Continuing on in our top 10 series, this time we take a look at the 10 best centres in rugby right now and rank them based on current form.
*Please note some players are absent from this list as a result of appearing in our top 10 wingers post.
10. Jonathan Davies
Powerful Welsh centre Jonathan Davies may have been vilified last year after keeping Brian O’Driscoll out of the Lions team for the final test in Australia. Despite the widespread criticism he went on to more than justify his place in the side as he proved to be a key man in helping the Lions to a series victory.
9. Manu Tuilagi
Tuilagi has been the first English centre since the 2003 World Cup winners to look like his place is firmly cemented in his sides midfield. He may not be the subtlest of players but his power gives him an ability to get over the gainline like not many others can. At such a young stage he still has years ahead of him to continue to improve.
8. Rene Ranger
There’s no doubting that Steve Hansen was hugely disappointed when Ranger decided to turn his back on the All Blacks and pursue a move to the Top 14 with Montpellier. With pace and power aplenty Ranger is one of the most dangerous backs in the game these days, and his experience out on the wing has clearly helped provide an edge with his finishing.
7. Ma’a Nonu
Nonu may still continue to frustrate fans in Super Rugby, but there is no questioning his talent when he pulls on the famous black jersey. Over the last 18 months he has developed a deftness to his game, particularly with his kicking which has made him a much more effective centre as he can take on the additional playmakers role.
6. Adam Ashley-Cooper
Ashley-Cooper seems to have faded in and out of form over the last couple of years, showing flashes of his talent but never consistently. That seems to have changed this year as he partnership with Kurtley Beale in the Waratahs midfield has flourished and helped their team to a maiden Super Rugby title.
5. Jean de Villiers
The Springboks captain may be getting on a bit these days, but what he’s lost physically he has more than made up for in experience. He is the only non-forward to captain a side in the IRB Top 10 which goes a long way to show how he is never afraid to get involved with proceedings and always remains a rock in defence.
4. Wesley Fofana
Fofana may have endured another disappointing season for both club and country, but that has not stopped him showing his class at both levels. Quite possible the most exciting player in the Northern Hemisphere, there’s no doubting that if the French pack can get on the front foot then Fofana could be absolutely devastating.
3. Kurtley Beale
After a number of difficult years in which he drifted in and out of the Wallabies team, Beale finally seems to be fulfilling his much promised potential. His ability to drop into the 10 channel for the Waratahs has been absolutely key in allowing the dangerous back three outside him to take advantage of the space created.
2. Matt Giteau
Whilst many outside of the Top 14 still fail to appreciate Giteau, anyone who has watched him regularly over the last two years will know just how important he is to Toulon. Another centre who slots into the 10 channel seamlessly, Giteau is often Toulon’s chief playmaker whilst his defence has continue to improve significantly.
1. Conrad Smith
Smith may not be the flashiest of centres but there’s no doubting his importance to the current All Blacks team. He acts as a defensive coordinator for the team, ensuring that the All Blacks defence remains solid whilst in attack he helps feed the ball out to the back three and is a master of drawing defenders and creating space.
Who do you think is the best centre in the world right now?