two of them. He played his domestic rugby for the Queensland Reds but it is his international form and partnership with Jason Little that brought him much acclaim.
— World Rugby (@WorldRugby) September 11, 2015
Horan was a gifted playmaker who was known for running lines and offloading to support to optimum effect for the Wallabies. He made his debut at the RWC two years after his first senior cap against New Zealand. He scored four tries in ‘91 and two in ‘99, including the fastest in the tournament for which he won a year’s supply of Guiness. His performances in the 1999 RWC saw him named Player of the Tournament.
In his 11 years in the green and gold he won 80 caps and scored 140 points for his country.
13 – Ireland’s Brian O’Driscoll
— EatSleepRugby (@eatsleeprugby) August 24, 2015
Brian O’Driscoll arrived on the international stage aged just 20. He got his first international senior cap before he got his first senior cap for Leinster, the team he represented for his entire career. His time at the club saw the team claim domestic and European titles and his reputation as a game changer for club and country grew. A regular in the green of Ireland with fellow Leinster centre partner Gordon D’Arcy, he could outthink and outstep defenders, and when called on to defend he stood his ground and made his tackles. His explosiveness, decision making and ability to get other players away made him a player that made things happen and was always difficult to predict.
For all his many records and accomplishments O’Driscoll is one of the greats of the game who never to lifted the Rugby World Cup. Between 1999 and 2011 Ireland made four consecutive quarter-finals with O’Driscoll in the side but they never progressed beyond that stage. O’Driscoll scored seven tries and two drop goals in 17 appearances in the RWC across those four tournaments, amassing 41 points for his country.
Ones to Watch – Sam Burgess and Jesse Kriel
Another awesome team performance & win at Twickenham yesterday. What an atmosphere. Great way to get my second cap pic.twitter.com/7ESQb8xfHa
— Sam Burgess (@SamBurgess8) September 6, 2015
The selection of recent Union convert Sam Burgess for the England team would have been less surprising for many had he been named in the back row, a position he has played for club side Bath since his transfer from League last year. However Lancaster has picked the Yorkshireman at centre and his first (and only full cap) for England ahead of the RWC was as part of a partnership with fellow debutant Exeter’s Henry Slade. Could this unproven player in an untested partnership really lift the trophy at his first attempt on home soil?
— SuperSport (@SuperSportTV) September 4, 2015
South Africa’s Jesse Kriel impressed at centre in his Rugby Championship games despite the Springboks’ poor results in the 2015 tournament. The team was missing many key players to injury, not least their captain Jean De Villiers, which allowed Kriel to step into a central role. While the return of senior players in time for the RWC may see Heyneke Meyer move Kriel to another position the player has shown himself capable of making an impact at the top level so look for him to shine when he gets his opportunity.
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Gavin Hickie, USA Rugby Collegiate All-Americans Forwards Coach, is a former Ireland A & 7s, Leinster and Leicester rugby player now Head Coach of Dartmouth Rugby. He writes for RugbyToday.com and other publications when not coaching and blogging on lineoutcoach.com