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.
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.