Stuart Barnes names his 10 best rugby hardmen of all time – and two Englishmen make the list

Former Lions, England and Bath outside-half turned rugby writer Stuart Barnes has rated his most frightening rugby players to take to the field for The Times.

Stuart Barnes’ greatest hard men of rugby: 

1 Gareth Chilcott (England)

2 Gerard Cholley (France)

3 Jonny Wilkinson (England)

4 Graham Price (Wales)

5 Eben Etzebeth (South Africa)

6 Wayne Shelford (NZ)

7 David Pocock (Australia)

8 Richie McCaw (NZ)

9 Scott Gibbs (Wales)

10 Jim Telfer (Scotland).


Rugby history top 15: The hardest men in the sports history

“Pick a definitive list of rugby’s hard men?” is one of those nice innocuous questions – the kind that comes up in the pub – that ends up stoking a raging argument that lasts for hours.

So when we started discussing it in the RUCK office it quickly became a tough thing to do.

You can rank our 15 hard men yourself on PAGE FOUR.


15. Jerry Collins (New Zealand)
A no better place to start. The All Black flanker, who tragically died in a car crash, was widely regarded as one of the most abrasive players to ever step foot on a rugby pitch.

14. Martin Johnson (England)
Johnson had stellar success in his career, but he always played every match like a wounded beast. One of the game’s true greats.

13. Schalk Burger (South Africa)
Burger made a comeback after suffering bacterial meningitis, an operation on his spine and calf and knee problems. He cannot be stopped

12. Jamie Cudmore (Canada)
Don’t be fooled by his nickname ‘Cuddles’. The 37-year-old former Canadian logger spent a year in a juvenile detention centre when his trouble-filled youth included being a collection agent for drug dealers. A true warrior on the pitch.

11. Paul O’Connell (Ireland)
He was the totem of the Irish pack and their go-to man from the first time he pulled on a green jersey back in 2002 until the last at the 2015 Rugby World Cup. Another who led by example throwing himself into the fray with scant regard for life and limb.
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