With Dan Carter still play­ing as well as he was at 36, we de­cided to pick the Vet­eran XV – you know, a side full of old codgers who can still han­dle them­selves.

Vet­eran wing Bryan Habana has re­tired, so we thought we’d pick our favourite XV made from veter­ans.

NZ Rugby World - - Contents -

1 MATEKITONGA MOEAKIOLA [USA 2007-2015]

The big prop was 37 when he played at the 2015 World Cup – the old­est man in his po­si­tion at the tour­na­ment.

Not that any­one would have known watch­ing him. He ran around like a man half his age and car­ried on play­ing for his French club un­til he was 39.

2 MARIO LEDESMA [Ar­gentina 1996-2011]

A tough man and clearly durable, Mario Ledesma came into test foot­ball when he was 22 in 1996. When he played at the 2011 World Cup he was 38 and yet, eas­ily, one of the best hook­ers at the tour­na­ment. He never once looked like he was too old to be out there.

3 OS DU RANDT [South Africa 1994 -2007]

Big Os pulled off a rare feat when he be­came one of a select group to win two World Cup medals.

His first came in 1995 and the sec­ond 12 years later when he was 35. He was a much bet­ter player in the sec­ond tour­na­ment than he was in the first and there wasn’t a scrum that he didn’t de­stroy be­tween 2005 and 2007.

4 BRAD THORN [All Blacks 2003-2011]

Big bad, Brad signed off test foot­ball in 2011, when he won a World Cup medal with the All Blacks at the age of 36.

He was, at the time, the old­est man to ever have won a World Cup. But the Thorn story didn’t end there. He car­ried on play­ing, win­ning the Heineken Cup with Le­in­ster and then re­turn­ing for two sea­sons with the High­landers.

He was still play­ing Su­per Rugby when he was 39 and first class rugby when he was 40.

5 SI­MON SHAW [Eng­land 1996-2011]

It felt like Si­mon Shaw would play for ever. And he kind of did. He was still play­ing for Eng­land when he was 38 and even though he gave up with test foot­ball in 2011, he car­ried on play­ing for Toulon un­til 2013. And prop­erly play for them – hold down a first team place and con­trib­ute each week.

6 GE­ORGE SMITH [Aus­tralia 2000-2013]

What on earth does Ge­orge eat and drink? It must be some­thing mirac­u­lous be­cause at 38 years old, he’s still man­ag­ing to play Su­per Rugby in the back row.

He just keeps go­ing which is in­cred­i­ble given he played test rugby be­fore Richie McCaw.

7 NEIL BACK [Eng­land 1994 -2003]

Backie, as he was uni­ver­sally known, re­tired from the Eng­land set up when he was 34. But amaz­ingly, two years later, he was picked by the Bri­tish Li­ons and be­came the old­est player to rep­re­sent them in a test when he ran out to play the All Blacks at the ten­der age of 36.

8 RADIKE SAMO [Aus­tralia 2007 -]

The Fi­jian-born Samo won his first cap for Aus­tralia at lock in 2004 when he was 28. Amaz­ingly, af­ter win­ning six caps that year, he dis­ap­peared only to re­turn to ac­tion in 2011, scor­ing a bril­liant solo try against the All Blacks from No 8. He out­sprinted a few backs on his way to score and it was no won­der that he was used on the wing at the World Cup when the Wal­la­bies had a few in­juries. A 36-year-old loose for­ward play­ing on the wing?

9 FA­BIEN GALTHIE [France 1991 -2003]

The tal­ented French half­back be­came a bet­ter in­ter­na­tional force the older he be­came. By the time he was play­ing at his fourth World Cup as a 34-year-old, he was the best half­back in the world.

Re­lied on his de­ci­sion-mak­ing and tac­ti­cal con­trol, but he still had a fair bit of pace and en­ergy at that World Cup.

10 DANIEL CARTER [All Blacks 2003- 2015]

A lot of peo­ple in­sisted he was bro­ken and busted in 2015, only for him to be crowned World Rugby Player of the Year and World Cup win­ner at the age of 33.

At 34 he be­came the high­est paid player in the world and now at 36, he is still play­ing reg­u­larly for Rac­ing Metro who are one of the best clubs in Europe. The story isn’t quite fin­ished be­cause he’ll be play­ing in Ja­pan next year at the age of 37.

11 SEAN LA­MONT [Scot­land 2004-2017]

They say wings run out of gas by the time they are in their late 20s. Not Sean La­mont, he was still play­ing for Scot­land on the wing when he was 36.

He al­ways had size to help him beat de­fend­ers but that pace of his was still ev­i­dent in his last few caps.

12 TANA UMAGA [All Blacks 1997-2005]

Af­ter a long ca­reer, Tana Umaga de­cided to re­tire from test foot­ball at the age of 34. It had been a good stint. But it turned out that it wasn’t the end of the road.

He re­tired from all play­ing in 2007 only to make a come­back in 2009 and amaz­ingly, af­ter two sea­sons with Toulon, he re­turned to play for the Chiefs in 2011 at the age of 38. And no ex­ag­ger­a­tion, he prob­a­bly wasn’t that far away from be­ing good enough to play at the World Cup.

13 FRANK BUNCE [All Blacks 1993-1997]

The crazy thing about Frank Bunce is that he didn’t win his first All Blacks cap un­til he was 30 and at 35, he was play­ing the best rugby of his ca­reer.

In 1997 Bunce scored a few mir­a­cle tries where his pace and power were the as­sets no one could deal with. Look­ing back, he prob­a­bly could have pushed on through to the 1999 World Cup.

14 BRYAN HABANA [South Africa 2004 -2016]

The fly­ing Spring­boks wing has fi­nally raised the white flag and de­cided to re­tire. But even at 33 he was a dan­ger man that had to be shut down. The All Blacks never re­laxed when Habana was on the field – his magic never wore off.

15 AN­DREA MASI [Italy 1999-2015]

The Ital­ian full­back was still play­ing for Italy at the age of 35. He was des­per­ate to win his 100th test cap for his beloved Az­zurri but was forced to re­tire in 2016 due to an Achilles in­jury.

A ver­sa­tile and skilled player, he was reg­u­larly Italy’s best in the Six Na­tions when he was well into his 30s.

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