Number Eight is without a doubt the most difficult position to select when looking at the Lions sides of the professional era.

No fewer than six players have started a test in that position, but only two; Quinnell in 2001 and Heaslip in 2009 have been ever-present in a series. To my surprise, the great Dallaglio only appeared at Number Eight in one test for the Lions.

With heated discussion around The Shed here at The 1014, it was finally whittled down to Quinnell and Heaslip.

Quinnell was immense in Australia in 2001 and scored a try in the Lions victory in Brisbane, but ultimately that series was unsuccessful. Which brings us to Heaslip.

Jamie Heaslip was so impressive in 2009 in Africa that he made the shortlist for the IRB Player of the Year and backed that series up with a dominating performance in Australia in 2013. Yes, he missed the final test of that series to a phenomenal Faletau, but his selection in our fantasy team is sealed by consistently high performances and a series win; albeit over a below par Australian side.

Jamie Heaslip leading from the front against the NSW Waratahs tour match. Photo Clay Cross / photosport.co.nz
Jamie Heaslip leading from the front against the NSW Waratahs tour match. Photo Clay Cross / photosport.co.nz

All Blacks Number Eights

The list of New Zealand’s world-class Number Eights is not a short one by any stretch of the imagination; but for a long period of time in the professional era, there was some consternation that we may never replace Brooke.

Zinzan Brooke is undoubtedly one of the greats. His drop kicks, competitiveness, and all-round skill set is arguably unparalleled in the history of the game, certainly from a forwards perspective. When this is all said and done though, there was only one player that would be wearing our Number Eight jersey and that is the boy from Rosehill College; Kieran Read.

Read grew nicely from humble beginnings to very quickly establish himself as a player that the team could not do without.

His pinnacle was in 2013 when he claimed the IRB Player of the Year award with some absurdly good performances, which always seemed to be capped off with him running in the wide channels and scoring or creating tries out of nothing.

Let’s hope that Reado can get back near that level for the upcoming series; his performances and leadership will be key to New Zealand getting a favourable result.

Kieran Read running in a try during the New Zealand All Blacks v France Quarter Final Rugby World Cup 2015 match. Photo: Andrew Cornaga / www.Photosport.nz
Kieran Read running in a try during the New Zealand All Blacks v France Quarter Final Rugby World Cup 2015 match. Photo: Andrew Cornaga / www.Photosport.nz

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

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

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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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