Two-time World Cup winner Owen Franks reflects on his career with Canterbury, Crusaders, Northampton Saints and his 108 Tests for the All Blacks to select a dream XV.
1. Ben Franks
I’ve got to go with my brother because he was probably the biggest influence on my rugby career, especially early on when he paved the way in terms of professionalism.
2. Keven Mealamu
One of the humblest guys I’ve played with but also the most ferocious. A warrior on the field and great man off it who took time to mentor me coming through.
3. John Afoa
Carl Hayman was one of the best scrummagers I’ve seen but what I like about John is he came to Europe and proved himself as one of the best tightheads in different places.
4. Brad Thorn
Another guy who took a mentoring role for me early on and you couldn’t ask for anyone better pushing behind you. Hard as nails and always walked the talk.
5. Sam Whitelock
Played a lot of my career with him and he’s an honest, hard-working guy who’s a great team man. Got on well with him and we still have a great friendship.
6. Schalk Burger
A player I always admired because I enjoyed his hard-nosed approach to the game. Nothing too fancy but he carried hard, tackled harder and had a good physical edge.
7. Richie McCaw
Great leader who demanded a lot from his teammates. Set the highest standards and got the job done.
8. Jordan Taufua
Playing just down the road at Leicester now and he’s a guy who always likes to make a mark with big runs and big hits. Expect him to make an impact in England.
9. Andy Ellis
Good guy who I played with a lot early in my career. Super fit and one of the most competitive guys out there. Anything he does, he wants to do really well.
10. Richie Mo’unga
Probably the only first-five who can squat as much weight as a front rower! Awesome player around the field who’s very impressive at what he does.
11. Jonah Lomu
Caught him at the end of his career and what an incredible bloke. Every young Kiwi tried to copy what he did and he inspired a whole bunch of us growing up.
12. Ma’a Nonu
What a lot of people don’t know about Ma’a is his professionalism. He always had time for me in my early years and the fact he’s still playing at 38 says it all.
13. Conrad Smith
I don’t know much about back play but this guy was rock solid. Always gave 100 per cent and he was a hugely influential defensive leader alongside Ma’a.
14. Julian Savea
Stood out for the All Blacks when he was on form and was one of the most destructive wingers in the world. Humble guy but very hard to stop.
15. Ben Smith
We played New Zealand U21s together and came into the All Blacks at the same time in 2009. One of the best fullbacks in the world, his record speaks for itself.