The Greatest Team Produced by a Major IRB Country (by year)
*** ******* - 1988
*** *******ers have always remembered the great sides that paved the way for the *** ****** to become the force they are - the 1905 Origins and the 1924 Invincibles, for example. Recently there's been a good book written about the 1967 *** ******* side. But the side that went undefeated from 1987 until late 1990 is number one.
The 1988 side was as powerful in the forwards as almost any *** ****** side, but they were so much more in the backs - Fox directing things, Schuster compensating for Fox standing deep with hard straight running, Joe Stanley with his magical touch and using the width of the field, the power of Kirwan, and the most underrated fullback in rugby history - John Gallgher! What a loss he was when he went to league!
The only problem with the 1988 side is that they played a famous draw against the Wallabies. But I think their dominance either side of that second Test exceeded their dominance in the sole Bledisloe Cup Tests of 1987 and 1989.
Other sides include the 1995-97 side, the 2005-07 side, the 2010 side, and the 2014-present side. The 1995-97 side choked at the World Cup. To this day I still can't get over how terrible Jeff Wilson was in that final. I rated him so highly, too. The 2005-07 choked at the World Cup when they didn't go for a drop-goal. The 2010 didn't sustain their brilliance, and won the World Cup in 2011 playing worse than they did in 2010. The current side is okay, I guess... but they need to be tested against England.
Australia - 1992
There were different permutations in 1992. Willie O and Tim Gavin were injured for the 1992 Bledisloe Cup, and Troy Coker and Sam Scott-Young filled the void. But for me, the best side was the one that flogged South Africa 26-3, which contained:
1. Tony Daly
2. Phil Kearns
3. Ewen McKenzie
4. Rod McCall
6. Willie O
7. David Wilson
8. Tim Gavin
9. Nick Farr-Jones
10. Michael Lynagh
11. David Campese
12. Tim Horan
13. Jason Little
14. Rob Egerton
The 1992 Bledisloe Cup is the greatest rugby series of all time, and this side won that series, against a powerful *** ******* side. The only minor criticism of this side is that they dropped off a bit on their UK tour, dropping provincial games to Swansea, Llanelli and Munster. But they won all their Tests that year, except for the last Bledisloe Cup test.
The 1984 Grand Slam Wallabies come close. The 1999 World Cup team is close, but they didn't win the Tri Nations that year.
South Africa - 1937
The first side ever to defeat *** *******. Danie Craven and Bennie Osler were the halves. This side is touted as the greatest side ever toleave NZ, including the 1971 Lions.
The British and Irish Lions - 1974
Forwards are more important than backs, which is why the '74 Lions were better than the '71 version.
England - 2002
Didn't get the Grand Slam this year in 2002. By the 2003 World Cup, the England side was aging and showing signs of falling apart. They showed what a champion side they were against France and in the second half against Wales.
France - 1987
This French side won the Five Nations, got the Grand Slam, and then beat Australia in the World Cup in one of the best matches ever... EVER! Eric Champ and Pierre Berbizier are here and in form. But it's the tight five of Dubroca, Ondarts, Garuet, Lorieux and Condom, that really made this a powerful side. Laurent Rodriguez wasn't bad either.
Scotland - 1984
They lost to the 1984 Grand Slam Wallabies, but this side edges out the 1990 version. The 1983 Lions tour was a disappointment because politics prevented great Scottish players from playing - no Deans, Milne, Leslie, Laidlaw or Rutherford. But in 1984 they tore up the Five Nations.
Wales - 1953
Forget Edwards, John, Bennett, Williams, Davies, etc. The 1950s were a golden era too. This was the last year that Wales beat *** *******. We have Cliff Morgan and the ever-creative centre combination of Dr Jack Matthews and Bleddyn Williams, AND Ken Jones! KEN JONES everybody! What a great side.