By Reece Chambers and John Jones
How do you select a team of the decade that includes three Six Nations titles, two Grand Slams and three Rugby World Cup campaigns?
Head of Sport, Reece Chambers, and John Jones, contributor, have their ultimate starting XV. There are certainly some contentious positions, but this XV would definitely take some beating.
1 – Ken Owens – Not just Ken Owens’ dynamism that makes him great but his leadership qualities draw comparison with AWJ (shown particularly this year in Six Nations and World Cup)- Wales beyond lucky to have two such characters in the team
2 – Gethin Jenkins – 16 year career, played a pivotal role in four Six Nations titles including three grand slams. The term goat probably has never had more relevance.
3 – Tomas Francis – has come a long way in a short space of time since debut in 2015. His big game performances in the Six Nations give him the nod in a hotly contested position.
4 – Alun Wyn Jones – needs no introduction – certainly the best Welsh player of the decade and one of the best ever. The most capped player, huge tackler, born leader.
5 – Luke Charteris – was a huge player for Wales in the early part of the decade. Crucial at lineouts, dismantled every maul he came near, holds Six Nations championship record for most tackles in a game (31 v Ireland)
6 – Sam Warburton – was talismanic in his 49 games as captain. A strong carrier, huge at breakdown and a fantastic leader.
7 – Justin Tipuric – completely different style to Warburton, but complements him nicely. Strong going forward in open play, but also a world class defender. Phenomenal at RWC this year, stepped up when it mattered (as he always does)
8 – Taulupe Faletau – has been agonisingly unlucky with injuries recently, but unplayable on his day for Wales. The most carries and most tackles for Wales at 2011 Rugby World Cup.
9 – Mike Phillips – makes the cut. One of most physical scrum halves in the business and central Welsh success earlier in the decade. He lost his place to Rhys Webb but remained a hugely valuable and experienced squad player until retiring on 94 caps.
10 – Dan Biggar – has bailed Wales out on many important occasions. Phenomenal player at 2015 RWC – MoM performance at Twickenham won’t be forgotten in a long long time. Nerveless at the tee, pulls the strings, brilliant brilliant player.
11 – George North – has established himself as one of the most feared wingers in the world. On his day, with his unbelievable pace and power, he is a joy to watch and a nightmare to face.
12 – Jamie Roberts – seems to have been around forever. An absolute unit, a fan favourite and a master of the dummy run, he was a standout player for Wales in the early ‘10s.
13 – Jonathan Davies – an all round performer – dangerous going forward (16 tries for Wales) as well as a phenomenal defender, who consistently has the 13 channel on lockdown. Will be missed at 2020 SN
14 – Liam Williams – a player that looks like he’d be rubbish at rugby, but yet he’s bloody brilliant – has come to embody Wales’ changing style of play – more mature, forgetting how to lose.
15 – Leigh Halfpenny – another superstar Welsh player unlucky with injuries. Regardless, one of the decades standout players – Wales come to rely on his goal kicking more times than I care to count, while he like Williams is a master under the high ball. 733 points in 85 appearances is an unbelievable stat.