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Wing's Team of the Decade: International forwards dominate

The growing international influence on the NRL is reflected by the selection of James Graham, Sam Burgess, Sonny Bill Williams and Jason Taumalolo in the forward pack for my team of the decade.

When I was putting together my team of the decade, I went in with a heavy focus on players who had excelled at not just club but representative level, particularly State of Origin.

English internationals Graham and Burgess, Kiwi great SBW and Tongan tearaway Taumalolo haven't played Origin but their international standing speaks for itself.

Players don't necessarily have to have spent most of their club careers in that position.

The players in the key playmaking positions pretty much pick themselves. Even though their have been other great fullbacks, hookers and halves over the past decade, the combination of Smith, Slater, Cronk and Thurston is just too great to ignore.

They are the ultimate professionals; no matter how much pressure there was in any given situation on the field and how little time left there was to win the game they'd always deliver.

They had the unfair advantage of being in so many representative teams together that they got further and further away from everybody else.

Even though Thurston and Cronk each played pretty much their whole NRL careers in the No.7 they combined brilliantly in the halves in plenty of Tests and Origins.

On one wing I've gone for Jarryd Hayne. Again, he played most of his NRL career at fullback but he did a lot of his best work at rep level on the wing and I had to find a spot for him. He was an absolute star over a long period.

On the other wing, I've gone for Roger Tuivasa-Sheck. He's been a fullback for a while now but his first three years at the Roosters were on the wing and you just can't buy the speed and agility he has.

In one centre spot is the great Greg Inglis. Like Thurston and Hayne he probably played most of his club career with a different jersey number on but it goes without saying he should be in the team. He's one of the best-attacking players we've ever seen.

The other centre I've gone for Jamie Lyon. He was so consistent over such a long period of time and even when he finally finished up I was still hoping he'd go around for one more year because he was still playing so well.

Up front, Matt Scott gets one spot. He reminds me a bit of Shane Webcke the way he just always does his job at such a high standard every week.

The other prop spot goes to James Graham. He hasn't always been in the best teams but he's always been one of the best players. When the Bulldogs lost the 2014 grand final to South Sydney so much of their team revolved around him.

Sam Burgess in the back row, he's done some amazing things since he came to Australia. When he first came he set a whole new benchmark as an 80-minute player in the middle, smashing blokes and playing at such a high intensity for the full game every week as an athlete and an enforcer.

Try of the week: Round 22

SBW only played two years of this decade but with two minor premierships and one premiership he had plenty of success and his legacy stayed on at the Roosters long after he left. He was one of the most skillful ball-playing back-rowers we've ever seen and pulled off some of the biggest hits we've ever seen as well. I think he only left the NRL because they got rid of the shoulder charge!

Jason Taumalolo is the lock. What he's done the last few years in the engine room would be very hard for anyone to replicate week-in week-out. His agility for a big man in the middle, his work ethic and raw strength and power is frightening for any opposition.

The four players on the bench are the guys it was hardest to leave out of the starting team and none of them would look out of place in that starting team because they've performed so consistently at such a high level. They've all won games for their teams off their own back many times.

I don't know too many Australian teams that would get over this team!

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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