Youth or experience? Who would come out on top in our old vs young World Cup match

NOT ONLY ARE RUGBY players breaking onto the scene younger and younger, but those that mind their bodies and get some luck with injuries are extending their careers at the top well into their 30s.

There’s a huge blend of youth and experience throughout the squads ahead of the World Cup’s kick-off tomorrow, and with that in mind, we’ve decided to pick the best Old vs Young teams available in the tournament, to see whether youth is a match for experience.

There’s no “strict” criteria for selection, we simply browsed through the squads to find the pick of the squads, at each end of their careers.

First up, is Old Man RFC 

In the front row, we couldn’t look any further than Gethin Jenkins at loosehead prop. At 34, he’s the oldest loosehead prop in the tournament, and he’s still a key player for Warren Gatland’s side.

He’s joined by the tournament’s second oldest hooker Kevin Mealamu, the 36-year-old still tipping away after 126 test caps, while Ireland’s Mike Ross is the undisputed first choice at tighthead, although his fellow 35-year-old Nicolas Mas is an adequate replacement.

The second-row is blockbuster. Both Victor Matfield and Paul O’Connell are entering their fourth World Cups, and they remain as influential as they ever were. Matfield is the oldest player in this tournamenet at 38, and stood in as captain during Jean de Villiers’ recovery from a cruciate ligament injury. There are older second-rows in the tournament than 35-year-old O’Connell (Jamie Cudmore being one), but in his final outings for his country, we feel the O’Connell-Matfield partnership can’t be beaten.

Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The pack is completed with three more of the game’s modern greats. Richie McCaw (34) and Thierry Dusatoir (33) flank the 32-year-old Sergio Parisse. While there are a half-dozen or so eights older than the Italian, only Australia’s Wycliff Palu (33) comes anywhere near Parisse’s talent. Given his experience, Parisse had to make the cut.

Source: Giuseppe Fama/INPHO

Scrum-half was a very difficult one to call, with 34-year-olds Eoin Reddan and Fourie du Preez the obvious choices. In the end we gave the decision to the senior citizen Reddan, the oldest scrum-half in this year’s tournament.

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Dan Carter is out-half. I really don’t need to explain this.

Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

The centres were debated. The three obvious candidates were 34-year-old Jean de Villiers, 33-year-old Ma’a Nonu and 33-year-old Conrad Smith. Unfortunately three doesn’t go into two, and after a lengthy discussion with my colleague Sean Farrell, it was agreed that a Nonu-de Villiers combination would get the nod. When de Villiers inevitably gets injured, we can take Conrad.

Source: Ella Brockelsby/

The wings are taken up by Sean Lamont and Samoan cult-hero Alesana Tuilagi, both 34, while our fullback is Argentina’s 33-year-old Juan Martin Hernandez. Bryan Habana was considered for the wing, but at 32, we felt it would have been unfair on Lamont and Tuilagi, who are still ploughing along at a decent level despite their age.

Average age: 34

And now for Young Buck RFC

After impressing hugely during the Rugby Championship in the summer, Australia’s 23-year-old loosehead Scott Sio is our nomination for the number 1 shirt, while Jamie George is an old man in this team at 24. Samson Lee is the baby of the front-row at tighthead, getting the nod past Tadhg Furlong by virtue of being two weeks younger.

Source: Joe Giddens

There were plenty of outstanding options in the second row. Brodie Retallick and Joe Launchbury seemed a little old at 24, while even Will Skelton and Iain Henderson at 23-years old had to be passed on. Jonny Gray had to be picked, with 15 caps to his name before even turning 22, while Tomas Lavanini of Argentina just got the nod ahead of Lood de Jager, being a month younger and having more international experience.

Source: AP/Press Association Images

In the backrow, Australia’s Michael Hooper and Sam Cane of the All Blacks will have to decide between themselves who has to play blindside, while 22-year-old Billy Vunipola was an easy choice between them at number 8.

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Source: AP/Press Association Images

I toyed with the idea of picking 23-year-old TJ Perenara at scrum-half, but considering he’ll become the youngest ever player in the tournament’s history if he plays during the pools, Georgia’s 18-year-old Vasil Lobzhanidze is getting a sentimental selection.

Outside him is Handre Pollard, who is a scarcely believable 21-years-old, with George Ford an adequate replacement.

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Robbie Henshaw (22) and Jesse Kriel (21) look like being a deadly centre partnership, getting the nod over the older Malakai Kekitoa and Damien de Allende, while Gael Fickou is also unlucky to miss out..

It’s an all-English wing selection, with Anthony Watson (21) and Jack Nowell (22) already proving they’ve got what it takes at test level.

Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Stuart Hogg seems like a veteran at 23, but he’s one of the youngest – and best – fullbacks in the tournament.

Average age: 22

Old Man RFC: JM Hernandez, A Tuilagi, J de Villiers, M Nonu, D Carter, E Reddan; G Jenkins, K Mealamu, M Ross, V Matfield, P O’Connell, T Dusatoir, R McCaw, S Parisse

Young Buck RFC: S Hogg, A Watson, J Krie, R Henshaw, J Nowell, H Pollard, V Lobzhanidze; S Sio, J George, S Lee, J Gray, T Lavanini, S Cane, M Hooper, B Vunipola

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