Top 10 Best Rugby Players in the World
With just days to go until the 2019 Rugby World Cup™, Venatour are getting ready to take over 300 rugby fans on tour to Japan.
No matter who you support, the rugby’s showpiece event allows fans to watch the greatest players in action – and here’s our top ten.
10 – Danny Cipriani
Eddie are you listening? Ironically the name to kick-off our top ten hasn’t even made the World Cup. Every England rugby fan was up in arms when Danny Cipriani was unceremoniously turfed out of Eddie Jones’s World Cup squad.
The mercurial fly-half has unparalleled natural ability and scooping the 2019 Premiership Player of the Year award is proof that he has finally fulfilled his seemingly unlimited potential.
Cipriani is a conductor, an artist, a gamebreaker who carries a remote control that allows him to pause a game, spot an impossible opportunity, and execute an assist with frightening accuracy.
Beauden Barrett is a stronger athlete, Owen Farrell is a more consistent placekicker, Handre Pollard has superior physicality, Jonny Sexton is a more intelligent game manager, Finn Russell can dominate a game, but none come close to Cipriani’s level of creativity and ability. The best fly-half in world rugby.
9 – Faf de Klerk
If World Rugby weren’t busy changing the tackle height laws to below the bootlaces, they would have time to carry out a proper investigation – like what species Faf de Klerk is.
I speculate that the Springbok nine is a creation of mad scientist who took the recipe for a perfect scrum-half, laced it with the aggression of a rottweiler, before tidying it up with a bleach blond mop-head.
A whirling dervish, de Klerk’s fearlessness combines with a ferocity that often sees the diminutive scrum-half flaw men over a foot taller than his 5’8 frame in a beautifully sadistic manner.
de Klerk’s unlimited engine is a true asset to his team as he acts like a fourth back-rower. South Africa are widely tipped for World Cup success, and de Klerk will be at the heart of this (and his opposition).
8 – Jamie George
A serial winner with Saracens and England, Jamie George has reinvented the role of the hooker.
Previously, a no. 2 would be happy with a few accurate line-out throws, a decent scrum, and a couple of pick-and-goes. Not anymore.
Starting his career as a ‘finisher’ for then-captain Dylan Hartley, George has continually improved his game and is one of the first names on Eddie Jones’s team sheet.
George, who regularly tops the charts for tackles and carries, if much more than a front-row brute. His elite skillset means that he is no stranger to a show-and-go or grubber-kick. Not even the purest rugby fan can criticise these tendencies because George has a precision built up through hours of training.
At only 28, George is only now entering his prime. There will be plenty of quality hookers on show at the World Cup, but George is the pick of the bunch.
7 – Billy Vunipola
You only need to watch an England game without Billy Vunipola in the #8 jersey to realise just how good he really is.
When fit, Billy is an unplayable battering ram. The man is a giant who still plays the game like a child in a playground.
In an era where almost every player is a behemoth it confounds belief that Billy’s playstyle as a human wrecking ball is so effective.
The younger Vunipola brother is vital for England’s World Cup chances and fans will be hoping that their talisman avoids injury heading into the business end of the tournament.
6 – Tadhg Furlong
We don’t like to follow stereotypes at Venatour, but our token Irish player is a 20 stone prop fuelled by a potato addiction.
Furlong was pivotal to Ireland’s 2018 Six Nations Grand Slam, with his physicality enabling the tighthead prop to win scrums for fun.
However, Furlong is far more than just a scrum merchant. The greatest front-rowers in the world are now expected to be technically fluent, and Furlong is a man who typifies this.
With his titanic presence in the loose, the British and Irish Lion is a genuine attacking threat as well as a defensive stalwart and is often impossible to stop when he is at his rampaging best.
5 – Liam Williams
Up until 2017, Williams had always been regarded as a very good fullback, but on the Lions tour of New Zealand, the Welsh flyer shot to stardom.
The Saracens back orchestrated arguably the greatest Lions try in history that saw Peter O’Mahony finish a move that Williams started on his own try line.
Williams is imperious in the air, with his eye-catching performances forcing Leigh Halfpenny to the bench.
The 28-year-old is only now reaching his prime, and as the lynchpin of Wales’s world-class back three that also features Josh Adams and George North, expect his aerial game and scintillating runs from deep to be a major part of his side’s success.
4 – Brodie Retallick
A common theme of this list is the work ethic that these elite athletes have, and Retallick may top the lot.
The 2014 World Rugby Player of the Year has established himself as one of the world’s best locks for almost a decade.
Although the All Blacks have exciting flair players such as Beauden Barrett, Reiko Ioane and Ben Smith, Retallick is the reason that these attacking backs have a platform.
His influence for New Zealand cannot be underestimated and he will have to be at his best if the All Blacks are to win their third consecutive Web Ellis trophy.
3- Alun Wyn Jones
A god amongst men; one cannot underestimate Alun Wyn Jones’s impact in the Welsh dressing room.
Jones is the personification of a leader: his Churchillian rallying cries continue to be backed up by titanic performances on the biggest stage.
His work ethic has been a major factor as to why Wales have risen to the no. 1 ranked side in the world as he constantly inspires his teammates to excel for their country.
A total talisman, Alun Wyn Jones will go down in Welsh folklore as a living legend, but he may just be elevated to godlike status if Wales bring home the Web Ellis Trophy.
2- David Pocock
David Pocock is a freak. Twice nominated for the IRB Player of the Year award, it seems that Pocock has been assassinating backs and destroying breakdowns for eternity.
His 77 Wallaby caps have been underlined by a relentless work ethic that has made him simply undroppable. When Pocock wasn’t picked, it was on his terms for a six-month sabbatical, and the Aussies missed him dearly.
At 31, Pocock is still in his prime and his partnership with captain Michael Hooper is one key reason why the underperforming Wallabies must not be written off.
Pocock is the archetypal flanker, a tackle machine, a breakdown beast, a national treasure, and in Japan he’ll be Australia’s biggest hope to win a record-equalling third World Cup.
1 – Mako Vunipola
Although it’s often his brother Billy who grabs the headlines, Mako is a modern rugby master.
Gone are the days of props being labelled as the team chubsters. A modern-day front-rower is a brutal blend of athleticism and power. It seems that every year the skillset required by a prop further diverges from their original job description as scrum merchants with cauliflower ears.
Mako possesses the hands of a silky fly-half, the tackle stats of a bloodthirsty flanker, and the carrying ability of a brutish centre.
His cauliflower ears may remain – and could even be the reason behind his incredible ability – but Vunipola’s single-handed reinvention of his role, fused with a blend of physicality and finesse makes him the greatest rugby player in men’s rugby.