The 20 Greatest Rugby Players of All Time

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We take a look at the greatest players to have ever graced the game of rugby and rank our top 20 greatest rugby players of all time;

20.Jonny Wilkinson (Fly Half, England, 91 caps)

Wilkinson is just about the most iconic figure in English rugby after guiding his nation to their only Rugby World Cup triumph. For any Englishman to have won over French fans as he did in Toulon only further proves his talent.

19.JPR Williams (Full Back, Wales, 55 caps)

Williams must be considered one of the greatest full backs to have ever played rugby. A total all rounder who was solid in defence and exciting to watch in attack.

18.Phillippe Sella (Centre, France, 111 caps)

There aren’t too many players who break the 100 cap mark in international test rugby, Sella however was one of the greats. What France wouldn’t do for a player like him right now.

17.Martin Johnson (Lock, England, 84 caps)

Johnson’s coaching career may not have taken off as many had hoped, however as a player he was a rare talent. An inspirational leader who had no issue putting his head where it hurt, he was instrumental in the 2003 World Cup.

16.Willie John McBride (Number 8, Ireland, 63 caps)

McBride is one of the first names people think of when the Lions are mentioned, a truly class act both on and off the field.  McBride led from the front and made sure no man was left behind.

15.Sean Fitzpatrick (Hooker, New Zealand, 92 caps)

The former All Blacks hooker had the dynamism of a centre and the aggression of an openside, he essentially set the benchmark for all modern hookers to follow during his 92 times capped international career.

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14.George Gregan (Scrum Half, Australia, 132 caps)

Until recently Gregan was the most capped international player of all time having been an integral part of an impressive Wallabies side during his international career.

13.Joost van der Westhuizen (Scrum Half, South Africa, 89 caps)

Simply one of the most dangerous runners of the ball in the nine shirt that has ever been seen in rugby. A true icon of the game who is still influencing scrum half play today.

12.George Smith, (Openside, Australia, 111 caps)

Smith is one of the most underrated players of all time outside of Australia. Had he not opted to move to Japan and then France there’s no doubt he would still be going toe-to-toe with McCaw.

11.Jonah Lomu (Wing, New Zealand, 63 caps)

At times Lomu single handedly tore sides apart such was his size and strength. A true legend of the game, although maybe not quite as complete of a player as some make out, hence him missing out on the top 10.

10.John Eales (Lock, Australia, 86 caps)

Eales may not have been the loudest player out on the field but his more reserved demeanour still helped steer the Wallabies to two World Cups during his time. He wasn’t half bad in the line-out either.

9.Zinzan Brooke (Number 8, New Zealand, 58 caps)

Brooke was quite simply one of the most outrageously gifted forwards to have ever played rugby. With the kicking ability of a fly-half and the strength of a forward he was one of the greatest number 8’s of all time.

8.David Campese (Wing, Australia, 101 caps)

Campese was an extraordinary talent with vision and skills that made him stand-out even in a quality Wallabies side. He always seemed to have a second more than everyone else on the pitch thanks to his timing and vision.

7.Brian O’Driscoll (Centre, Ireland, 133 caps)

O’Driscoll is quite possibly the greatest centre to have ever graced the game. A world class talent who redefined the play of a 13 whilst single handedly dragging a poor Irish team out of the doldrums when he first burst onto the scene.

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6.Hugo Porta (Fly Half, Argentina, 58 caps)

Porta can be considered one of the main reasons Los Pumas are where they are today. A class act who lifted them into the upper tiers of rugby, his kicking was second to none which he combined with great vision.

5.Michael Jones (Openside, New Zealand, 55 caps)

Jones has simply been one of the greatest forwards of all time, mixing incredible handling skills with a tenacity at the breakdown others simply couldn’t live with. His pace and defence were also key elements of his game.

