My Ultimate Team: Willie Poching selects his best 1-17 including Leeds Rhinos, New Zealand stars

George Riley

Leeds Rhinos’ Grand Final-winning former Samoa and New Zealand forward Willie Poching is our latest guest on My Ultimate Team on Love Rugby League.

Poching starred in the Rhinos’ Old Trafford win over Bradford Bulls in 2004 and was a try scorer in their subsequent World Club Challenge win over Canterbury Bulldogs.

Having appeared on the international stage for both New Zealand and Samoa – who he also coached, Poching was head coach of Wakefield for the 2022 season after stints as assistant coach for Warrington, Salford and Hull KR.

Poching is now back home with his family in Auckland, and speaking exclusively to Love Rugby League, he picked his ultimate 17 of players he lined up alongside during his career.

1. Phil Blake

One of the game’s most skillful ever players. Was an honour to play with him and one of the best readers of the game I played with.

2. Marcus Bai

Marcus Bai

Had everything you want in a winger. Brought the ball back like a front rower, carried all day long and knew how to find the try line.

3. Kevin Iro

Kevin Iro
St Helens’ Kevin Iro fends off a tackle in a Challenge Cup game against Wigan Warriors in 2001

A hero to every Kiwi kid of my generation. Playing with him was everything I thought it would be and the Mariners were big winners with his signing. Had so much success in his career and was always willing to help and teach us young lads.

4. Keith Senior

Keith Senior Leeds Rhinos Alamy

A monster in the back line. Unplayable to most opponents and sometimes it wasn’t fair on opposition teams just how big, strong, fast and skillful Keith was. A winger’s dream to play outside of too.

5. Francis Cummins

Francis Cummins Alamy
Francis Cummins has joined Hull FC’s backroom staff for 2024 – Alamy

A winger who was a masters of his trade. My first captain at Leeds and a great leader, a real rugby league brain with the natural attributes to boot.

6. Danny McGuire

Danny McGuire, Leeds Rhinos, 2015

Like Phil Blake, Danny could see a try coming two or three plays before. Became a really good organizer and one of the best all round sportsmen I know.

7. Stacey Jones

A child prodigy who became one of the greatest to ever wear the Black and White. A legend of a player and a legend of a bloke, the best half-back I played with when we were young and he got better and better.

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8. Joe Vagana

I couldn’t leave out my best mate. A front rower who played international rugby so young and stamped his mark on the game from the time he came through, A great servant to Bradford and Super League and a born champion.

9. Matt Diskin

The funniest angry man but a fierce competitor. Sat me on my backside the first time I played against him when he came on at Leeds for the first time. Tenacious, tough, full of skill and a leader without the title. He always had your back.

10. Ruben Wiki

Another mate from childhood who went on to become a legend of our great game. Began at centre and moved to back row and then prop. Any position he played he played internationally and was recognised at some stage as one of the best in that position.

11. Ali Lautiiti

Ali Lauitiiti Wakefield Trinity Alamy

He truly had everything. Footwork, the skill of a half, the power of a front rower and speed of an outside back. One of the most beautiful people you would ever meet and the best second rower I took to the field with.

12. Neil Piccinelli

I played with Picco at the Mariners. A fitness machine and a workaholic on the field. Mentally one of the strongest I ever came across.

13. Kevin Sinfield

Kevin Sinfield, Leeds Rhinos, 2015

My captain. The hardest worker every day and inspired me to be the best player and person I could be, even into my later years. I could say so much more about Kev but what he continues to do today with his charity challenges is still inspiring long after we have walked off the field.

MORE ULTIMATE TEAM: Kevin Brown selects his best 1-17 including England, Wigan, St Helens stars


14. Ryan Bailey

Everyone outside of our team seemed to have a hatred for the big lad and he played right up to it. Without doubt the fittest prop I ever played with.

15. Martin Moana

The best all-rounder I played with. Half-back, stand-off, back row or loose forward, he could do everything in the game. The best card player I came across too.

16. David Furner

David Furner Hull KR

Played against him a fair bit but only shared the dressing room for a couple of years. Heard about his toughness and I learned so much from witnessing it every day, Hurt his knee before the 2004 Grand Final and played like it was nothing. We had no idea after the game as he carried on as if nothing had happened.

17. Rob Burrow

Rob Burrow, Leeds Rhinos, 2015

Pound for pound the toughest, strongest and one of the funniest ever. Rob could turn a game in an instant with the ball and without would never be beaten. Inspired the bigger fellas in the team because he fought for everything and still inspires us as he fights today.

MORE ULTIMATE TEAM: Barrie McDermott names his greatest 13 including Leeds, Wigan, Great Britain stars