The Top Five Rugby Union PlayersSource: Wikimedia
Before rugby union turned professional in the 1990s, several players could have claimed to be among the best ever. Many think that the Welshman, Gareth Edwards, was the best scrum-half the game has ever seen, for example. There again, few instinctive counter attackers could match the prowess of one of the best full-backs of all time, Frenchman Serge Blanco. It is a bit like arguing over your favourite slot because it is all a matter of opinion. In fact, it is hard to compare the amateur and professional eras because the playing environment has changed so much. If you are talking about professional players, then we think that the following men would always make it into the list of the very best. Do you agree?
Jonah Lomu (New Zealand)
Lomu set the 1995 Rugby World Cup alight in South Africa. The game had just turned fully professional and the likes of Lomu marked the way in which the game would move with big, powerful runners deployed right across the backline. Although many thought that Lomu was suspect in defence, especially when the ball was kicked behind him, forcing him to turn, the winger was best-known for his tremendous attacking prowess. Lomu had the ability to take the ball at pace and to run through tacklers rather than trying to cut past them. Later in his international career for the All Blacks, Lomu became better if anything, developing his all-round game. The great winger passed away in 2015.
Brian O’Driscoll (Ireland)Source: Wikimedia
Ireland has rarely seen a centre of the quality of O’Driscoll who was played for his national team on 133 occasions. In fact, he was captain in test matches 83 times and won a further eight caps for the British and Irish Lions. A fearsome tackler, O’Driscoll scored more international tries than any other centre up to that point and no one yet looks like they will break his record. He also holds the record for most tries by a single player in the history of the Six Nations competition.
John Eales (Australia)Source: ABC
Eales played for the Wallabies in the early professional era. A lock who had an all-round game that was unprecedented then or since, he was given the nickname ‘nobody’ on the basis that nobody is perfect. In fact, Eales’ game was close to perfection. He scored two tries in his 86 tests for Australia and kicked a further 34 penalty goals and 31 conversions. For a forward to be such a proficient placekicker is truly amazing but it was for his work in the lineout and the loose that he is also remembered as a great. He was part of the team that won the Rugby World Cup in 1991, captaining his side to victory in the tournament eight years later, as well.
Dan Carter (New Zealand)Source: Wikimedia
Even though Johnny Wilkinson has many fans in the northern hemisphere for his ability in the number 10 shirt, few people would argue that Carter was not one of the very best fly-halves to have ever played rugby union. Carter played 112 times for the All Blacks whereas Wilkinson gained 97 caps for England and the Lions. In fact, Carter also scored more points for his country, too, amassing an astounding total of 1,598 over the course of twelve years, a record that may never be bettered. The outside-half was named as the International Player of the Year three times. Only one other player has achieved that in their career, the man who completes this list.
Richie McCaw (New Zealand)Source: Wikimedia
Given the attrition rate of back-row forwards, longevity as an open-side flanker makes you stand out. When you consider that McCaw was first capped in 2001 and only retired from international rugby in 2015, having won two Rugby World Cups in the process, you can see why he is so admired by rugby fans around the world. McCaw won 146 caps in total, outstripping O’Driscoll’s record in 2015. As a flanker, McCaw was known for his disruptive work at the breakdown but he could attack with great skill, too, often linking his pack to the backs with aplomb. He scored 27 tries for the All Blacks, a huge number for a forward.