Nigel Owens is not only the world’s greatest referee, he makes a pretty good master of ceremonies… and a damn decent rugby selector, too!
15 Israel Folau (Australia)
Crikey, the first position in the team and I’m already spoilt for choice. Leigh Halfpenny is a truly great player, while Lee Byrne was another who always shone when he played for Wales.
14 Stuart Hogg (Scotland)
Another really tight call for me because I’m a huge admirer of Julian Savea, who was brilliant for New Zealand at the World Cup and in particular during the quarter-final against France in Cardiff.
13 Brian O’Driscoll (Ireland)
Not only is he one of the greatest centres in the history of rugby union but he’s a fantastic man off the field as well. O’Driscoll has been a wonderful ambassador for the sport and a real leader.
12 Ma’a Nonu (New Zealand)
He’s another brilliant player and after every game, win or lose, he would come up and give me a hug. Ma’a has always found time at after-match functions or at breakfast if we’ve been staying at the same hotel to come over and have a chat.
11 Shane Williams (Wales)
When people ask me who is the best player I have refereed it’s pretty much an impossible task to pick one because I’ve been lucky enough to take charge of so many greats.
10 Dan Carter (New Zealand)
There are lots of outside-halves who have been great, but not one who has done it over so many years like Carter.
9: Agustin Pichot (Argentina)
I used to love watching Dwayne Peel in his prime as a scrum-half for those few years between 2004-06 with Wales, the Lions and Llanelli. Talented, a great guy, he also has a house just up the road from me!
1 Gethin Jenkins (Wales)
He rarely smiles but has been a terrific player at loose-head prop. When I’ve penalised him and he’s smiled, I know I’d got the decision right!
2 John Smit (South Africa)
He led the Springboks to success at the 2007 World Cup in France and against the 2009 Lions and is probably one of the greatest captains I have dealt with.
3 Phil Vickery (England)
I always had a lot of time for him, found him a decent man, a good player to referee. He wasn’t one of those who would whinge at decisions, he would accept the call and get on with it.
4 Alun Wyn Jones (Wales)
A man of few words, he does his talking on the field with his actions. Not only is he a brilliant player and a very good captain but I don’t think I have reffed a match where he hasn’t given absolutely everything.
5 Paul O’Connell (Ireland)
Quite simply he was just an exceptional leader. I have been in charge of games where he pretty much carried his team, whether it was Munster or Ireland, almost on his back and onto victory.
6 Thierry Dusautoir (France)
I was tempted to for Jerome Kaino here. There was a programme on television the night before the World Cup final and Kaino came up to me at the final whistle and said: ‘I watched that documentary last night and it was really inspiring’.
7 Richie McCaw (New Zealand)
Even though there’s been David Pocock and others in this position, how can I not go with Richie?
8 Sergio Parisse (Italy)
I’ve been fortunate to have refereed some tremendousduring my career but Sergio is tops. He’s such a talented player and rarely has a bad game.
Want more of our Nige? – Check out his top 5 moments.
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