Wednesday, 28 October 2009

The Perfect 10?

The Autumn Internationals are now but days away and I am very much looking forward a spot of test match rugby. New Zealand face Australia this Saturday to kick off the proceedings with the Bledisloe Cup before England get involved against the Wallabies a week later. Then I've only got a couple of weeks to wait before I head down to Twickenham with my Dad to marvel at Dan Carter - I mean, watch England take on the might of the All Blacks.

At the moment everyone is talking about the twenty or so injuries within the England squad and musing whether Johnno should go for fresh new meat in the scrum or if he should favour some seasoned old steak. Go for youth all the way Johnno and blood some youngsters before the Six Nations. There, with that topic covered off I'm going to turn my attention to a much more interesting discussion: Just who is the Perfect 10?

England start their autumn campaign against Australia before meeting Argentina and finally the All Blacks. All three games promise to be juicy encounters, and these four teams also happen to feature the best looking number tens in world rugby, namely:

Jonny Wilkinson, England
Dan Carter, New Zealand
Felipe Contepomi, Argentina
Berrick Barnes, Australia

It's a female rugby-lover's dream: scintillating rugby played by some rather aesthetically pleasing men.

And relax.

However, with only my rugby-stats hat on I thought I'd delve deeper into these four fly halves, check out their statistics and compare their performances to find out who is the best fly-half of them all.

Arguably the two best fly-halves in the world have both recently made successful comebacks from injury: Dan Carter from an Achilles injury and Jonny Wilkinson from, well - pick any injury you like. Jonny's probably had every possible ailment about five times over, but happily he's now rejuvenating his rugby career and enjoying life in Toulon, and (dare I whisper it) is staying injury free. Dan on the other hand is back playing for Canterbury in his native New Zealand and modelling for Jockey underwear, as you do.

So let's look at the bare statistics....

Jonny Wilkinson
5ft 10in
30 years old

England Test Match career:
70 games
6 tries
144 conversions
209 penalties
29 drop goals
1032 points (avg 14.75 per game)

Dan Carter
5ft 10in

27 years old

New Zealand Test Match career:
62 games
25 tries

161 conversions
158 penalties
2 drop goals
927 points (avg 15.0 points per game)

Felipe Contepomi
6ft 0in
32 years of age

Argentina Test Career:
65 games
11 tries
56 conversions
101 penalties
2 drop goals
476 points (avg 7.3 points per game)

Berrick Barnes
6ft 0in
23 years old

Australia Test career:
21 games
4 tries
1 conversion
0 penalties
5 drop goals
37 points (avg 1.75 points per game)

Of course, these statistics don't tell the full story. Contepomi and Barnes both switch between fly-half and inside centre which helps to explain why their average points per game are below the mighty boots of Carter and Wilkinson. In fact, it's unsure as to whether Contepomi will slip on the number ten shirt in this autumn's test matches at all, and whether fly-half Juan Martin Hernandez will be involved since his name wasn't included in the original Argentina squad.

Berrick Barnes has been named vice captain of Australia for the tour and it will be interesting to see how this chiseled beach blonde buck from Brisbane will fare against his opposite numbers in the competition. I have to admit that I don't know too much about him, but I will definitely be keeping my eye on him over the next month - for purely research purposes you understand.

That leaves Jonny Wilkinson and Dan Carter vying for pole position as the perfect number ten. So who will come out on top?

Wilkinson hasn't pulled on an England shirt since 8th March 2008 in the Six Nations game against Scotland, but his involvement in that game secured him the accolade of top international rugby union points scorer of all time (including his 67 points for the Lions) when he overtook Neil Jenkins. Despite not playing at international level for 18 months, Jonny seems to be enjoying his Gallic adventure as he is currently the top points scorer in the French Top 14 competition this season. So can he replicate this form for England? I certainly hope so. Not only is he racking up the points, Wilkinson is back to the big tackling, commanding role that he always seemed to assume so effortlessly for England. Let's hope his (injury free) renaissance can continue in an England shirt next month.

Dan Carter on the other hand is widely regarded as the best fly-half in the world due to his calm and tactical rugby brain, dangerous side step, rapid acceleration and expert kicking game. I cannot knock Dan Carter and for me he is the perfect number ten in world rugby at the moment.

I cannot wait to see Carter and Wilkinson face off at Twickenham on the 21st November to see how these two towering fly-halves of world rugby will match up against each other. Dan lies second on the all time All Blacks top points scorers list behind fellow number ten Andrew Mehrtons, and Dan's points tally includes 25 tries to Wilkinson's 6. Whilst both Wilkinson and Carter have the astute tactical kicking game nailed on, Carter seems to have the extra facet to his game and pace to break the line and steam over for try after try. Whilst I hope the Autumn Internationals result in England victories, my eyes will be firmly fixed on this rare opportunity to watch these two half back maestros in action.

As I say, I cannot wait!

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