Throughout the late 90s and early 2000s there were two schools of thought in New Zealand.

One, that Justin Marshall was the correct halfback for the All Blacks and the other, that Byron Kelleher was; it seemed at times that the selectors also couldn’t make up their minds.

The problem New Zealand had was that there had been no succession plan for Graeme Bachop who played his last match for the All Blacks just shy of professionalism.

Don’t get me wrong, Marshall and Kelleher were very fine All Blacks; however, they lacked something. To be fair, no one really knows what they lacked, or can even put a finger on it, in fact it may just be perception. Possibly an unfair perception, but perception nonetheless.

And then finally in 2012 New Zealand uncovered arguably the finest halfback to come from the shores since Loveridge, and possibly even Going and Laidlaw.

Aaron Smith in his pomp is undeniably the most influential player on the planet, particularly when tucked in behind a rampant pack. His pass is the definition of crisp, his box kicks are pinpoint accurate, his chirping redefines chirping, he has an enormous heart for someone of his build and is not afraid to take on the big boys. For all of these traits, it is that incredible step off either foot when running from broken play that sets him apart and terrorises the opposition defence.

Aaron Smith is without a doubt the finest halfback New Zealand has had in at least a generation.

Aaron Smith scores the 1st New Zealand try of their 2015 RWC campaign. Photo: Matthew Impey / www.Photosport.nz
Aaron Smith scores the 1st New Zealand try of their 2015 RWC campaign. Photo: Matthew Impey / www.Photosport.nz

Lions Halfback Selection

Both Dwayne Peel and Mike Phillips have done a tremendous job of flying the Welsh flag in the 9 jersey for the Lions. The jersey made famous by arguably the greatest Lion of them all; Welsh Wizard, Gareth Edwards. It is, however, an Englishman who we are selecting at 9 for this Lions team.

Matt Dawson played a pivotal role in the 1997 series victory in Africa. His dummy to score the try that helped seal the first test was a moment of genius. He was also involved in getting the ball to Guscott for the drop goal that made the series safe.

Yes, it can be argued that his behaviour in Australia was disrespectful and unsavoury, which we certainly don’t condone. But on pure rugby and moments that mattered, Dawson has to be near the very top of the pile in Lions history. Possibly up there with JPR and that drop-kick in ’71!

Matt Dawson during the match between NSW and the British & Irish Lions. PHOTO: PHOTOSPORT
Matt Dawson during the match between NSW and the British & Irish Lions. PHOTO: PHOTOSPORT

The professional era teams to date…

All Blacks

1. Tony Woodcock
2. Dane Coles
3. Carl Hayman
4. Brodie Retallick
5. Sam Whitelock
6. Jerry Collins
7. Richie McCaw (c)
8. Kieran Read
9. Aaron Smith

Lions

1. Tom Smith
2. Keith Wood
3. Phil Vickery
4. Martin Johnson (c)
5. Paul O’Connell
6. Lawrence Dallaglio
7. Richard Hill
8. Jamie Heaslip
9. Matt Dawson

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Photos: www.photosport.nz

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Author: Steven Prescott

I am a total sports fanatic; it is as simple as that. I love all sports, and when I’m not sitting at my computer living my dream with The 1014, I am planning adventures. The last time I did this I ended up convincing my wife to cycle 26,125km across three continents, and 22 countries with me as part of the Pedalling Prescotts.

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