The formidable over-30s Six Nations XV that would give any side in the championship a game

Mervyn Davies once quietly suggested to Bobby Windsor that he shave two years off his age if asked how old he was by official sorts from the Welsh Rugby Union.

The idea was it might help prolong The Duke’s international career.

And so it is that the legendary hooker’s age is date of birth is listed to this day on Wikipedia as January 31, 1948.

An old England v Wales match programme this writer has at home aligns with that thinking.

It’s wrong.

Robert William Windsor arrived in this world on January 31, 1946, and last weekend celebrated his 75th birthday.

Age: it’s caused sportsmen no end of concern over the years.

Not all, however.

Some rugby players are still producing despite their advancing years.

We’ve put together a team of over-30s named for this Six Nations who we feel could give any side in the tournament a hurry-up.

15. Leigh Halfpenny (32)

It seems only yesterday that a 19-year-old Halfpenny was hoisting Wales to a pool shootout victory over France with 18 points in a memorable Junior World Championship encounter in Swansea.

It says much for his performance that it’s remembered almost as clearly as the all-in scrap that unfolded on the pitch after the final whistle. Thirteen years may have passed since, but Halfpenny remains a cool-headed asset who could benefit pretty much any back three.

14. Sean Maitland (32)

He’s spent eight years putting together 50 caps for Scotland. Hit a problem last autumn as one of a dozen Barbarians players who breached Covid protocols, prompting Scotland to leave him out for their match with Wales. But over the years Maitland’s proven a class on-pitch act, sharp in attack and sound in defence.

13. Jonathan Davies (32)

His fitness problems over the past 15 months have underlined how much he brought to Wales at full tilt — his rock-solid midfield partnership with Jamie Roberts proving so effective during the Warren Gatland years. Davies’ organisational skills and ability to stay calm however pressured the circumstances have been priceless. When he’s fit and at his best, Wales are a different side.

12. Bundee Aki (30)

This gent once threatened to rip Sam Davies’ head off if the then Ospreys’ fly-half threw another dummy during a game. Softly, softly isn’t his style, then, but he’s been a fine player for Connacht and 30 starts for Ireland underline what a capable operator he is at Test level.

11. Johnny May (30)

Jonny May (right) contests a high ball with Josh Adams

He’s 31 in 50 or so days — again, where have all the years gone? Whatever, time has been kind to May, who’s still scoring spectacular tries and still a major threat on the England left wing.

10. Jonathan Sexton (35)

The oldest player in this side, 36 this summer, and still barking orders at those around him. Adam Jones recalls how Sexton once copped a death stare from Richard Hibbard after unleashing a tirade of abuse his way when the hooker erred in training. Sexton lived to tell the tale and carry on as a coach’s eyes on the pitch. He still has sky-high standards, despite his advancing years.

9. Conor Murray (31)

One day someone will dish out a Distinguished Services Award for Box-kicking to this guy. He’s been the best in the world at that particular art for so long, and probably still is. Not without criticism in his homeland in recent years, but he’s a player you’d prefer to have on your side than against you.

1. Cian Healy (33)

The Irish strongman — he has bench pressed 190kg — continues to hold his own at Test level, starting five of the six games his country played last autumn. Eleven years at the front-row coalface in international rugby deserves respect, and a lot of it.

2. Jamie George (30)

There are plenty in Ken Owens’ home county of Carmarthen who might beg to differ, but George has been widely rated the best hooker in Britain and Ireland for some time, combining accurate throwing with energy around the field and combative work in the tight. Started three Tests with the Lions in 2017 and another one who has stayed on top of his game.

3. WP Nel (34)

Made his Test debut at 29 and has since compiled 40 caps, never playing better than he did at the 2015 World Cup, when he was the best tight-head in the tournament. Has continued to ensure Scotland’s scrum commands respect.

4. Bernard Le Roux (31)

How wasn’t this guy on the 2020 Six Nations player-of-the-tournament shortlist? He made more tackles than anyone else and played with an unrelenting ferocity. The 6ft 5in, 18st 4lb enforcer at the heart of the French pack said he didn’t sleep for two nights because of stress after being accused of foul play against Alun Wyn Jones. Imagine the stress felt by those who face him.

5. Alun Wyn Jones (35)

Alun Wyn Jones during Wales training

He’s long passed the milestone of 400 games in senior rugby, yet still he goes on, battling an injury in an attempt to be fit for the start of this tournament, determined to lead from the front. He’s probably fed-up with continually being written off, but those who play alongside him, and against him, know his worth.

6. CJ Stander (30)

Made more carries (77) and won more turnovers (six) than any other player in the 2020 Six Nations. Undoubtedly, he was Ireland’s best performer, adding to his game. If power is the requirement from the back row, he’s the man to summon.

7. Justin Tipuric (31)

Five years ago, Tipuric’s Ospreys team-mate Ma’afu Fia reckoned the openside “ would probably make the All Black s”. Nothing that’s happened since undermines that argument. He’s been Wales’ best player for the past two or so years, constantly striving to get better. Wales are lucky to have him.

8. Taulupe Faletau (30)

Celebrated his 30th birthday in November and marked the occasion a day later by returning to form with a top-quality defensive display against Ireland. There was more of the same against England and a brilliant all-court effort against Italy. It was Faletau at his best — something for Wayne Pivac to cheer during a largely bleak campaign.

Others who could have been included in this side include Ken Owens, Dave Kilcoyne, Uini Atonio, Romain Taofifenua, Dan Lydiate, Gareth Davies and Brice Dulin. Handily, they make up an impressive bench. Age, as they say, shall not wither.


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