In the final instalment of Sky Sport’s quest to find New Zealand’s Greatest XV, a panel of leading journalists and broadcasters – Grant Nisbett, Ken Laban, Rikki Swannell and Phil Gifford – were last week asked by The Breakdown who they thought were the country’s best-ever outside backs.
The panel were unanimous in their verdict that Lomu, the game’s first and only global superstar, and Cullen, the 60-test veteran who played for the All Blacks between 1996 and 2002, were New Zealand’s greatest left wing and fullback.
Their verdict was supported by the Kiwi public, who voted Lomu (84 percent of the public vote) and Cullen (79 percent) as the best-ever All Blacks in their respective positions on social media.
In doing so, they cemented their places in the Greatest XV ahead of the likes of Joe Rokocoko, Julian Savea, Ron Jarden, Mils Muliaina, George Nepia and Bob Scott.
At right wing, however, there was a three-way tie after the panel of experts couldn’t decide between Williams and Jeff Wilson, while the public backed the exploits of all-time leading All Blacks try-scorer Doug Howlett, who garnered 41 percent of the vote.
Former World Cup-winning All Blacks coach Sir Graham Henry was called on as the “convener of selectors” to pick between the three players for the No 14 jersey, which resulted in Williams’ selection.
Regarded as a trailblazer of his time, Williams was spoken highly of by Laban for the impact he had off the field as a young Pacific Island player who toured South Africa in the midst of Apartheid during the 1970s as an “honorary white”.
“1970, a young, Auckland, Pacific Island player, and a law student who was doing his studies out of Auckland University, called Bryan George Williams, was forced to tour South Africa, along with three other players, who was declared an honorary white,” Laban told The Breakdown last week.