Cape Town – World Cup-winning coach Clive Woodward has high praise for Springbok captain Eben Etzebeth, as well as the All Black second row duo Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock.
He believes they would all walk into the current England team.
Woodward, who guided England to World Cup glory in Australia 2003, shared his views in his latest Daily Mail column after New Zealand’s 25-24 win over South Africa at Newlands last Saturday.
The game had showcased the best the Rugby Championship had to offer, he said.
“Contrary to what the critics say, this tournament is not moving in the wrong direction,” Woodward wrote.
“The highlight for me was the refusal of either side to kick the ball dead after the klaxon went for half-time. Both teams were ultra-positive and wanted to play and entertain.
“The result was an incredible nine minutes and 58 seconds of overtime as first South Africa, then New Zealand, then South Africa again piled on the pressure.”
Woodward said ‘mindlessly kicking the ball dead on half-time and on full-time’, unless sides were defending a narrow lead, had frustrated him for years.
Players’ careers could be over in a flash, they should savour every minute they could be on the field, Woodward stressed.
“World rugby needs a strong South Africa and it is clear their skipper Eben Etzebeth – who is going to be one of the greats – is dragging them back to the top,” Woodward continued.
“Although England are rightly proud of their strength in depth at lock, the Boks captain and the two Kiwis – Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock – would all walk into Eddie Jones’ team.”
Woodward said that after a match like the All Blacks and Springboks played, he wondered what those former players from both countries now plying their trade in Europe felt about missing the chance to play in a game like that.