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Planet Rugby - Team of the Season




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Following another captivating campaign of Guinness Premiership rugby, it's high time Planet Rugby checked the term's statistics and compiled their Team of the Season.

Our end-of-season selection has proved to be a mixture of experience and youthful exuberance, with the odd pick sure to raise an eyebrow in what became a long process post Leicester's celebrations at Twickenham.

So without further ado, here is the XV that throws up just three Tigers and a Northampton debutant pulling the strings from fly-half...those coming close in respective positions get an italic pat on the back.

Planet Rugby's Team of the Season

15 Geordan Murphy - Three players made the shortlist for our opening slot as full-back rapidly became one of the toughest decisions of PR's XV. Leicester's Geordan Murphy started the season in blistering form before a mini-lapse, but towards the business end he's been faultless and captained the Tigers admirably from fifteen. The second contender was Bath's Nick Abendanon, who tops the Guinness Premiership's 'metres made' and 'defenders beaten' charts. However, despite the youngster's obvious hard work during pre-season, he does not quite have Murphy's experience just yet with the Irishman beating both him and utility-man Ben Foden to the jersey.

14 Joe Maddock - Topping the Guinness Premiership try-scoring table by a couple of scores is winger Joe Maddock. The Bath finisher has been in solid form this year and fends off the gritty Paul Diggin to claim our number fourteen place. However, the New Zealander will surely thank metre-maker Nick Abendanon and the creativity of both Alex Crockett and Butch James for his impressive return in 2008/09.

13 Luke McAlister - So long Luke and thank you for two great seasons at Edgeley Park. The All Black midfielder has performed equally well at fly-half and both centre positions over his Sale tenure and will be sorely missed by Kingsley Jones. Distribution, defence and his line-breaking ability are just a few of McAlister's strengths as he edged out Bath's Alex Crockett to form a Kiwi combination with Joe Maddock.

12 Seilala Mapusua - Not too much of a close call to speak of at number twelve with Jordan Turner-Hall's rapid improvement on the big stage earning him a deserved mention alongside the equally destructive Seilala Mapusua. But despite the youngster's best performances coming in Europe, the inside centre slot is the PRA Player's Player of the Year.

11 Mark Cueto - The Shark proved why he should make England's back-three as he finally returned to top form for both club and country. Cueto crossed for nine Guinness Premiership tries in 2008/09 but it was his all-round game that saw him pip international colleague Ugo Monye to our number eleven slot. However, the end-of-season gloss was not added as the Boxing Day-born man missed out on Ian McGeechan's touring party.

10 Stephen Myler - The former Salford City Reds rugby league man really has taken to the union game like a duck to water. Assured and consistent week on week, Myler's game-management and striking from the tee have been two strong points in a season that saw him oust Carlos Spencer from Northampton's number ten slot. Expect the mature 24-year-old to find himself in an England jersey this summer ahead of Danny Cipriani.

9 Julien Dupuy - This decision came down to the Guinness Premiership Final with the season's top assist man Danny Care finishing just behind Julien Dupuy and Paul Hodgson...in that order. The Frenchman and London Irish battler just edge out the youngster with their end-of-season efforts duly noted. Hodgson has shown again that he's the best defensive scrum-half in the competition but Dupuy's game-changing ability has ultimately earned him the jersey. Will he stay at Leicester?

8 Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe - Another three-way battle at the base with the Argentine edging out Jordan Crane and the offloading Chris Hala'ufia at number eight. Crane has once again played beyond his years this season and Colston's College will no doubt be enjoying watching his continued rise up England's ranks. However, the ***anic performances of Lobbe up in the north-west see him land him the job and Sale must be hurting at the prospect of losing both Lobbe and McAlister.

7 Steffon Armitage - The Exile finishes streets ahead of all competitors for openside in a year that must rank as his best to date. Armitage possesses something very different from other number sevens - largely due to his stocky build - and one hopes he will get a fair crack by Martin Johnson after just a glimpse of action during Six Nations 2009. Why did Saracens let him go?

