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 made it through the halves, let’s continue down the back line and look at the inside centres.

Top 5

Manu Tuilagi

One of the stars of English rugby over the past dozen years, and yet it feels like injuries have stopped the youngest of the Tuilagi brothers from reaching the heights that he should have. The name Tuilagi speaks for itself, as he is an absolute wrecking ball in midfield, and still appears to have a positive impact whenever he enters the Test arena. Unfortunately recent years have seen injuries really hamper his attempts to earn more Test caps, but England have never really managed to find someone who can replace him in his absence.

Samu Kerevi

Another player whose Test career has been limited in recent years (due to a move abroad affecting his eligibility in this case), Kerevi is another whose presence on the pitch seems to immediately make the national team look so much stronger. Has followed the Ma’a Nonu route of rugby by starting of as an incredible crash ball 12 and then expanding his game in his late 20s to also include an impressive passing and kicking game. Let’s hope that playing outside of Australia doesn’t see him being left out of the World Cup squad.

Damian de Allende

A player who seems to get a lot of stick from fans, de Allende is a highly impressive player. He may not have the wider game that some on this list do and sometimes makes the wrong decision with ball in hand, but what he does well, he does very well. A highly impressive crash ball runner, de Allende is also an impressive defensive 12, solid and reliable, but also a threat at the breakdown if and when the opportunity arises.

Jonathan Danty

What a few years it has been for Danty. Got a chance to continue his Test career as France tested their depth and forced his way into the squad, before becoming the clear replacement in midfield when Virimi Vakatawa was forced to retire and is now a key part of the XV. Runs hard but smart in attack, while in defence he is able to use his physicality to halt the opposition and is a constant threat at the breakdown.

Jordie Barrett

The youngest of New Zealand’s trio of Barrett brothers, if I could only have one on my team it would likely be him. A utility back who appeared to have found his home at fullback, injuries in the All Blacks midfield saw him tried at secnd five-eighth and he hasn’t looked back. Has the strength to hit the line as a crash ball or defend at such a key position, but is also a natural playmaker in a way that nobody else on this list is, with a range of passes and kicks that any fly half or fullback would be happy with, while he is also super accurate off the tee and able to nail a kick from his own half.

Phil’s top 5: Damian de Allende, André Esterhuizen, Manu Tuilagi, Samu Kerevi, Levani Botia

Who makes your top 5?

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