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World’s greatest ever XV: The best ever rugby team in pictures

REVEALED: The greatest XV in the history of rugby… and there’s no room for Carter, O’Connell and Parisse.


World’s greatest ever XV:

15. Serge Blanco (France) 

The French icon’s international career with France saw the flamboyant fullback perform various outlandish levels of skill while winning Five Nation Grand Slams in 1981 and 1987 as well as four further titles.

Blanco was a threat from everywhere on the field and often took risks that we very rarely see nowadays. In total, he won 93 caps for France during his 11-year international career between 1980 and 1991, which was a record when he retired.

He also scored an imposing 233 points and is a true legend of the sport.

Did you know: Images of Blanco’s on-field heroics can always be viewed ironically alongside images of him strutting along the touchline nursing a cigarette.

Honourable mentions: JPR Williams (Wales), Jason Robinson (England), Percy Montgomery (South Africa)


14. Jonah Lomu (New Zealand)

Widely regarded as the face who made rugby as international appealing as it is today.

The New Zealander remains the joint all-time top try scorer at the Rugby World Cup along with Bryan Habana, crossing the whitewash on 15 different occasions across the 1995 and 1999 tournaments.

Originally of Tongan descent, it was Lomu who made it glamorous to be a big, bruising winger, even though his stature could have easily seen him fill in at centre or somewhere in the pack.

Much like the Juggernaut of the Marvel Universe, there wasn’t much that could stop Lomu once he’d gotten into a stride.

Did you know: In September 2009, Lomu took part in an amateur bodybuilding contest, finishing second in two categories

Honourable mentions: Bryan Habana (South Africa), Doug Howlett (New Zealand), Shane Williams (Wales)


13. Brian O’Driscoll (Ireland) 

The former Ireland and British and Irish Lions Skipper Brian O’Driscoll was one of the most consistent performers in the world for over a decade.

He hung up his boots in 2014 after accumulating 133 caps for Ireland with a fantastic return of 245 points. In the emerald green, he triumphed in the Six Nations in 2009 (Grand Slam) and 2014 as well as being chosen as Player of the Tournament in 2006, 2007 and 2009.

The Dublin-born is also the highest all-time Irish record try scorer with an incredible 46 scores, and also led his country more times than any other player.

Did you know: O’Driscoll was chosen as Player of the Tournament in the 2006, 2007 and 2009 RBS Six Nations Championships.

Honourable mentions: Jeremy Guscott (England), Will Greenwood (England), Frank Bunce (New Zealand)

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12. Tim Horan (Australia) 

Only a handful of players has won the Rugby World Cup Twice and power-packed runner Tim Horan is one of them, triumphing in 1991 and 1999 with Australia.

He made his international debut in 1989 against the All Blacks and would go on to make 80 caps, scoring 30 tries, in an impressive 11-year career.

Did you know: Horan’s father is Mike Horan, the former National Party and Liberal National Party Member of Parliament for the Queensland electorate of Toowoomba South.

Honourable mentions: Phillipe Sella (France), Sonny Bill Williams (New Zealand), Brian Lima (Samoa)


11. David Campese (Australia) 

Capped by Australia on more than 100 occasions and scorer of 64 international tries, David Campese was once the world’s top scorer, but now has to settle for the honour of second place.

To summarise, if there was even the slightest bit of daylight between the try-line and his opposite man, Campese was as good as over.

Whether it was by use of his patented “goose-step” or with use of the more archaic barrelling motion, the Wallabies legend was simply a magnet for scoring.

Beginning his international career at just 19 years of age, it was clear early on that Australia had a special talent on their hands, and the early start allowed Campese to repay his selectors massively down the years.

Did you know: Campese was also a renowned rugby sevens player. He made 12 appearances at the Hong Kong Sevens (1983-1990, 1993–94, 97-98), during which he played in three victorious Australian campaigns (’83, ’85 & ’88)


10. Jonny Wilkinson (England) 

Forever remembered as the man whose last-gasp drop-goal won England the Rugby World Cup by edging past the hosts in Australia in 2003.

That moment is just one highlight of a record-breaking career that has seen Wilkinson rise to one of the sport’s all-time greats.

England won 67 of the 91 games Wilkinson played in with him scoring an outstanding total of 1,179 points. He also holds the Rugby World Cup points record with 277.

Did you know: In 1997 he gave up the student life to become a professional rugby union player with the Newcastle Falcons.

Honourable mentions: Dan Carter (New Zealand), Jonathan Davies (Wales), Michael Lynagh (Australia)

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9. Gareth Edwards (Wales)

The former Wales and British and Irish Lions scrum-half is simply the greatest player in his position in history. Edwards is also considered by many to be one of the greatest rugby players of all time.

