Virtually all sports award announcements are surrounded by controversy and frequent claims of political expediency. Supporters of the losers complain about the injustice of the judges’ choice and insist that it was a ‘fix’.
However, even the most parochial, biased and myopic of rugby supporter can have little quibble with the IRB selections for the 2013 awards.
Well – that was a short article wasn’t it? (rhetorical, obviously)
Actually not – I wanted to put forward the case that Kieran Read is not just currently the best number 8 in the world but possibly (probably) the best ever (that I’ve seen anyway).
Consider the candidates;
Mervyn Davies – the ‘swerve’ was outstanding – dexterous and fast he played alongside an exceptional Welsh team in the 70s and was a member of the victorious ’71 and ’74 Lions test teams
Dean Richards – not the fastest but a mountain of a man. He could dominate a game – as at Landsdowne Rd in 1991 – he came off the pitch and famously asked Geoff Cooke (the manager) “Was that more like it?”
ZinZan Brooke – played like a three quarter around the park and even dropped a goal in the World Cup against England
Lawrence Dallaglio – in a world class back row he was the only one to play in every single minute of England’s campaign in the 2003 World Cup
Wayne Shelford – Buck was a great number 8 who was never known to take a step backward
Sergio Parisse – how good would he have been if he’d been born English or in Sydney? The George Best of rugby he is the Italian talisman who stands out even when his side are struggling
Pierre Spies – sadly never realised his full potential – but an extraordinarily effective runner with the ball
Toutai Kefu – had to vie with Jim Williams for the 8 jersey but a major part of the winning Wallabies against the Lions in 2001
Pat Lam – like Parisse was the consistently a star in one of the teams outside the top 6 – creative and very hard.
All outstanding players – every one has all- round ability that made them legends on the pitch.
But Read has something more – he does not have a flaw in his game – be it speed, off loads, thinking or doing grunt work.
It is unusual for us older guys not to hark back to ‘our’ day and to suggest to our kids that the players were better back then.
We talk of Mike Gibson, Gareth and Barry, Sella, Maso, the Ella brothers, Campese, Michael Jones Duckham and Fran Cotton – but when it comes to the number 8 shirt it just has to be Kieran Read who (literally) is ahead of the pack!