The Ospreys have teamed up with the Evening Post to find the ultimate Ospreys XV "â¬" the all-time dream team based on players who have represented clubs within Ospreylia throughout the many golden (and not"â¬"so golden) eras of Welsh rugby.
Later this month, the Post will be asking supporters to select their own personal all time best Ospreys side, and the individual whose team is judged the ultimate Ospreys dream-team by our panel of experts will win VIP hospitality for the first home Magners League fixture of the season against Llanelli Scarlets and a pair of season-tickets. Four other entries will be drawn at random to win a pair of season tickets.
To help you decide, we have turned to three rugby legends from the region to select their own dream team, which will be revealed over the next three weeks before you have a chance to pick your own. Following in the footsteps of Mervyn Davies and Jonathan Davies, this week it"â¬â¢s the turn of former Neath and Wales fullback Paul Thorburn.
Captain for both club and country during the 1980"â¬â¢s, Thorburn played a key role in the successful Welsh campaign in the first ever Rugby World Cup in 1987, kicking the injury time conversion against Australia that clinched 3rd place, Wales"â¬â¢s best ever showing in the tournament. He also enjoyed Five Nations success the following year when Wales clinched their first title in nine years. A prolific scorer with the boot throughout his career, he was Wales"â¬â¢ all-time top points scorer when he retired from international rugby in 1991, with 304 points and he held the record for most points in a season at Neath (438 in 1984-85) for more than 20 years. Since hanging up his boots, he has held several posts in rugby, including Tournament Director at the 1999 Rugby World Cup, Special Projects Manager for the WRU. In March 2006 he was appointed Strategic Development Manager at the Ospreys. Here he reveals his selection for an Ospreys Dream Team:
"â¬ÅIt was always going to a difficult task to select a team from such a diverse region as Ospreylia. What stands out is the sheer number of quality players in every position, and it is clear that it is possible to pick a number of different XV"â¬â¢s, each of which would be capable of competing in any era.
"â¬ÅAt full-back, is the incomparable JPR WILLIAMS, a world renowned player and double British Lion who represented Wales in three different decades, taking all of what we consider to be the golden era. As a fullback myself, he was a shining light to me as a youngster.
"â¬ÅOn the wings, I"â¬â¢ve gone for two more Williams"â¬â¢s, JJ and SHANE. JJ is another player from the golden era, whose strength was his blistering pace. His performances in a Lions shirt,
(five tries in seven tests) secured his world-class status. On the opposite side, Shane is a player who had demonstrated time and time again his ability to create something out of nothing. In the modern game, where space to play is considerably less than it was, his talent is quite exceptional. The breaks he made last season against the Scarlets at Stradey, or at Twickenham in the EDF Final are perfect examples of his mind blowing fancy footwork.
"â¬ÅIn the centre, I"â¬â¢ve picked two players who combined perfectly for Wales, ALLAN BATEMAN and SCOTT GIBBS. A stalwart for Maesteg, and latterly Neath, Allan"â¬â¢s tackling ability was exceptional, very few players if any got around him. His pacy, direct running would always trouble the opposition, it"â¬â¢s a real shame that Wales never the saw the best of him as he went north. As for Scott, the "â¬Ëpocket battleship"â¬â¢, I remember him joining Neath as a 19 year-old and making an immediate impact in his first season, something he continued to do throughout his career. Sadly, he was another player lost to Wales in his best years because he went north, but he came back with a real bang. As he proved in the 1997 Lions tour to South Africa, his physical game was a match for any player in the world.
"â¬ÅChoosing a fly-half was a closer call than most would think, but JONATHAN DAVIES is my choice. In many ways a very unorthodox player, his creativity flummoxed his teammates as much as the opposition. He brought a sparkle to the game that crowds wanted to see and it was a sad day for rugby union when he switched to league.
"â¬ÅMore than most positions, scrum half wasn"â¬â¢t a straightforward choice, with some great servants to the game available. I"â¬â¢ve selected ROB HOWLEY, not only because of his quality on the pitch, but also, for his sheer fitness levels and real dedication to training. This commitment was something that was often lacking amongst his contemporaries in other positions, and his dedication allowed him to enjoy success in his latter years with Wales and the Lions.
"â¬ÅLooking at the props, this is probably the one position on the pitch that has changed more than any other over the years, with a different sort of player needed in the modern era thanks to law changes effecting the scrum. On the basis of his ability to maintain a scrum, combined with his endless contribution across the field, I"â¬â¢ve picked the late BRIAN WILLIAMS. Unquestionably, he was one of the most committed and dedicated players I ever came across. STUART EVANS will provide the perfect balance in the front row with his sheer size and his ability in the loose. He always provided the physical edge that any successful team needs.
"â¬ÅIn between them, I have to go for my old team-mate KEVIN PHILLIPS. All the candidates on the very long list of hookers, including Garin Jenkins, Barry Williams and Billy James had something notable to offer, but I think that the fact that Kevin contributed so much to the success of a team that I was playing for helped make my mind up. Whilst at times his enthusiasm for the quick tap penalty needed to be curtailed, there is no doubt that his rugged approach and dynamism across the pitch would work well for any team.
"â¬ÅI picked my second row as a pair, and it can only be ALLAN MARTIN and GEOFF WHEEL. They complemented each other perfectly, in a side that would beat all-comers. Allan provided the middle of the line jumping ability and his ability to slot over the occasional penalty, Geoff, the mauling ability around the pitch. When Geoff went in for the ball, invariably, he came out with it, much like Brian Williams.
"â¬ÅPicking two flankers was a very tough job, selecting players from a list that includes the likes of Paul Moriarty, Martyn Morris, Dai Morris and Colin Charvis, but I"â¬â¢ve ultimately gone for ROWLAND PHILLIPS and RICHARD WEBSTER. I"â¬â¢ll accept that this pair may not provide the balance that is so often felt necessary, but I think they provide a physical edge and energy that will allow the team to play rugby. Rowland"â¬â¢s sheer strength with ball in hand provided his team with a platform to generate real momentum going forward, something he did so well during Neath"â¬â¢s golden era. Richard provided sheer dogged determination, particularly in his younger, injury free days, with little regard for the opposition and any superstar status they may have felt they had. I"â¬â¢ll always remember his debut for Wales in the 1987 World Cup 3rd Place Play-Off against Australia, where he was my man-of-the-match with a performance that belied his age.
"â¬ÅAt number eight binding the pack, and the team, together is RICHARD MORIARTY. Although highly regarded by those who played with or against him, he does tend to be under-rated by the media and indeed, the Stradey Park faithful. I played against him on many occasions, and experienced him as captain for Wales at the 1987 World Cup, where he played a pivotal role in keeping the team focused and together during what were at times difficult circumstances with injuries. The victory over Australia in the 3rd Place Play-Off was a fitting tribute to an inspirational leader."â¬Â
Paul Thorburn"â¬â¢s Dream Team
15 JPR Williams (Bridgend)
14 JJ Williams (Bridgend)
13 Allan Bateman (Maesteg/Neath)
12 Scott Gibbs (Neath/Swansea/Ospreys)
11 Shane Williams (Neath/Ospreys)
10 Jonathan Davies (Neath)
9 Rob Howley (Bridgend)
1 Brian Williams (Neath/Swansea)
2 Kevin Phillips (Neath)
3 Stuart Evans (Bridgend/Neath/Swansea)
4 Allan Martin (Aberavon)
5 Geoff Wheel (Swansea)
6 Rowland Phillips (Neath)
7 Richard Webster (Bridgend/Swansea)
8 Richard Moriarty (Swansea)