He was notorious for his pace but also had an unexpected strength for a leaner player. He made 53 caps for Wales as well as making ten appearances for the British & Irish Lions, featuring on tours in 1968, 1971 and 1974.

The second tour, to New Zealand, is still the only victorious Lions tour to the Land of the Long White Cloud. During the third, to South Africa in 1974, was the greatest ever Lions jaunt, in which the tourists played 22 matches and remained unbeaten.

Did you know: In 2004 a statue of Gareth Edwards was erected in the St David’s Shopping Centre in Cardiff, as a memorial to his magnificent play for the country.

Honourable mentions: Joost van der Westhuizen (South Africa), George Gregan (Australia)


1. Jason Leonard (England)

 Leonard was 21 when he debuted in 1990, the first of what would become a record 119 caps for both England and the British & Irish Lions.

He is still the most capped player in World Cup history with 22 appearances in four tournaments.

He was both durable – he once played 40 consecutive Tests in the 1990s – and versatile as proven by his switch from loosehead to tighthead prop later in his career.

He was a member of the team that lost the World Cup final to Australia in 1991 but gained revenge against the same opponents 12 years later in the final in Sydney.

Did you know: His lengthy career straddled both the amateur and professional eras and he had a job as a carpenter.

Honourable mentions: Os du Randt (South Africa), Rodrigo Roncero (Argentina), Steve McDowell (New Zealand)


2. Keith Wood (Ireland) 

The force of nature 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.

Honourable mentions: Sean Fitzpatrick (New Zealand), John Smit (South Africa), Mario Ledesma (Argentina)

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3. Phil Vickery (England) 

For more than a decade Phil Vickery was regarded as England’s premier tight head prop, a reputation which reached its zenith when he was appointed the national team’s captain by Brian Ashton in January 2007.

Despite a debut thrashing of Wales in the Five Nations, Vickery suffered a baptism of fire on the international stage with the ‘Tour from Hell’ in the summer of 1998.

He went onto be capped 73 times for his country, and twice a British & Irish Lion, he also captained England at the 2007 World Cup and was part of the historic team that lifted The Webb Ellis Trophy in 2003.

Did you know: Vickery won the 2011 series of Celebrity Masterchef beating Kirsty Wark and Nick Pickard in the final.
Honourable mentions: Jean-Pierre Garuet (France), Patricio Noriega (Argentina & Australia)


4. Martin Johnson (England)

Iconic England legend 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 first 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.

Honourable mentions: Victor Matfield (South Africa), Paul O’Connell (Ireland), Colin Meads (New Zealand)


5. John Eales (Australia) 

Perfect is a hard word to describe someone as but John Eales was not far off.

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.

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6. Francois Pienaar (South Africa)

Springbok Captain Pienaar is famous for leading South Africa to triumph in the World Cup in 1995.

Despite only making 29 Caps, each was as Captain, and he showed to the world his considerable rugby skills.

Not only did Pienaar’s side topple a heavily fancied All Blacks team in front of an expectant South Africa population, but they also managed in their small way to bring together South Africa’s post-apartheid society

Did you know: After being dropped from the Springbok team Pienaar went on to have a career with English club Saracens.

Honourable mentions: Richard Hill (England), Jerry Collins (New Zealand), Jerome Kaino (New Zealand)


7. Richie McCaw (New Zealand) 

The former All Black Captain McCaw is one of the true rugby greats, moulding a career as the best flanker of all time.

McCaw led the All Blacks to Rugby World Cup glory in 2011 and 2015 and claimed the International Rugby Board’s Player of the Year award on a record three occasions (2006, 2009. 2010).

He became the first All Black to reach 100 Tests in 2011. Then by the time he hung up his boots; he had played 148 Tests (coming off the bench just six times) and was Captain in 111 Tests.

Did you know: In April 2011, McCaw received an invitation to the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton. However, as McCaw had only recently returned from his injury, he decided to decline the offer, preferring to focus on Super Rugby and the Rugby World Cup.

Honourable mentions: George Smith (Australia), Neil Back (England) Schalk Burger (South Africa)


8. Zinzan Brooke (New Zealand)

He was an effective forward but also had top-class handling skills and a trustworthy boot making him quite the unique player.

During his international career that spanned a decade from 1987 to 1997, he played in two World Cups in 1991 and 1995 scoring an unforgettable drop goal from 47 metres out against England in the latter.

Brooke in total played 58 tests for New Zealand, scoring 89 points.

Did you know: As well as rugby union, Brooke played Gaelic football, both before and after his rugby career.

Honourable mentions: Sergio Parisse (Italy), Lawrence Dallaglio (England), Wayne Shelford (New Zealand)

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