Who were the best rugby players of all time?
It’s a question that still separates true ruggers. “There are plenty right?” said Wales’ most capped player Gethin Jenkins, when asked for his opinion on who was the greatest player to ever grace the game.
Jenkins is only one of the game’s elite, who after years on rugby pitches up and down Britain and across Europe, still struggles to pick between legends.
“You’ve got someone like Sean Fitzpatrick who won 93 caps for New Zealand,” he continues, referring to the most capped international player ever. “Then there are guys like Martin Johnson who captained 37 times, or John Eales from Australia.”
With the rugby hall of fame packed with true greats it’s a tough ask to condense the accolades down into just 10 players. In an effort to do that, here is a list of 10 of the greatest rugby players of all time.
10. Marc Ellis (New Zealand)
Ellis was one of the youngest players ever to be selected for New Zealand’s national team, and later in his career he became the highest points scorer at Rugby World Cups with 111. He scored an impressive 3 tries in just 7 games before retiring from international rugby.
9. Johnny Sexton (Ireland/British and Irish Lions)
Sexton was recently named the European player of the year in 2018. He has won every rugby trophy available in Europe, including four Six Nations Championships and three European Cups with Irish side Leinster. The fly-half also helped guide Ireland to a historic win over New Zealand becoming one of only three players to score all of his team’s points in an international match.
8. Jonah Lomu (New Zealand)
Jonah Lomu is one of the most iconic figures to ever play rugby, his hulking size and speed helped him become the sport’s first true megastar who transcended his game to become a household name. His 20 tries in just 63 matches is the record for most tries scored by a winger in test rugby, and he is still the joint all-time record try scorer at Rugby World Cup tournaments with 15.
7. Percy Montgomery (South Africa)
Montgomery retired as South Africa’s most capped player ever, but his legacy started long before that when he helped them win the 1995 Rugby World Cup. He is also one of only eight players to have scored more than 1,000 test points in their career.
6. George Smith (Australia)
Smith was known for his never-say-die attitude on the pitch, and his ability to break free from tackles with some impressive side steps. The flanker is Australia’s most capped player with 111, and his 14 career Rugby World Cup tries is the record for a flanker.
5. William Webb Ellis (England)
One of the first rugby players to truly make an impact on international audiences, William Webb Ellis was responsible for creating one of rugby’s original laws – The Law forbidding the carrying of the ball. His impact on the game has led him to be labelled one of the game’s true greats, and he is often attributed as being the inventor of rugby.
4. Brian O’Driscoll (Ireland)
O’Driscoll holds more records than your average one-test wonder thanks to his incredible 133 international caps for Ireland. He is the third highest all-time international scorer with 46 tries, and he holds the record for most Six Nations Championship wins (25), as well as most overall points (211).
3. David Campese (Australia)
Campese’s flair on the pitch made him a hero amongst fans around Australia during his 63 test appearances and 64 tries remain a world record. He represented his country at five Rugby World Cups and is one of only eight players to score more than 60 career test points.
2. Christian Cullen (New Zealand)
Before finishing his test career with two Rugby World Cup victories, Cullen spent years as arguably the best wing in the game. His incredible acceleration and speed meant he was a nightmare to stop when running with the ball. In his prime, Cullen set records for most tries scored in a Super Rugby season (16), as well as most overall Super Rugby points (192).
1. Richie McCaw (New Zealand)
McCaw has been at the top of rugby’s elite for almost two decades, and his influence on the game is still strong today. As captain of the All Blacks, he lifted the 2011 Rugby World Cup trophy with his team and also became rugby’s most capped player of all time. McCaw holds an impressive 14 Rugby World Cup records, including most appearances (21), most games as captain (17/18) and most wins as captain (17/18).