6 Chris Robshaw - It could have been an all-Harlequins back-row but in the end just one makes the cut. Unlike many other Guinness Premiership coaches, Dean Richards stuck with Chris Robshaw, Will Skinner and Chris Hala'ufia/Nick Easter as much as possible in 2008/09 and it paid dividends with a domestic semi-final and Heineken Cup last eight appearance against Leinster. Robshaw has tackled well all season and his work-rate keeps him ahead of the league's top carrier Phil Dowson.

5 Chris Jack - The All Black departs Saracens on the back of another strong campaign down at Vicarage Road. Whether playing in the second row or number six, Jack's all-round skill-set coupled with his lineout nous has been vital during his time in England. The 30-year-old also aided youngsters at the club after training and will be missed in the engine room alongside Steve Borthwick. London Irish skipper Bob Casey deserves a mention.

4 Tom Croft - Yes yes, he is a flanker. But the rangy Tiger has been equally impressive at lock for the Guinness Premiership champions. Croft's reward for this season will be known soon enough as he waits patiently with his British & Irish Lions suitcase opened and ready for loading. Deceptive pace and his ability to be thrown up at the set-piece have made him vital to Leicester's form and the hard ground of South Africa is expected to suit him perfectly.

3 Carl Hayman - No tighthead in world rugby comes close to Newcastle's diamond after his performances since returning from injury. Whether he returns to his homeland in time for Rugby World Cup 2010 remains unclear but with the statistics showing the PROP make the top ten tacklers in the Guinness Premiership, how can Graham Henry exclude him?

2 Lee Mears - The Bath front-row acted like dangerous loose-forwards until their highly eventful season approached its business end. A starting trio of David Flatman, Mears and Matt Stevens offered ample options for Steve Meehan with Duncan Bell, Pieter Dixon and David Barnes filling in admirably when required, but Mears was the danger man. Our starting hooker will fancy his chances against Jerry Flannery and Matthew Rees in South Africa and why not, as his battle with Bismarck Du Plessis will be fascinating.

1 Ceri Jones - The loosehead's performances alongside Mike Ross was just as important as Harlequins' back-row fluidity as either Gary Botha or Tani Fuga enjoyed solidity when given the nod. Jones only has two international caps to his name and with a certain British & Irish Lion ahead of him; he may be wondering what needs to be done after now missing out on Wales' Gethin Jenkins-less summer tour to Canada and USA.

Guinness Premiership XV: 15 Geordan Murphy, 14 Joe Maddock, 13 Luke McAlister, 12 Seilala Mapusua, 11 Mark Cueto, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Julien Dupuy, 8 Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, 7 Steffon Armitage, 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 Chris Jack, 4 Tom Croft, 3 Carl Hayman, 2 Lee Mears, 1 Ceri Jones.[/b]

Can everyone tell me exactly what fat-tub-of-Mears has done to impress so many of these "experts" though? (You know, the same people that call Schalk Burger an Openside). That said, this team is a fairer representation of the season then that produced by the Sky Sports team and their rectally challenged earlobes.

Sir Speedy

Didn't the Sky team have Claasens at 9?

Dupuy deserves it more. He's been immense in fairness.


<div class='quotetop'>QUOTE (Sir. Speedy @ May 18 2009, 01:53 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}></div>
Didn't the Sky team have Claasens at 9?

Dupuy deserves it more. He's been immense in fairness.[/b]

The sky team was as follows: http://www.skysports.com/story/0,19528,12331_5286421,00.html

O Morgan (Gloucester); J Maddock (Bath), G Tiesi (Harlequins), S Mapasua (London Irish), U Monye (Harlequins); C Hodgson (Sale Sharks), P Hodgson (London Irish), M Ayerza (Leicester), L Mears (Bath), M Ross (Harlequins), D Schofield (Sale Sharks), B Kay (Leicester), C Robshaw (Harlequins), S Armitage (London Irish), J-M Fernandez Lobbe (Sale Sharks, capt)

As a bath fan i would've loved to see Claassens at 9 but overall i think Hodgson deserved it over both him and dupuy.

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