The 2015 Rugby World Cup may be the final time some players pull on their boots so take a look at our oldest XV to find the tournament's eldest statesmen
By Stuart Clarke
With age comes experience, as the saying goes, and for many of the players aged over 30 at this year’s Rugby World Cup there are no shortage of caps in their collection.
The prospect of playing in a World Cup is enough to make some players put their retirement plans on hold as they edge ever deeper into middle age and indeed for a number of players this tournament will be their last.
While squads on the whole seem to be getting younger, there’s no replacement for experience and our Old Boy’s XV boasts over 1,000 caps between them. Formidable, some might say.
So here’s our squad, made up of the oldest players in each position at this year’s World Cup. Some are household names, many are relatively unknown.
1. Matekitonga Moeakiola (USA) 37 years old – 31 caps
The 18st 13lb forward made his debut at the 2007 Rugby World Cup, playing in all four games. Now plying his trade at French side Castanet, Moeakiola played for the excellently named Park City Haggis RFC in the USA before turning professional.
2. Aleki Lutui (Tonga) 37 years old – 36 caps
Lutui is an incredibly well travelled player, having played in Super Rugby, the Premiership and PRO12 in his career. The hooker racked up 115 points in 181 appearances for Worcester Warriors between 2006-2013, so he certainly knows his way to the try line.
3. Mike Ross (Ireland) 35 years old – 52 caps
This is Ross’s second time at a World Cup, having been part of Ireland’s squad four years ago. The Leinster prop spent four seasons at Harlequins before returning to the Emerald Isle and is the second most experienced front rower in the Ireland squad, behind hooker Rory Best.
4. Victor Matfield (South Africa) 38 years old – 123 caps
Matfield almost needs no introduction. Having made his Springboks debut in 2000 he’s gone on to make 123 appearances. Matfield initially retired in 2011, but returned to rugby in 2014 and made his way back into contention for the World Cup. He will play for Northampton Saints after the end of the tournament.
5. Hitoshi Ono (Japan) 37 years old – 94 caps
He may not be an instantly recallable name, but Ono has made nearly 100 appearances for Japan since his debut in 2004. A one-club man, Ono has played for Toshiba Brave Lupus for his entire career.
6. Hale T-Pole (Tonga) 36 years old – 31 caps
Perhaps the best named player at this World Cup, T-Pole came to prominence in provincial rugby in New Zealand, representing Otago and Southland from a young age.
7. Mauro Bergamasco (Italy) 36 years old – 104 caps
Bergamasco has the unenviable position of keeping New Zealand’s Richie McCaw out of this lineup, but with more than a hundred caps for Italy, the flanker is no bad selection. Bergamasco retired after the final game of the 2014/15 domestic season and will likely hang up his boots altogether after Italy’s final game.
8. Ovidiu Tonita (Romania) 35 years old – 70 caps
The first of two Romanians on the list, Tonita is a veteran of French domestic rugby. A nine-year stint at Perpignan saw him play in two World Cups. Now playing at Provence, Tonita will likely add to his 70 caps in this tournament.
9. Eoin Reddan (Ireland) 34 years old – 64 caps
Reddan may be entering the tournament as backup to 26-year-old Conor Murray, but with 64 caps under his belt the Leinster man will be ready to step in at No 9 if required. Long stints at both Wasps and Leinster leave the 34-year-old battle hardened and incredibly experienced.
10. Danut Dumbrava (Romania) 35 years old – 72 caps
The second Romanian in the team is just as experienced as the first and can provide backup at full-back if required. Dumbrava has notched up 389 points in his 72 appearances for Romania.
11. Francisco Bulanti (Uruguay) 35 years old – 23 caps
Having made his test debut against Venezuala in 2004, Bulanti has only gone on to make 22 more appearances over the last 11 years. Three tries in 23 appearances isn’t great form from a winger, but he’s not in this team for his talents.
12. Craig Wing (Japan) 35 years old – 10 caps
Another quite inexperience player, 35-year-old Wing is a convert from Rugby League and made 17 appearances for native Australia in his younger days. He’s plied his trade in Japan since moving to Union in 2010 and has since made 10 appearances for his adopted nation.
13. Jean de Villiers (South Africa) 34 years old – 107 caps
While centre partner Wing may lack test experience, there’s no questioning de Villiers’s. The South Africa captain injured his knee five minutes into his debut in 2002, but came back strong to win 106 more caps and lifted the World Cup in 2007.
14. Sean Lamont (Scotland) 34 years old – 97 caps
At 34, Lamont may not have much more in the legs at international level, especially with Scotland’s squad taking a turn for younger players, but he’ll almost certainly reach the 100 cap mark this tournament.
15. Andrea Masi (Italy) 34 years old – 94 caps
Masi is poised to take part in his fourth World Cup, having been in Italy’s squads in 2003, 2007 and 2011. Injuries have sidelined him in the past few seasons, and he’ll likely be behind Luke McLean in the pecking order this time round.