Thursday, 3 December 2009

My favourite question to ask of folk over a quiet beer (other than name the 1976 All Blacks backline that played against Argentina) is the following:

If you could pick three people, dead or alive, with whom to have dinner and meaningful conversation, who would they be?

My three would be John F Kennedy, Bill Clinton and Tiger Woods (truth be known I’d love to pick JFK, Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby to find out who really did it but aside from solving the world’s greatest assassination conspiracy, Oswald and Ruby would probably have limited conversational skills).

Back to my imaginary dinner. I always thought Tiger’s squeaky-clean ways would balance the philandering meanderings of JFK and Bedroom Bill. Maybe that’s no longer the case and maybe Tiger’s halo is tarnished but nonetheless the world’s greatest sportsman would be enthralling company.

Like Kennedy and Clinton, Woods has presence. An aura. Mana. Call it what you will. Few men possess it. Barrack Obama and Roger Federer would be two, of few, who also spring to mind.

So what if I was to translate my hypothetical dinner to the current All Blacks side? Who would I pick?

Captain Fantastic Richie McCaw would be undoubted first pick. Not only is he indestructible (why are we risking him against the Barbarians?) and one of the two best players in the world, he’s also smart, articulate, eloquent and polished. Very much in the mould of former great All Black captains, Sir Wilson Whineray and Sir Brian Lochore, whom he will no doubt join as a Knight of the Realm should we win the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

The other natural choice would be the other superstar, and equal-best player in the world, Dan Carter. However, I suspect Carter’s talents are best suited to the rugby paddock and the catwalk so my next choice would be Conrad Smith, a man whose star is very much in ascent. Like McCaw, he’s smart. A qualified lawyer no less.

I’m sure Tony Woodcock and Andrew Hore would be good earthy blokes to talk a bit of farming with, but I reckon I’d go for Jimmy Cowan for my third dinner companion. Like all good halfbacks (and he’s fast becoming a great one), he has an extroverted personality and plenty of natural cheek.

Not unlike his illustrious predecessor, Justin Marshall, he was bit of a rough diamond when he started out on the rugby road to fame. Those rough edges are now smoothed, making Cowan a much more rounded person and player.

He will be at his peak for the World Cup but if he’s looking to life after rugby, he could do worse than take up the microphone. Marshall’s excellent recent television commentary work has proved halfbacks from Mataura can make a great fist of life, long after they’ve put their fists away!


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