Such is the strange world of sports analysis and debate that the discussion point most frequently associated with Aaron Mauger relates to a game he was sitting firmly in the stands for.

The game of course, is the 2007 World Cup quarter-final where Luke McAllister had been preferred. There have been many theories as to why Mauger was left out, particularly given his rock-solid, if not always electrifying performances at 12. His kicking, tactical awareness, uncanny speed, and perfect distribution are all attributes that went missing on that memorable night.

We here at The 1014 think very highly of the younger Mauger. He deserves to be considered along side the other rock-star of the number 12 jersey in the professional era. The other player being Ma’a Nonu.

Nonu’s place in history is secured. He is a double World Cup winning player and enormously influential in both victories. He has won more World Cup matches without a loss than any other player; and owns the world record, along with Conrad Smith, for the most test starts as a midfield combination.

Nonu always had the natural ability to be incredibly direct; his size and speed dictated that. But it is the development of his beautiful passing game, the short, almost visionary kicking game that just turned up one day and his undoubted exceptional combination with Conrad Smith that makes Nonu our 12 from the professional era.

Ma'a Nonu, Rugby World Cup Final, New Zealand All Blacks v Australia. Copyright Photo: Libby Law / www.Photosport.nz
Ma’a Nonu, Rugby World Cup Final, New Zealand All Blacks v Australia. Copyright Photo: Libby Law / www.Photosport.nz

Strength or Guile?

When looking back at the players to don the 12 jersey for the Lions since the advent of professionalism, it is hard to go past the rollicking Jamie Roberts. His career-defining performances in South Africa in 2009 were out of this world, and had he not been injured in 2013 he would almost certainly have added more tests to his already impressive CV. The question around Roberts is will he be here in 2017, causing havoc?

For all this; however, Roberts has to sit in line behind the master of the position and arguably the greatest 12 ever to wear the famous jersey.

Jeremy Guscott was probably the most naturally gifted of all British rugby players since the halcyon days of the 70’s. His series-changing try in 1989 and then his series-winning drop goal in 1997 are unmatched in importance in Lions history.

No player has delivered so eloquently when required. The real tragedy for the Lions is that Guscott never lined up next to O’Driscoll as that would have been something to behold.

Second five-eighth. Eyes up, ball in two hands, hips swivelled; you just know this pass is going to the right place. Guscott, a picture of perfect execution. COPYRIGHT: FOTOSPORT/DAVID GIBSON
Eyes up, ball in two hands, hips swivelled; you just know this pass is going to the right place. Guscott, a picture of perfect execution. COPYRIGHT: FOTOSPORT/DAVID GIBSON

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
10. Dan Carter
11. Jonah Lomu
12. Ma’a Nonu

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
10. Jonny Wilkinson
11. George North
12. Jeremy Guscott

Get involved

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We are actively looking to build the new wave of New Zealand sports writers, journalists and content creators. If you love your sport and always wanted to write sport, get involved in The 1014. If you have a friend that knows their sport and you think they’d make a great sports writer, get them involved. A new wave of sports content is coming to New Zealand, The 1014.

You can get involved by:
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4. Share, comment, feedback, create content and just get involved

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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