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The Roar’s 50 greatest Rugby World Cup players wrap-up: Who voted for who, team of the top 50, plus best countries and positions

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19th September, 2019
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It’s official: Jonah Lomu is the greatest player to have graced the Rugby World Cup. According to The Roar’s rugby experts, at least.

Over the past ten days, we’ve counted down the 50 best players in the tournament’s history, starting with Springboks flyhalf Jannie de Beer and finishing with the immense All Blacks winger.

With the final list revealed, it’s time to look into the finer details of the top 50.

A reminder, first, about the process we went through to get our rankings. Eight of The Roar’s most prolific rugby writers – experts Brett McKay, Geoff Parkes, Will Knight and Jack Quigley, live blogger Olly Matthews, and tipping panel regulars Diggercane, Nobrain and Harry Jones – and I put together our own personal top 50s, considering players’ overall impact, performances, success and longevity at the Rugby World Cup (but nothing from outside the tournament).

Points were awarded based on where a player finished on each list; 50 points for first place, 49 for second, 48 for third and so on and so forth.

Those points were tallied up, with Lomu beating out Richie McCaw for top spot by just a single one.

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We’ll start with breaking it down by country. With more tournament wins than any other nation, it’s no surprise that New Zealand contributed the most players, with 16 All Blacks making the cut.

The Springboks and Wallabies were next with 11 and ten players respectively, while England were the best of the northern hemisphere nations with six. It’s worth noting that two of those Englishmen, Martin Johnson and Jonny Wilkinson, cracked the top five – just as many as New Zealand.

France were the only other side to get multiple players into the top 50 – Christophe Lamaison, Thierry Dusautoir and Serge Blanco giving Les Blues a trio of representatives. Scotland, Wales, Samoa and Ireland each had the one.

That left South American powerhouses Argentina without a single player to make the cut, a surprising result given the Pumas have made multiple semi-final appearances. Juan Martin Hernandez was their strongest performer, finishing four spots and 18 points adrift of de Beer in 50th.

Hernandez was one of seven Argentinians to appear on at least one of our individual lists, more than Ireland, Scotland and Samoa and level with Wales, each of whom had a representative in the top 50.

The top 50 by country
New Zealand: 16
South Africa: 11
Australia: 10
England: 6
France: 3
Scotland: 1
Wales: 1
Samoa: 1
Ireland: 1

Jonah Lomu runs the ball

(AAP photo/Dean Lewins).

Next, it’s time to look at which positions were best represented.

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Unsurprisingly, more flyhalves were picked than any other position, with nine first-fives making the top 50. Eight selections made flankers the next most popular bunch.

Wingers came in equal third alongside centres, with six from each picked, followed by the group of five scrumhalves and four number 8s.

There wasn’t much appreciation for the tight-five positions, with only four locks, three hookers and just two props making their way into the top 50.

Perhaps surprisingly, only four fullbacks – Gavin Hastings, Matt Burke, Jason Robinson and Blanco – were voted in (Robinson actually played just as many games at the World Cup on the wing as he did at the back, but given one of his matches out wide came as a substitute, I decided to count him as a 15 for the purposes of this wrap-up article).

By position
Fullbacks: 4
Wingers: 6
Centres: 6
Flyhalves: 9
Scrumhalves: 5
Flankers: 8
Number 8s: 3
Locks: 4
Props: 2
Hookers: 3

And if we were to group up the positions into broader categories, they look like this:

Outside backs: 10
Inside backs: 15
Scrumhalves: 5
Back-rowers: 11
Tight forwards: 9

South Africa flanker Schalk Burger (L) is tackled by New Zealand flanker Richie McCaw

(AFP photo/Marco Longari)

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One more exercise before getting to everyone’s individual votes: an all-time Rugby World Cup XV, created by taking the highest-rated player in each position.

Eight of the top ten players make their way into the side, only Dan Carter (8) and Bryan Habana (10) missing out to Jonny Wilkinson at flyhalf and Lomu and David Campese on the wings respectively.

John Smit was the top-ranked hooker in the op 50, giving him the no.2 jersey in the side, while Scotland’s Gavin Hastings gets the nod at fullback. Tim Horan easily claimed the inside centre opening, while Conrad Smith at no.34 was the best-ranked outside centre (Ma’a Nonu did finish higher than Smith but only played a fraction of his World Cup rugby at 13).

Lawrence Dallaglio comes into the side at number 8, while the only two props in the entire top 50, Jason Leonard and Os du Randt, pick themselves. Yes, they were both looseheads (hey, there aren’t many other options in the final list) but given the Englishman was capable of playing tighthead, he’ll slot in at no.3 while du Randt will wear his preferred no.1 jersey.

The top 50 first XV
15. Gavin Hastings
14. Jonah Lomu
13. Conrad Smith
12. Tim Horan
11. David Campese
10. Jonny Wilkinson
9. Joost van der Westhuizen
8. Lawrence Dallaglio
7. Richie McCaw
6. Francois Pienaar
5. John Eales
4. Martin Johnson
3. Jason Leonard
2. John Smit
1. Os du Randt

Then there’s the part you’re probably all here for: how each of our panel voted individually. Everyone’s lists are in the table below, complete with the 115 players who got a mention from at least one of us.

You can order the table by each author’s votes, by player in alphabetical order, or you can search for specific players to see how your personal favourites were treated.

