Top 10 Locks ever in International Rugby
Second rows are considered the engine of rugby scrums and is a position traditionally made up of the toughest, most robust men each country has to offer and as you will see they often make countless great leaders.
Here is how we have ordered some of the most physical rugby players ever played the game.
10. Eben Etzebeth
The young Springbok enforcer has made quite the impression since making his Super Rugby debut for the Stormers in 2012. The big and abrasive lock was handed his Test debut later that year against England in June 2012 alongside fellow new cap Juandre Kruger following the retirements of both Bakkies Botha and Victor Matfield. The 23-year old was nominated for IRB World Player of the Year in 2013 at the young age of 21, in what was just his second season in senior rugby. He also won the South Africa Rugby Young Player of the Year in both 2012 and 2013. He is certainly a player to watch at the upcoming World Cup as he looks to move up in our top ten.
Did you know: In July 2015, he signed a deal to play for NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes in the Japanese Top League.
9. Brad Thorn
A rugged and physical presence, Brad Thorn holds the distinction of having represented Australia at rugby league and New Zealand at rugby union. The all-action lock made his New Zealand bow against Wales in 2003 and would go on to gain selection for the 2003 Rugby World Cup before eight years later being part of the 2011 Rugby World Cup-winning All Blacks.
Did you know: His status as a dual-code international saw him join Bill Hardcastle in the record books as only the second man to have represented Australia in league and New Zealand in union.
8. Willie John McBride
Inspirational former Lions and Ireland captain Willie John McBride played 63 times for the Irish during a 13-year international career. Nevertheless, many rugby fans will always remember him more for his long association and amazing achievements with the British Lions, who he toured with five times, winning 17 caps. However, the pack leader also tasted success in the emerald green of Ireland, notably in their first win against the Springboks in 1965 and when Ireland beat Australia in Sydney, which was the first time a Home Nation had defeated a southern hemisphere team in their own country.
Did you know: In 2004 McBride was named Heineken Rugby Personality of the Century by Rugby World magazine.
7. Brodie Retallick
Since first pulling on the famous All Black jersey aged 21, Brodie Retallick has established himself as a key member of the New Zealand lineout with his mobility and aerial skills. World Rugby in 2014 acknowledged the imposing locks ability when he was named World Rugby Player of the Year after a highly imposing campaign. His great athleticism and rugged defence should really make him one the stars of the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
Did you know: He was part of the New Zealand Under 20 side that won the Junior World Championship in Italy in 2011.
6. Nathan Sharpe
Since making his international bow in 2002, Nathan Sharpe went on to not only Skipper the Wallabies but also become one of their most consistently excellent players since the millennium. The lock forward zoomed past the 50-cap mark during 2006 with a remarkable sequence of Test appearances, as when he was rested for the Test against Fiji in Perth in June 2007 it ended a run of 28 consecutive matches for the Wallabies. Sharpe’s outstanding work ethic across the field was also recognised as he won the Australian Rugby Union Players’ Association’s ‘Medal of Excellence’ on three occasions, joining George Gregan as a three-time winner of the honour.
Did you know: His final match playing for Australia was a win against Wales at Millennium Stadium on 1 December 2012.
5. Colin Meads
One of the legends of a golden era of amateur rugby, powerful lock Colin Meads’ international career with New Zealand spanned an amazing 14 years. During that time, he won 55 caps and played a major part in series wins over all the major Test nations, as well as the British Lions. Meads has been received a number of honours for his contribution to the game. He has been inducted to the International Hall of Fame and the New Zealand Sporting Hall of Fame and in 1999 was voted the Player of the Century at an NZRU awards dinner.
Did you know: Despite his fame and iconic status in New Zealand, Meads remains a humble sheep farmer who is typified by a bygone era in New Zealand and rugby.
4. Paul O’Connell
Inspiring Ireland and British Lions Skipper Paul O’Connell has been one of the most consistent players in Northern Hemisphere rugby in the last ten years. The veteran warrior has won in the emerald green of Ireland three Six Nations titles including a Grand Slam triumph in 2009 as well as winning the Triple Crown four times in 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2009. The legend will retire from international rugby after the upcoming 2015 World Cup as he prepares for life across the channel in France playing for Toulon.
Did you know: He supports English Premier League football team Everton F.C.
3. Victor Matfield
South Africa’s Victor Matfield defined the attributes required to be a modern-day second row: tall, powerful, mobile and with great hands. During his 122 Test caps with the Springboks, he formed a formidable second-row partnership with Bakkies Botha that played a crucial role in South Africa claiming the 2007 World Cup in France. Besides almost always winning his own line-out ball, Matfield is known for his exceptional skill at disrupting opposition line-outs, which was a key asset to the Springboks during their triumph in 2007.
Did you know: In 2008 he became the first international captain to beat the All Blacks in New Zealand since Martin Johnson in 2003.
2. Martin Johnson
Iconic England legend Martin Johnson is widely regarded as one of the greatest locks to have ever played the game. He famously led England to glory at the 2003 Rugby World Cup and also captained the British & Irish Lions in 1997 and 2001 – the only player to have ever led the elite tourists twice. In a glittering career, Johnson was also part of two Grand Slam-winning England sides in 1995 and again as the Skipper in 2003.
Did you know: Johnson was awarded an OBE by The Queen in 1997 but later honoured with a CBE in the aftermath of England’s Rugby World Cup triumph in 2003.
1. John Eales
Perfect is a hard word to describe someone as but John Eales was not far off and that is why we have ranked him maybe surprisingly as no.1. He had pretty much every skill the modern-day rugby play requires and was a born match winner. A true Australian sporting legend, Eales won two World Cups and played 86 times for his country, 55 times as captain. Rarely for a forward he was also a goal-kicker, with his most memorable strike being a sideline penalty goal in the final minutes of a 2000 test to win the Bledisloe Cup against New Zealand.
Did you know: He also played first-grade cricket for Queensland University in the Brisbane QCA cricket competition.