4.Serge Blanco (Full Back, France, 93 caps)

Blanco is the epitome of all that is/was great about French rugby. A player with unrivaled flair that made him an absolute joy to watch as he pulled of feats that others couldn’t even contemplate.

3.Richie McCaw (Openside, New Zealand, 135 caps)

The fact McCaw is possibly the most hated man is huge testament to his craft, an absolute master of the breakdown who has been integral to an incredible All Blacks side, he will long be remembered as a truly world class player.

2.Dan Carter (Fly Half, New Zealand, 101 caps)

For me Carter is quite simply the greatest fly half to have ever played the game. A total class act who is solid in defence and a constant threat in attack, he has set a new benchmark which all fly halves will now be judged by.

1.Gareth Edwards (Scrum Half, Wales, 53 caps)

Edwards was quite simply the master of every element of the game, his passing, kicking, running and reading of the game were second to none. He would be a standout player in any team through the years.

Who do you think is the greatest rugby player of all time?

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27 comments

  1. Jonny Wilkinson is a player that played professionally from 1999-2014, survived many modernisations of rugby, won the only RWC for northern hemisphere team, almost defended trophy as well, and also won Heineken cup two times in a row scoring more than 70 % points of his team in knockout stage..Had to be in top 5, if not top 3!

  2. no Larkham but wilkinson…please!!. If George Smith is underrated and can go toe to toe with mcCaw he should be top 5.

  3. Fourie du preez? Victor Matfield? Come on

  4. Michael Forsyth-Thompson

    How can Frik Du Preez not be on this list?

  5. Victor Matfield, Shane Williams?

    • The one I want is Os Du Randt, a man that went from debuting the RWC in 1995, to being one of the best scrummagers in the world, to having a massively long playing career especially as a loose head prop. I think there are too many loose forwards and backs in this mix tbh, and that the tight 5 are very underrated on this site overall.

  6. How can you miss out undefeated All Blacks captain Wayne ‘Buck’ Shelford (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ItPmdSpBamk) or Colin ‘Pinetree’ Meads (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fHt1G0W_O_o)? No Naas Botha?
    Way too many Northern Hemisphere players in this list, particularly British, so little reflection of rugby dominance deriving from better players.
    The origins of the author – and his ignorance of Southern Hemisphere greats – are all too apparent.

  7. How could any sane, reasoned, educated man not put Daniel Carter in No1 spot. Look at stats, look at highlights. Highest test points scorer IN HISTORY OF RUGBY for christs sake. Gareth Edwards ‘mastered all elements of the game’ not even a possible feat.

  8. BOD & Wilko are both top 5 players

  9. McCaw is number 1. Lifted every trophy he has contested for. 3 IRB player of year awards and mutiple nominees. 100 test wins. 100 tests as captain. Been one of the best players if not the best from the time he debut in 2001 to present that’s 14 years of being world class who else can say that.

  10. Gareth Edwards most certainly should stay number one, if not anything to be a nod towards the rich history that is rugby. His style and play was a head of his time, and was a true champion. In today’s standard he may not be anything special. But we cannot deny his merits due to passing of time. BOD should be top 5 though.

  11. C’m’on, John Kirkwan, The Horse, is the best ever.

  12. I am sorry but as an Englishman there is only one no.1 on any rugby list …. by far the most devastating rugby player of all time …. Jonah Lomu! Joost, Dan, Jonny and Gareth may have had huge influence but Jonah was just a rugby freak!

    • Because the likes of Catt etc couldn’t tackle him. When he was taken around the ankles, eg by Joost and Japie Mulder, he was rendered human.

    • No offence. But you have no rugby knowledge obviously. Jonah was an awesome attracting player going forward. But as for greatest ever! No

  13. Brett Johan Birkenstock

    No Matfield, du preez, Habana, Gerber… and no Du Randt!
    give me a break

  14. and no South Africans?!!!

  15. Any list of greats that doesn’t have Ritchie mccaw as number 1 is no doubt a list made up by a person with no idea

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