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, let’s continue down the back line and look at the wings.
- Loosehead prop
- Tighthead prop
- Blindside flanker
- Openside flanker
- Number 8
- Scrum half
- Fly half
- Inside centre
- Outside centre
The son of former France stand-off Alain Penaud, the Bordeaux-bound wing has already done enough by the age of 26 to have become a French rugby legend in his own right. With a great blend of pace and power, the wing is able to make or finish a break, and make it look oh so simple. Already sits joint-5ᵗʰ alongside Philippe Bernat-Salles and Émile Ntamack in France’s all-time try scoring charts with 26, and it is highly possible that by this time next year he will have surpassed Serge Blanco’s record of 3 tries in just over half as many Tests.
Perhaps one of the more underrated wings in Test rugby. A regular try scorer in open, attacking teams, playing for a much more defensive South African team has highlighted his full quality. While he still utilises his pace and power to take the chances he is given to score, he also uses these same attributes to shut down attacks down his wing. But more than that, he has an engine and selflessness, being willing to spend matches constantly chasing up box kicks and taking the catcher as soon as they have the ball, allowing his team to dominate the territory game, while he is also more than capable to compete in the air when he gets there in time.
Duhan van der Merwe
A player who jus seems to be getting better and better, van der Merwe may not be the best defensively, but more than makes up for this with his attacking prowess. A giant on the pitch, he utilises his size and strength to dominate most of his fellow wings (while also coming inside as a crash ball option to help put the team on the front foot), but he also has an eye for a gap and the pace to take advantage of any space he is given. A key part of Scotland’s World Cup hopes.
While the performances of the Australia national team have been consistently inconsistent over recent years, Koroibete is one of a handful of players whose performances always seem to reach at least an 8/10. Combines pace, power and incredible footwork to consistently beat defences, while he frequently makes key interventions in defence to turn the tide of matches in his team’s favour.
A player who has spent much of this cycle playing outside centre, Ioane still reaches another level on the wing. His pace is a nightmare for defenders to deal with, and he backs this up with surprising strength, which makes him a matchup nightmare for opposition wings. Scoring tries at a rate of just over 1 every 2 games, which has slowed down a little in recent years as Ian Foster did his best to ruin the All Blacks, but at 26 years old, he still has plenty of time to climb the try scoring charts.
Phil’s top 5: Makazole Mapimpi, Duhan van der Merwe, Cheslin Kolbe, Keith Earls, Santiago Cordero
Who makes your top 5?
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