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Who’s the best right wing?

  • 07 Jan 2014
Ben Smith or Willie le Roux? Ben Smith or Willie le Roux?

Two of our team members pick their No 14 for the Fans' World XV.

Jeremy Proome

Smith was one of the best players in Super Rugby in 2013, and while the Highlanders' star-studded line-up never made the grade, the winger delivered great performances week in, week out.

Smith was lethal with the All Blacks and his devastating runs in the Rugby Championship earned him a reputation as one the world’s best linebreakers (he made the most clean linebreaks in the tournament, with 11). He shifted to inside centre in the absence of Conrad Smith for the All Blacks' end-of-year tour, and attacked and defended excellently in the midfield.

His try-scoring rate may have dipped in that position, but his influence didn’t.

Ryan Vrede

Le Roux's emergence sparked a notable improvement in the Springboks' attack, and while some of his time was spent at fullback, I feel he is better suited to the right wing.

JP Pietersen started out his Test career strongly, but now survives on reputation alone. He has scored 16 tries in his 51 Tests, and in that time has gone long periods between scores. Le Roux is a better option at this point, with his speed, X factor and aerial ability all suited to the position.

I don't share the concerns around how Le Roux's size compromises his defensive ability as I've seldom seen him miss a tackle. Certainly he won't dominate the hit in the manner Pietersen has the capacity to, but he isn't a defensive liability and what he offers on attack makes up for what he lacks in this facet of play. 

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Fans' World XV page

International Rugby Players' Association's 2013 World XV

International Rugby Players' Association's 2013 Fans' World XV

Photos: Phil Water/Jason O'Brien/Photosport/Getty Images

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