Have a squiz, and then be sure to let us know what you thought of everyone’s selections – as well as who you would have picked in your own top 50.

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Player Brett Geoff Will Jack Dan Harry Digger Nobes Olly Score
01 J Lomu 04 01 01 02 02 03 01 05 04 436
02 R McCaw 01 03 02 01 01 01 02 12 01 435
03 J Wilkinson 07 02 03 09 04 06 05 06 03 414
04 M Johnson 06 07 06 04 07 05 07 06 360
05 F Pienaar 03 09 05 10 13 39 03 09 09 359
06 J Eales 02 10 04 05 03 18 04 43 13 357
07 D Campese 17 16 07 11 05 27 23 04 11 338
08 D Carter 11 12 29 08 06 26 16 22 02 327
09 J van der Westhuizen 13 04 11 24 18 04 06 33 26 320
10 B Habana 09 17 08 20 16 19 18 07 37 308
11 T Horan 14 14 16 17 08 34 11 28 12 305
12 G Gregan 12 31 13 27 17 13 13 14 39 280
13 V Matfield 19 32 19 41 15 07 17 11 21 277
14 J Smit 10 11 06 09 02 33 16 270
15 M Lynagh 08 25 18 34 12 32 29 02 36 263
17 M Jones 22 30 15 11 21 08 29 20 252
16 J Kirwan 06 41 35 20 17 14 01 22 252
18 J Stransky 21 22 12 40 32 16 20 37 31 228
19 J Leonard 27 18 23 16 37 12 38 10 227
20 G Hastings 24 05 28 44 47 20 28 30 08 225
21 L Dallaglio 21 17 12 23 24 20 17 223
22 S Larkham 20 20 07 10 15 15 219
23 G Fox 23 13 33 23 31 35 21 15 214
24 F du Preez 15 24 45 29 14 22 157
25 N Farr-Jones 05 33 37 42 24 09 156
26 S Blanco 14 15 38 34 03 47 155
27 M Nonu 15 25 25 12 29 149
28 T Dusautoir 31 27 22 26 25 32 45 149
29 O du Randt 23 48 19 09 26 34 147
30 J Kaino 40 20 14 10 31 140
31 S Burger 46 26 21 43 28 39 18 136
32 K Read 26 10 03 41 49 45 132
33 K Mealamu 18 49 43 30 11 28 127
34 C Smith 38 22 22 48 38 14 124
35 M Burke 25 36 13 45 40 36 40 122
36 S Williams 28 36 30 33 47 17 115
37 C Williams 08 49 10 24 113
38 D Pocock 43 37 19 38 27 43 99
39 C Lamaison 19 42 25 24 94
40 B Lima 36 35 31 33 40 43 46 93
41 B O’Driscoll 42 28 13 32 89
42 J Little 30 26 42 19 87
44 S Fitzpatrick 34 28 24 50 33 86
43 A Mehrtens 16 15 36 86
45 S Whitelock 46 19 05 83
46 J Robinson 27 37 07 82
47 R Hill 26 27 18 82
48 Z Brooke 25 49 48 32 23 78
49 D Kirk 09 48 21 49 77
50 J de Beer 30 46 29 25 74
P Montgomery 32 37 39 43 45 38 72
G Smith 35 18 35 65
W Shelford 32 35 22 64
JM Hernandez 33 46 33 41 46 56
N Back 29 34 40 50
S Parisse 34 45 36 41 48
J Smith 42 16 44
J Davis, 08 43
K Wood 29 35 46 43
O Brown 08 43
D Howlett 10 41
T Lacroix 40 42 34 48 40
B Botha 41 21 40
F Contemponi 40 46 30 37
O Franks 14 37
P Sella 38 44 35 36
A Pichot 27 39 34 42 62
F Steyn 37 31 34
P Kearns 43 27 32
R O’Gara 19 32
M Giteau 41 29 32
T Woodcock 49 50 50 25 30
P O’Connell 21 30
J Rokocoko 23 28
J Small 44 30 28
R Kruger 23 28
R Underwood 24 27
D Mitchell 26 25
O Finegan 28 23
J Savea 32 50 49 22
R Ibanez 47 44 40 22
J Burger 50 30 22
J Webb 31 20
G Quesada 41 41 20
S Warburton 31 20
J Roff 44 38 20
S Donald 35 16
W Ofahengaue 42 44 16
A Wyn Jones 36 15
W Greenwood 36 15
M Gorgodze 37 14
L Nakarawa 38 13
F Galthie 46 44 12
J Kronfeld 39 12
A Ashley-Cooper 39 12
G Jenkins 39 12
T Umaga 42 09
B Smith 47 47 08
M Dawson 43 08
C Charvis 44 07
R Caucaunibuca 44 07
N Sanchez 48 48 06
B Retallick 45 06
L Halfpenny 45 06
F Michalak 45 06
M Steyn 47 04
M Andrews 47 04
D Cambarabero 47 04
M Ledesma 48 03
M Bergamasco 48 03
G Laidlaw 49 02
A Goromaru 50 50 02
N Little 49 02
JM Fernandez Lobbe 50 01
J Cudmore 50 01

To finish, a quick thanks to everyone who’s followed along with the countdown over the past couple of weeks, and to the eight other panel members and Nick Bishop for bringing it to life.

Now, enjoy the World Cup!