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Top 10 all-time hookers

Top 10 all-time hookers

The hooker is the tip of the spear of any successful pack and key to a successful lineout.

Plenty have became rugby legends from the No. 2 shirt; here is RUCK.co.uk’s all-time top 10 as we continue our series of exploring the best players in history.

10 Raphael Ibanez

Combative, intense hooker Raphael Ibanez made his France debut in 1996 before going on to make 98 Test appearances including 27 as Captain, despite briefly retiring following the World Cup in 2003. He won consecutive Grand Slams with France in 1997 and 1998 and steered them to the World Cup Final as Skipper in 1999. He was also heavily responsible for London Wasps’ win in the 2007 Heineken Cup final, playing in the same side as fellow Six Nations captain Phil Vickery.

Did you know: Ibanez has published two books and is also a regular guest in the BBC Six Nations studio.

9 Steve Thompson

Rugby World Cup winner Steve Thompson was one of the toughest running hookers to have ever played the game. At over 6ft tall he is larger than the average hooker, and his 18 stone frame and notable handling skills made him an intimidating presence in the pack and the loose. He made his England debut against Scotland in 2002 and would go on to cement his place in Clive Woodward’s squad in the build-up to the 2003 Rugby World Cup. In total, he won 76 Test caps scoring four tries between 2002 and 2011 while also making three appearances for the British and Irish Lions on their tour of New Zealand in 2005.

Did you know: He is England’s most capped hooker.

8 Bismark Du Plessis

After years of being imprisoned in the shadow of John Smith, Springbok hooker Bismark Du Plessis grabbed his opportunity to star for South Africa by the horns. The sometimes uncompromising character, who sometimes lets his aggression get the better of him, has made over 70 Test appearances so far, scoring nine tries. The 31-year old, who is still an dominant part of the side, should be a vital part of South Africa’s World Cup campaign in 2015.

Did you know: Along with his older brother Jannie the made their international bows in the same game against Australia in Sydney in 2007.

7 Dane Coles

Fan favourite All Blacks hooker Dane Coles made his first-class debut in 2007 and has also pulled on a black jersey for New Zealand Under 21 and for the Maori. His strength, mobility and pace have helped him to redefine the abilities required for a modern-day international front rower. The 28-year old has an ability to break through tackles and flat foot defenders, which sets him apart from any of the other current crop of hookers. He is a player to watch at the upcoming World Cup as he looks to cement his legacy as one of finest hookers in the gameshistory.

Did you know: Coles scored two tries on his provincial debut in 2007 for Wellington and scored a try on his Super Rugby debut against the Waratahs in 2009.

6 Brian Moore

Pitbull like hooker Brian Moore was a relentless performer for England in the late 1980’s, early 1990’s. He won a total of 64 England caps between 1987 and 1995, playing in three World Cups and winning Grand Slams in 1991, 1992 and 1995. He was also voted Rugby World Player of the Year in 1991. He also became renowned for reading Shakespeare before a game in the dressing room to his teammates.

Did you know: He is a supporter of, and season ticket holder at, Chelsea football club.

5 Keith Wood

Force of nature Keith Wood was a dominant figure in the Irish front row. Wood made his international debut in 1994 against Australia and was capped 58 times for Ireland up until his retirement in 2003. He played on the 1997 and 2001 Lions tours and was the inaugural winner of the IRB World Player of the Year award in 2001, seeing off competition from the likes of Geroge Gregan and Jonny Wilkinson.

Did you know: Wood now works for the BBC and The Daily Telegraph as a freelance journalist.

4 Phil Kearns

Fearless, capable and hugely talented hooker Phil Kearns was an essential part of the fruitful Australia team of the 1990’s. He enjoyed an epic rivalry with New Zealand hooker Sean Fitzpatrick that was a constant highlight of Bledisloe Cup matches around the time. He was a major part of Australia’s Rugby World Cup-winning teams of 1991 and 1999. Although he was hurt midway through the 1999 tournament, he is one of only six players to be twice involved in a World Cup-winning side.

Did you know: Kearns is the brain behind the Sydney Charity Event, The Balmoral Burn, which is an annual run up one of Sydney’s steepest streets.

3 Mario Ledesma

The Pumas barged to a terrific third place finish at the World Cup in 2007 and hooker Mario Ledesma efforts were significant in that triumph. His career spanned three World Cups, and in total he made 84 Test appearances, scoring three tries. When he departed the field against the All Blacks during the 2011 World Cup there was tears in his eyes as the world of rugby bid farewell to one of the toughest, most talented hookers to have graced the game.

Did you know: Ledesma comes from a sporting family. His younger brother Pedro Ledesma recently signed with the French club Stade Français.

2 John Smit

Former Springbok Skipper John Smit is remembered most for leading his country memorably to the Rugby World Cup title in 2007. He made 111 Test appearances for the Springboks, which includes appearing in a record 46 consecutive Test matches between 2003 and 2007. He then steered South Africa to the Webb Ellis Cup in 2007 before four years later, when the Boks were knocked out by Australia in the quarter-finals, Smit stepped into international retirement.

Did you know: After his Springbok retirement his record as captain for the most international games was broken, by Ireland’s Brian O’Driscoll in 2012 and New Zealand’s Richie McCaw in 2013.

1 Sean Fitzpatrick

Natural leader Sean Fitzpatrick is widely regarded as one of the greatest players ever and is a true legend of the sport. He was the Captain of the mighty New Zealand rugby team and had an international career that spanned twelve years, making 92 appearances, which included a world record of 63 consecutive Test matches and 51 as Captain. A born leader, master tactician and the toughest hooker ever seen he probably should have won more than just the one World Cup in 1987, but he tops our list if that’s any conciliation to him.

Did you know: He was awarded the New Zealand Order of Merit in 1997 and since retiring has remained a presence in the sport.