Welcome back to my “Top 5” rugby series. This 13-article series has been inspired by countless conversations among friends or other fans over the years and will see me selecting my top 5 men’s rugby players who are currently playing at each position.
With all of these lists, I am picking who I feel are the best 5 at each position, so there may be some surprises in there as I select the players who I feel are most appropriate to the position despite there being multiple ways to play many positions. I try to watch rugby from a broad range of leagues as well as plenty (or too much, depending how you ask) of Test matches, but I appreciate that I still have some blind spots, while a list like this is subjective; so while the majority of each article will be my list, I also set my good friend and occasional collaborator Phil the challenge to select his top 5, which I will include below. I’d also love to hear your picks, so go ahead and post them in the comments!
And so, having finally completed the pack last week, let’s look at the scrum halves.
One of the sport’s true superstars. France has a history of special players at scrum half (Galthié, Yachvili, Parra etc) but Dupont takes things to another level. A great passer of the ball and a fantastic tactical kicker, Dupont’s ability to find and exploit a gap means that he needs to be accounted for every second of the game, while his pace and elusiveness is coupled with unexpected strength for his size, and he knows just what line to run to be in the right place to keep any line break going and often take it to the line himself.
One of the purest passers of the ball I have ever seen. To have so many caps at scrum half for the All Blacks shows his quality, and it is exacerbated even more when you consider that the vast majority of those caps are starts, and that his career has been at the same time as TJ Perenara, who at his best would walk into most teams. Smith is also a great tactical kicker and uses his experience to ensure the All Blacks are playing in the right areas of the pitch.
Faf de Klerk
Such is the quality available to the Springboks they almost ended up with 2 names on this list, but in the end it was Faf de Klerk who just snuck on. While he may not have the running game of Cobus Reinach, de Klerk’s kicking game from 9 is up there with the very best, and he has made a career of moving the behemoths in the Springbok pack around the pitch, while he also fronts up in defence and proves a real nuisance of himself.
White was originally nowhere near this list, but as time went on I saw him climbing his way up my rankings, and deservedly so. The type of player who you love if he’s on your team but otherwise hate due to his inability to shut up and the way he uses his experience to buy penalties. Another expert tactical kicker whose threat around the fringes of the breakdown is underrated, he is another solid defender, so much so that Australia look to use him in the defensive line. Exeter have never come close to replacing him since he returned to Australia.
Incredibly, 2 articles in my row I find myself picking a player who appears to be completely overlooked by the national team. While Conor Murray continues to get picked years after he made a positive difference, Cooney’s status as not a Leinster player (surely that’s the only reason) means that he is ignored time and time again, despite being arguably the best all-round scrum half in Ireland. runs great lines, passes and kicks well, and is also a Test-quality goal kicker—who has recently been in contact with a trained sniper to help him continue improving in this area. Eligible to switch international allegiances due to how long it has been since his last cap, will we see him gracing the Test arena for Scotland in the near future?
Phil’s top 5: Antoine Dupont, Faf de Klerk, Aaron Smith, Cobus Reinach, Nic White
Who makes your top 5?
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