Before we start, let’s set the precedent.
The meaning of over-rated is that to have a higher opinion of someone or something than is deserved. With that in mind, There is no denying these are very good rugby players, but maybe not quite as good as they are made out to be.
1. Tendai Mtawarira: Just because stadiums shake with his nickname any time he’s on the ball does not make him a superstar. In his last international against Wales he made six carries for a measly six metres and was part of a front row that conceded three penalties. A blip, you say? No. Against England a fortnight earlier his stats were even worse with two carries for one metre and conceded two penalties himself and against Ireland in the autumn he made just the one run for no gain whatsoever.
2. Rory Best: Most of us would give a limb to pull on a Lions jersey. Maybe two to walk out as captain. The Ulsterman was given that privilege in 2013 against a third-string Brumbies outfit, but led his side to a 14-12 defeat after a lineout horror show. Analysing the defeat, he said the Australians “just wanted it more”. Some leader.
3. Euan Murray: Gone are the days where a tighthead’s only job is to hold up a scrum. But Murray didn’t really do that. In his last international outing against Ireland, his front row lost 50% of their scrums while Ireland won all 10 of theirs. In the loose, he made just one tackle. That was it. Against England he lost two scrums and conceded a penalty while against Italy – a game the Scots lost – he made no carries, made three tackles and missed one, lost two scrums and the front row conceded three penalties.
4. James Horwill: When you’re looking at locks, you want someone who is going to put their head down and smash rucks for 80 minutes, carry when they are asked to and be a lineout option. Horwill is ok at all of these, but nothing more, and was handed the Wallaby captaincy. Hopefully his move to Harlequins will shine a light on his mediocrity.
5. Ryan Jones: Maybe a bit unfair now because he’s plying his trade in the Championship, but even in his pomp he was infuriatingly average for an international captain. In the 2009 Autumn Internationals, he made 10 carries against the All Blacks for 15 yards and six carries for five yards against Argentina. Effectively falling over for a man of 6’3”.
6. Tom Croft: Quite possibly the most over-rated of them all. It’s easy to look good when you’re taking spectacular balls at the back of a lineout and cruising in for tries on the wing.
7. Schalk Burger: If you shaved Burger’s hair, would you notice him on the pitch? Looks impressive when he goes about his abrasive business with blonde locks being thrown from side to side, which is why he picks up plaudits. And finger in Luke Fitzgerald’s eye in 2009 – unforgivable.
8. Jamie Heaslip: Another of the Tom Croft mould. Looks pretty on a hard track in the wide channels in front of a pack going forward. Something he’s been gifted at Leinster for years. Fell out of favour on the Lions tour to the superior Toby Faletau when the pack creaked.
9. Fourie Du Preez: Widely regarded as the best scrum half in the world at his peak. And rightly so. But let’s look at his competition. In 2007, he won the World Cup by beating England in the final. England’s trio of scrum-halfs for the tournament were Andy Gommersall, Peter Richards and Shaun Perry. Hardly the who’s who of the world’s greatest. He got lucky in a generation of average nines and then ran off to Japan.
10. Johnny Sexton: In the autumn he was being talked up as the best 10 in the world in many quarters. This is the very definition of being over-rated. He is a very good fly-half. Inspired for Leinster in the Heineken Cup Final against Northampton, manoeuvres Ireland nicely around the park, but is nowhere near the worlds best. Kicking crumbled a number of occasions under pressure and struggles without a certain O’Driscoll outside him.
11. Jonny May: One try against New Zealand – and it was one hell of a try – and people ignored the fact there was nothing much to his game aside from languid hips and some pace. People saw through Ashton’s defensive frailties. The same will become of May. The club scene is very different to the international one.
12. Gordon D’Arcy: Anyone can look good inside Brian O’Driscoll. D’Arcy made a living from people doubling up and tripling up on BOD, which opened doors for him in attack. Used by Schmidt a lot as a decoy runner or simple pivot man in his Leinster days and later with Ireland.
13. Billy Twelvetrees: An international centre who cannot finish a two on one. His skillset for a supposed distributing midfield man is appalling. This isn’t the only example of his blundering moments in attack
14. Alex Cuthbert: Everything that’s wrong with modern rugby. Can’t pass. Can’t kick. Can’t kick. Can’t read a game. Can’t defend. But he’s tall and can run really fast.
15. Leigh Halfpenny: The best kicker in the world. Brave as brave can be in defence. Solid as you like under a high ball. But the modern game has evolved and a 15 needs to offer more. After his untimely injury against Italy, Liam Williams switched to fullback and Wales ran riot to score 47 second half points. Halfpenny has scored the bulk of his 12 tries on the wing. His counter-attacking game has improved vastly over the last year, but picking lines off centres like your Folaus, Le Rouxs, Browns and Kearneys of this world is still a way off.