Star-studded World XV squad selected for showcase opener

Renowned coach and rugby mastermind, Robbie Deans, will guide a powerful World XV side including three Word Cup winners and 10 National Team representatives from across the globe in Rapid Rugby’s 2019 Showcase opener against the Western Force in Perth on Friday, 22 March.

The side includes former Wallaby and Western Force ‘favourite son’ Nick Cummins and foundation Force player Digby Ioane, as well as World Cup winning All Blacks Andy Ellis, Wyatt Crockett and Corey Flynn.

Ellis, who will captain the World XV, and Flynn were part of New Zealand’s title winning squad of 2011, while Crockett, the only player to chalk up more than 200 Super Rugby games, featured in the All Blacks’ 2015 Rugby World Cup success.

The squad named is fit for purpose with representatives from six nations having been gathered within World XV ranks. New Zealand (9), Australia (6), Japan (4), Argentina (1), South Africa (1) and Tonga (1) are each represented.

Conquerors of the Japanese national side in three of the last four years, the World XV is run by Steve Berrick, the promoter behind the famed (UK) Barbarians rugby club, is selected along the same lines as the Baabaas, with players from all over the world invited to play. The concept is to bring together a combination of promising up-and-comers alongside established stars and veteran internationals.

With the match to be played in Perth, local fans will be able to reacquaint themselves with Cummins who built a cult following at the Force on the back of his on-field flair and off-field colloquialisms during 8 seasons in the west.

By the time he concluded his career in Australia at the end of the 2015 Super Rugby season, the popular winger had appeared on 87 times in the ocean blue jersey, while also representing his country on 15 occasions.

Also returning to WA is Ioane who featured in the Western Force’s debut outing against the Brumbies at Subiaco in 2006. The Wellington-born winger played for the Force on 20 occasions, from the 26 matches possible during the team’s opening two seasons, before returning east when he joined the Queensland Reds at the end of the 2007 campaign.

He went on to play 35 Tests for Australia, most under the guidance of former Wallaby boss Deans, who also introduced Cummins to Test ranks in 2012.

It’s not the first time Ioane has suited up for the World XV having been a member of the squad which downed Japan 47-27 at Fukuoka in 2017 while he was based with the Panasonic club.

South African fullback Gio Aplon, who has appeared for the Springboks on 17 occasions, and the 50-Test Argentinian loose forward Leonardo Senatore also lend their considerable experience to the World XV cause, while Japanese first-five-eighths Kosei Ono is a player the Force will have to keep a close eye on.

Ono filled the same role during his country’s historic 34-32 win over South Africa that set the 2015 Rugby World Cup alight. Fellow Japanese, winger Yoshikazu Fujita, was also a part of that squad, although he did not appear until later in the tournament.

Fujita has made a big impression playing for the World XV before, scoring twice against his countrymen during the invitation team’s win in Fukuoka two years ago.

Players will arrive in Perth four days ahead of the match and Deans is confident they will make a big impression against their well drilled opponents.

“We have achieved wins off similar time frames, in terms of preparation, against the Japanese Test side, and the players we have selected for this game won’t lack for motivation,” Deans says.

“In a few short years, this team [the World XV] has built up an outstanding history, to the extent that many who have played, have said afterwards that the experience ranked up there with the most enjoyable of their careers.

“There couldn’t be a more appropriate opponent for the Force to open the Showcase Series against. The week we have together in Perth will be a special opportunity for our players to embrace the Rapid Rugby concept, express themselves on the field and, most importantly, enjoy the experience, which is ultimately what the game is all about.

“I’m sure they will make the most of it.”

The World XV squad for the Global Series Showcase is: Gio Aplon* (South Africa), Yoshikazu Fujita* (Japan), Nick Cummins* (Australia), Digby Ioane* (Australia), Jamie Spowart (New Zealand), Dylan Riley (Australia), Inga Finau (New Zealand), Kosei Ono* (Japan), Leon Fukofuka* (Tonga), Andy Ellis* (New Zealand, captain), Leonardo Senatore* (Argentina), Hugh Renton (New Zealand), Michael Curry (New Zealand), Shota Fukui (Japan), Michael Oakman-Hunt (Australia), Jack Cornelsen (Australia), Hamish Dalzell (New Zealand), Tom Moloney (Australia), Chris King** (New Zealand), Shohei Hirano (Japan), Wyatt Crockett* (New Zealand), Greg Pleasants-Tate** (New Zealand), Corey Flynn* (New Zealand)

Coach: Robbie Deans (Panasonic, Japan)
Assistant Coach: Joe Maddock (Canterbury, New Zealand)
* denotes has played Test rugby
** denotes others who have played Super Rugby

[Image: Andy Ellis, World XV Captain. Supplied courtesy of JRFU]

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