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Socksdown XV

As the year dribbles to an end, teams are picked for the year receding. This team. the Socksdown XV, is a different sort of team – one whose players fail to keep their socks up.

It is a modern rugby phenomenon – like long hair, coloured boots and poor shaving, all of which would have been unthinkable not long ago. Still to many old folk it is decidedly odd now.

Players stand in rows singing their national anthem with faces screwed in passion with their socks around their ankles.

You will see a debutant run out onto the field for his first match with his socks down.

Asked about this, an ankle-socked debutant to international rugby said he did not know why he played with his socks down. He had just done it all his playing career, even at school.

The habit is not confined to the bulging-calf brigade who want to free the bulging calves from tension. Some who have socks down have no visible calves at all. We have more wings than props – if that is a stat of any significance. Maybe it's just the old 'show us a leg' principle of attracting the opposite sex. And in any case soccer players don't do it.

Perhaps the problem is in the garters. No longer do you have those elastic bands that your mother made and Socksdown XVthat kept your socks up. If you lost one or made it into a catapult for some changing room war, she made another one. It was cheap and efficient but frightfully unglamorous and you had to remember to pack them before you left home.

Then socks had ties which were attached to the socks and not as efficient as mother's elastic. The ties may have been a problem. Being a boyscout is no longer as popular as it was and so some players may not know how to tie knots.

Then there are socks with built-in garters. They are nylon, not cotton and longer than the socks of yore but they stay up unless pushed down. That suggests that the Socksdowners are deliberately so.

The most likely player to have his socks down, we thought, was a left wing. (We had six left wings – Jonny May of England, Simon Zebo of Ireland, Julian Savea and Charles Piutau of New Zealand, Teddy Thomas of France and Joe Tomane of Australia). Perhaps it was all about speed.

But then we found wings outmatched with tighthead props, and that is not about speed. The tightheads identified are Martín Castrogiovanni of Italy, Charlie Faumuina and Ben Franks of New Zealand, Rhodri Jones of Wales, Census Johnston and Anthony Perenise of Samoa, Uini Atonio of France and Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro of Argentina.

The most unlikely are flyhalves, neat fellows that they are, followed by fullbacks and No.8s. There are not many locks either, fewer than scrumhalves, which suggests that size has nothing to do with it.

To some rugby watchers socks down is anathema, disrespect for the uniform. To others it doesn't matter, for it's the way he plays that matters, not what he looks like.

We are going to pick our team from the November Tests. We are also going to pick our replacements – sitting on the bench with blankets wrapped around their legs to keep them warm. Our criterion will not be best legs or lowest socks but the best player.

We have also named a captain – an easy choice, one who, excellent player, looks as if he should have a surfboard in his back pocket.

If we chose the best team with socks down as a criterion, it would be New Zealand, followed closely by Samoa. Some teams would not qualify at all – Scotland and South Africa, who would not make the Socksdown World Cup in San Tropez every year.

The Socksdown XV 0f 2014Socksdown XV

15. Israel Dagg (New Zealand)

14. Alex Cuthbert (Wales)

13. Michele Campagnaro (Italy)

12. Matt Toomua (Australia)

11. Julian Savea (New Zealand)

10. Tusi Pisi (Samoa)

9. Tomás Cubelli (Argentina)

8. Victor Vito (New Zealand)

7. Michael Hooper (Australia, captain)

6. Liam Messam (New Zealand)

5. Yoann Maestri (France)

4. James Horwill (Australia)

3. Martín Castrogiovanni (Italy)

2. Agustín Creevy (Argentina)

1. Marcos Ayerza (Argentina)

Replacements: 16 Dane Coles (New Zealand), 17 Ben Franks (New Zealand), 18 Owen Franks (New Zealand), 19 Will Skelton (Australia), 20 James Haskell (England), 21 TJ Perenara (New Zealand), 22 Christian Leali'ifano (Australia), 23 Jonny May (England).

By Paul Dobson



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