ANZACS vs. Lions: Could It Actually Happen?

Last year after the British and Irish Lions had visited our shores and utterly decimated both our rugby pride and Robbie Deans’ coaching career, I wrote an article stating how good it would be if there was the opportunity for a team made up of Australian and New Zealand players to take on the best from the UK. Now this idea is gathering motion, as both sides of the Tasman see the game as a great opportunity to commemorate 100 years since the Gallipoli landings.

The prospect of players such as Richie McCaw, Israel Folou, Will Genia and Dan Carter playing in the same team is enough to have any rugby fan frothing. Suncorp Stadium has been touted as a possible venue for the blockbuster. The already electric atmosphere when the Wallabies play there would be increased tenfold, as visitors would flock from all over Australia and New Zealand commemorate 100 years since the Gallipoli landing.

Queensland Sports Minister Steve Dickson said, “Let’s make it happen. There is not one breathing Australian or New Zealander who wouldn’t want to represent our forefathers and pay back that memory.” It is unlikely though the match would be played in Queensland, as with 2015 being a World Cup year, timing and travel would be difficult to organise. Thus another proposition would be to play the game in the UK after the World Cup to be played there. This idea was touted by former ARU boss John O’Neill.

The idea has strong support either side of the Tasman. Dickson has revealed that he has spoken with ARU chief executive Bill Pulver who thinks it is an excellent concept. The Federal Sports Minister, Peter Dutton, would also like to see it happen. New Zealand’s counsel-general to Australia, Martin Welsh, is also strongly backing the idea.

Such a match would be a great way to bring together two proud and fierce rugby rivals. Watching rugby my entire life, I have always seen the men in black as the villains, but united under the common banner of ANZAC, the passion on show would be incredible. Not only from the fans, but as a way for players to commemorate the sacrifice made not only on the shores of Gallipoli, but of all the armed forces throughout the years.

It would also be a wonderful way to honour rugby players affected by war. Dave Gallaher, captain of the first NZ side to be known as the All Blacks in 1905, was among more than 100 rugby internationals who died during World War I while many, like Wallabies great Tom Richards, had their lives shortened by the lingering effects of poison gas and war wounds.

Now it seems the only issue would be to organise the opposition. The British and Irish Lions only play as a touring side, but a one off match would surely appease any qualms, especially as it could be played in Britain. Another option raised in the Fox Sports article that broke the story is to play a World XV, who are already assembling for a one off match against South Africa in Cape Town on June 7. This would allow the game to be played in Australia or New Zealand, something which I for one as a fan would prefer. The game would be to commemorate Australians and New Zealanders, thus it would be right for the game to be played here.

A possible ANZAC XV proposed by the Fox Sports article already has me excited. There is a good mix from both nations, and enough excitement to get the entire rugby world excited.

Backline: Israel Folau (Aus), Julian Savea (NZ), Conrad Smith (NZ), Sonny Bill Williams (NZ), Ben Smith (NZ), Dan Carter (NZ), Will Genia (Aus),

Forwards: Kieran Read (NZ), Richie McCaw (c, NZ), Scott Higginbotham (Aus), James Horwill (Aus), Sam Whitelock (NZ), Tony Woodcock (NZ), Stephen Moore (Aus), Owen Franks (NZ).

Reserves: Keven Mealamu (NZ), James Slipper (Aus), Charlie Faumuina (NZ), Rob Simmons (Aus), Michael Hooper (Aus), Quade Cooper (Aus), Adam Ashley-Cooper (Aus), Aaron Smith (NZ).