Continuing on in our top 10 series, this time we take a look at the 10 best flankers in rugby right now and rank them based on current form.
10. Juan Smith
Smith’s move to Toulon came as a shock to many given his injury issues, however his return to action has seen him become an integral part of the French side’s double winning season. Smith’s form has been so good in the Top 14 that he has earned a recall to the Springboks squad for the Rugby Championship.
9. Jerome Kaino
There was no doubting that the All Blacks were going to miss Kaino when he moved to Japan after the World Cup in 2011. However, his return to New Zealand earlier this year has been a huge boost for Steve Hansen as Kaino has reclaimed the number 6 shirt and looks set to hold onto it for the World Cup next year.
8. Francois Louw
Louw has been one of the top performers in the Premiership over the past couple of seasons which has resulted in him returning to the Springboks fold where he has nailed down a starting place. An on-field leader who has become an integral player for both club and country, there’s no doubting how important it is for Louw to have an outstanding 12 months.
7. Thierry Dusautoir
The French skipper doesn’t receive the plaudits he deserves given his efforts for club and country. He may not be the flashiest of players but he goes about his business incredibly effectively putting in tackles and stealing turnovers. There’s no doubting how much France missed him during the 2014 Six Nations.
6. Jacques Burger
In many respects it’s a huge shame that Burger represents Namibia rather than one of the top international sides where his undoubted talent would be a huge asset. Despite this he still manages to prove his ability as he puts his body (quite literally) on the line for his team. He also happens to be one of the hardest working players in modern rugby.
5. Sean O’Brien
The Ireland flanker is a huge presence on the field for club and country combining the best assets of both a six and a seven to great effect. His ball carrying ability is almost unrivalled whilst he’s also more than capable of putting in huge hits and winning turnover ball. Nicknamed the Tullow Tank he more than lives up to his reputation.
4. Steffon Armitage
One of the outstanding players in the Northern Hemisphere over the last 12 months, Armitage’s form has been so good that there have been calls for England to change their overseas selection policy to include him in their World Cup squad. He may not look the most athletic of players but he has all the skills necessary to be a truly world class flanker.
3. Mamuka Gorgodze
Possibly the most underrated player in world rugby, if Gorgodze played for a top 10 country there’s no doubting he would be one of the most highly rated players in the back row. A huge force of nature who is surprisingly athletic given his size, it looks like Toulon have got themselves a real gem for the 2014/15 season.
2. Richie McCaw
McCaw may not quite be the force he was a couple of years back but there’s still no doubting how hugely influential he is for the All Blacks. The true master of the dark arts of the breakdown, McCaw would be a great asset to any side as he disrupts the opposition ball, provides world class leadership and is pretty good in the loose as well.
1. Michael Hooper
Wallabies captain at the age of just 22, Hooper for me is currently the stand-out back row player in world rugby. As a sign of being a truly great openside he always seems to appear at the right place at the right time to put in tackles and try to win turnovers. His past experience as a centre also makes him a dangerous runner with the ball in hand.
Who do you think is the best flanker in the world right now?