THE 2015 Rugby World Cup is in full swing so we thought we’d highlight the top five players in Rugby World Cup history.
Some great names have been linked to the Webb Ellis Trophy, but none better than our top five, which include an Australian great, a stylistic Englishman, a South African that helped change rugby and two All Blacks with two very different reputations.
We start things with No.5 – an All Black whose faith overruled his need to play on Sundays.
Michael Jones – New Zealand
Michael Jones played for the All Blacks from 1987-1998 in a career that accumulated 55 caps for New Zealand and one for Samoa (1986).
Jones was given the nickname “Iceman” due to the number of icepacks he needed for injuries, but it was his heart that won fans over.
He was named as the third best All Black by Rugby World, sitting behind only Colin Meads and Sean Fitzpatrick.
Jones, due to his Christian beliefs, did not play on Sundays. He was selected for the All Blacks’ 1987 World Cup winning side and the 1991 team, but he missed three games due to his beliefs. Jones scored the first Rugby World Cup try in 1987 and helped pave the way for many All Blacks to come.
Two serious knee injuries kept Jones from setting more records, but Jones will always be considered one of the greatest All Blacks and world players of all time.
He scored 13 international tries and he retired from all rugby in 1999 at the age of 34.
Jonny Wilkinson – England
Coming in at number four is English first-five Jonny Wilkinson.
Wilkinson played for England when they won the 2003 Rugby World Cup and it was his unique kicking style and gritty play that projected him towards the great players in World Cup history.
In his 2003 World Cup debut, Wilkinson scored 16 points against Georgia. He then scored 20 of England’s 25 points against South Africa and that caught the attention of fans all around the world.
In the quarter finals, Wilkinson added his name to the scoring list again with a 23-point display against Wales and although most of his points came through kicking, it was England’s saviour and probably the only reason they progressed through to the finals.
England then beat France 24-7 in the semis where Wilkinson scored all the points and in the final against Australia, he kicked an infamous field goal in extra time to win with just 26 seconds remaining.
It was that clutch kick that put Jonny Wilkinson is our top five as greatest World Cup players of all time.
David Campese – Australia
David “Campo” Campese is an Australian hero for his 1991 World Cup display which have critics saying it was one of the best single displays of rugby ever.
Campese was quoted as saying, “I want to be remembered like Barry John in Wales. I want people to look back and say Campo did this, this and this.”
Campese was indeed remembered after the 1991 World Cup semi-final where he played one of the best games from any player. Campese scored for Australia in the 12th minute when he ran straight past All Black great John Kirwan.
In the 35th minute, Campese made a break, but was confronted by two defenders. With little regard for his body, Campo made a blind pass to teammate Tim Horan, who scored the try.
All Black coach Alex Wylie remarked after the final:
“There’s always Campo, and when you’ve got a player like that in your team you always know probably something is going to happen. He did it again – he just pulled that one out,” Wylie said.
Australia later won the final 12-6 against England, but it was his semi-final display that secures Campese inside our top five.
Francois Pienaar – South Africa
Francois Pienaar captained South African to their 1995 Rugby World Cup win. The win was significant for not only South African rugby, but race relations in South Africa.
The Springboks were ranked only ninth coming into the tournament and no-one gave them a chance, but inspired by the release of Nelson Mandela from prison, the Springboks were able to overcome their adversity and unite a nation.
Throughout the tournament, South Africa defeated the likes of Australia, France and they played against New Zealand in the final.
The game was all tied up in extra time and Pienaar played on despite suffering from a calf strain. The Springboks won by three points after a Joel Stransky field goal as the crowd at Ellis Park went into a frenzy.
Following the game, the William Webb Ellis Trophy was presented to Pienaar by none other than Nelson Mandela, who was wearing Pienaar’s number on his jersey.
The win signified a united South Africa and it forever changed rugby in the African nation. The win was so defining that it was made into a Hollywood movie.
Pienaar was played by American actor Matt Damon in the movie Invictus.
Jonah Lomu – New Zealand
There is only one rugby player that can be noticed no matter which country he is in, and that is Jonah Lomu.
The big All Black winger terrorised opponents in the 1999 Rugby World Cup – scoring an amazing eight tries. Against Tonga he scored twice and he bulldozed over an England winger when scoring against England in pool play.
That play not only became famous for the style, but also for the commentary that accompanied it.
“Lomu, oh, oh!” screamed the New Zealand commentator in what was one of the most physical tries any player has scored in the World Cup.
The All Blacks finished top of their pool and faced Scotland in the quarters where Lomu scored once. He then scored twice in the semis against France, but it wasn’t enough as France scored a stunning 43-31 upset of the All Blacks.
Lomu scored 37 international tries from 63 tests and his career was cut short by consistent kidney problems. Lomu continues to be an ambassador for the Rugby World Cup and his effect on the World Cup will never be forgotten.
He’s our number one because who else could have a Playstation game franchise named after them?
William Hill feels £238 million pinch of Australian value drop
Can the Aussies cover the line against Fiji in the World Cup?
Betting and batting tips for ODI 3 Australia vs. England
Australia vs. England 2nd ODI betting – value odds and free tips
First ODI Australia vs. England – free tips and best bookie odds
Australia call upon supreme ODI form to get Ashes revenge
Aussies win for Clarke in dead-rubber, look to future
Kiwis destroy Wallabies in Bledisloe decider, firm for World Cup