Twenty-five of the 50 greatest players in Rugby World Cup history have been revealed over the past five days, now it’s time to get into the second half.
Today’s group of five comprises four world-class, world-champion halves – two of whom operated from the base of the scrum, two from one pass further afield – as well as one of England’s finest back-rowers.
All played in two or three tournaments, and all finished one of their World Cups as champions. But only one captained his side to glory…
Nick Farr-Jones will always hold a special place in the annals of Australian rugby, having captained the country to their first Rugby World Cup win in 1991. The image of a beaming Farr-Jones collecting the trophy from Queen Elizabeth after a stirring 12-6 win over England in the final at Twickenham is an iconic one.
The smooth but tough halfback also played in the inaugural World Cup in 1987 and a year later was named Wallabies skipper at the age of just 25. He became a mainstay of the backline for many years and, along with David Campese and Michael Lynagh, formed the ‘holy trinity’ that helped to steer Australia to so many Test victories.
Farr-Jones had everything you’d want in a halfback: excellent pass, opportunistic ball-runner, solid defender, accurate general-play kicker and respected organiser and communicator between forwards and backs. To this day, he’s a revered figure in the game.
At about 90kg and almost six foot tall, Fourie du Preez didn’t have a problem mixing it with the forwards around the edges of rucks, and almost played as a ninth forward at times.
The Bok halfback loved to have a run and link up with his forwards, and had a big boot in general play, too.
Someone who always emptied the tank when playing for the Springboks – or the Bulls in Super Rugby – he was a whole-hearted competitor who thrived in big games.
Du Preez played a big role in South Africa’s World Cup triumph in 2007, pulling the strings behind a fearsome pack that included Juan Smith, Schalk Burger, Victor Matfield, Bakkies Botha, John Smit and Os du Randt.
He was a regular at no.9 for the Boks for close to a decade, and remains just behind Joost van der Westhuizen as South Africa’s best-ever scrumhalf.
An interesting bit of trivia for you: du Preez played a bit of cricket at Afrikaans High School for Boys in Pretoria with AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis.
The consummate professional at five-eighth, Grant Fox knocked over goal kicks over for fun – and from everywhere on the field – making him a valuable asset for the All Blacks but infuriating for opposition sides and fans.
He was a member of the New Zealand team that won the inaugural World Cup in 1987, and with 126 points at the tournament was the leading scorer. Fox was also a brilliant territory kicker in general play, although not necessarily the most sizzling ball-runner – amazingly he only scored one try in his 46 All Blacks appearances.
Fox was a rock-solid performer and a constant presence for New Zealand in 1987 – compare that to the four five-eighths the side needed when they next won the World Cup in 2011.
Stephen Larkham’s field goal isn’t as famous as Jonny Wilkinson’s in 2003 or Joel Stransky’s in 1995, but it was still a cracker.
With scores locked at 21-all against South Africa in the 1999 semi-final at Twickenham, Larkham drilled a 46-metre drop goal to lift the Wallabies into the final. It was his first ever in international rugby.
As the commentator roared: “Larkham has De Beer’d De Beer” in reference to Boks opposite Jannie de Beer, who loved a drop goal and had slotted one earlier – and a world-record five the previous match.
As memorable as it was, Larkham should be remembered as a brilliant ball-runner who sparked linebreaks when it seemed little was on and defences had him covered. Rod Macqueen moved Larkham from fullback to five-eighth and it proved a masterstroke. Such a smooth mover, he was the gliding playmaker so many Aussie kids wanted to be.
Perhaps because of that, his toughness and defence were perhaps under-rated. Larkham was relatively lightweight at Test level and was often targeted by opposition back-rowers, but he would more often than not bounce up after getting drilled into the turf.
Lawrence Dallaglio was the only member of England’s 2003 World Cup-winning squad to play every minute of every match during the tournament.
The rugged back-rower was at no.8 for the final when they beat Australia in Sydney, and his combination with Neil Back at openside and Richard Hill at blindside flanker was lethal.
Dallaglio was uncompromising, reliable and resilient. He wasn’t at his best at the World Cup in 2007 in his third tournament, but even at the age of 35 his presence in the English jersey helped the Poms progress all the way to the final before being beaten by the Boks.
The Roar’s 50 greatest players in Rugby World Cup history
50. Jannie de Beer (South Africa)
49. David Kirk (New Zealand)
48. Zinzan Brooke (New Zealand)
47. Richard Hill (England)
46. Jason Robinson (England)
45. Sam Whitelock (New Zealand)
44. Sean Fitzpatrick (New Zealand)
43. Andrew Mehrtens (New Zealand)
42. Jason Little (Australia)
41. Brian O’Driscoll (Ireland)
40. Brian Lima (Samoa)
39. Christophe Lamaison (France)
38. David Pocock (Australia)
37. Chester Williams (South Africa)
36. Shane Williams (Wales)
35. Matt Burke (Australia)
34. Conrad Smith (New Zealand)
33. Keven Mealamu (New Zealand)
32. Kieran Read (New Zealand)
31. Schalk Burger (South Africa)
30. Jerome Kaino (New Zealand)
29. Os du Randt (South Africa)
28. Thierry Dusautoir (France)
27. Ma’a Nonu (New Zealand)
26. Serge Blanco (France)
25. Nick Farr-Jones (Australia)
24. Fourie du Preez (South Africa)
23. Grant Fox (New Zealand)
22. Stephen Larkham (Australia)
21. Lawrence Dallaglio (England)
20. Gavin Hastings (Scotland)
19. Jason Leonard (England)
18. Joel Stransky (South Africa)
17. Michael Jones (New Zealand)
16. John Kirwan (New Zealand)
15. Michael Lynagh (Australia)
14. John Smit (South Africa)
13. Victor Matfield (South Africa)
12. George Gregan (Australia)
11. Tim Horan (Australia)
10. Bryan Habana (South Africa)
9. Joost van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
8. Dan Carter (New Zealand)
7. David Campese (Australia)
6. John Eales (Australia)
5. Francois Pienaar (South Africa)
4. Martin Johnson (England)
3. Jonny Wilkinson (England)
2. Richie McCaw (New Zealand)
1. Jonah Lomu (New Zealand)