As Hadleigh Parkes awaits his move to Japan after signing for Panasonic Wild Knights, we asked the former Wales, Scarlets, Manawatu, Blues, Kings and Hurricanes centre to pick a dream XV of the best he has played with or against.
1. Tony Woodcock
Wyn Jones is probably best around the field but Woodcock’s record as a two-time World Cup winner speaks for itself. Centurion for the All Blacks and Auckland Blues, a good man off the field who attended to all the core responsibilities of a prop.
2. Ken Owens
Will never ask someone to do anything he’s not willing to do himself. Great tackler and defensive player and a good ball-runner who also does the hooker job very well. Good mate and someone I’ve really enjoyed playing with.
3. Charlie Faumuina
I don’t know a lot about scrums but around the field this guy has a tremendous skill-set. Big ball-carrier with a great offload, he was key to a lot of go-forward for the All Blacks and Blues over a long period. Once saw him side-step a winger!
4. Ali Williams
Good leader who always got on well with the young players in Auckland. Had a great skill-set, ran the lineout and read the set-piece well. He even put in a cross-kick once for Doug Howlett to score a try in a Test match!
5. Alun Wyn Jones
Always respected him when we played against each other and he’s been a great leader for the Ospreys and Wales. Always nice to walk out of the tunnel and see him leading you out – never backs down for anyone, always passionate.
6. Jerome Kaino
Big ball-carrier and hugely physical presence who gave the Blues and All Blacks a lot of go-forward. Good footwork, great skills and handling and since he’s been at Toulouse, he’s helped turn them into champions again.
7. Justin Tipuric
Not the biggest but great skill-set and never backs down for anyone. Great defensively, wins key turnovers and is so quick he often runs down backs. Top bloke.
8. Josh Navidi
He’s always a key player for Cardiff Blues and gives Wales huge go-forward. Great defensively and he’s been outstanding for Wales while I’ve been involved.
9. Aaron Smith
Grew up down the road from him and we played against each other at school and with each other for Manawatu age group teams. Brilliant passer and to see what he’s done for the Highlanders and All Blacks is awesome.
10. Gareth Anscombe
Big mentions for Dan Biggar and Rhys Patchell but I’ve been playing with and against Gareth for ten years. Deceptively quick, he’s a big attacking threat and kicks really well.
11. Josh Adams
What he’s done over the last two years has been outstanding. Leading try-scorer at the World Cup who’s a hard runner, very quick and good defensively. Give him a couple of metres, he’s gone.
12. Ma’a Nonu
Looked after me in my first year of Super Rugby and exceptional to still be going strong at 38. Physical presence, good footwork and a great skill-set – a big part of All Blacks’ World Cup successes.
13. Jonathan Davies
Reads the game exceptionally well, good defensively and deceptively quick with a great fend. Scores good tries and has a great left foot as well. Great team man.
14. Joe Rokocoko
Was scoring tries for fun when I was at university so it was awesome to play with him for the Blues – a real freak when you give him space. Honourable mention for Liam Williams.
15. Charles Piutau
Pound for pound, Leigh Halfpenny’s right up there but Charles is a very strong, physical man who’s able to just bump guys off. Done well everywhere he’s been and is a brilliant attacking 15. Leigh’s exceptional as well.