1980: Richie McCaw (New Zealand)
He earned a world-record 148 caps for the All Blacks, winning 131 of those games and captaining his country 111 times. Perhaps my favourite stat is he’d has played in 32 per cent of New Zealand’s Test match victories since 1903 at the time of retirement!
1981: Thierry Dusautoir (France)
Produced one of the individual performances of modern times when he made an eye-popping 38 tackles and scored a try in France’s 2007 World Cup win over New Zealand. World player of year in 2011. Played his last game for France against New Zealand in Cardiff in the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
1982: Dan Carter (New Zealand)
Dan the man. The greatest back of the professional era, his record speaks for itself. Way out in front as the leading points scorer in international rugby history, with 1,598 points from his 112 caps. Throw in a further 1,708 points for the Crusaders and the fly-half’s impact on the game cannot be emphasised enough.
1983: Bryan Habana (South Africa)
Anyone who races cheetahs in his spare time is likely to be reasonably rapid and the Jo’burg-born speedster has scorched his way to 67 Test tries – second on the all-time list – including a record-equalling eight to help the ‘Boks win the 2007 World Cup. Further trophy triumphs followed with Toulon before recent retirement.