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6 of the best rugby players in recent history

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The battle for utltimate glory begins in two days time as the 2015 Rugby World Cup kicks off in England. The best players in the world will grace the stage as they try and inspire their teams to success. Talking of the best players, here are the five best players in world rugby who have come to really make a mark and stay on top of the pile.

#6 Eben Etzebeth (South Africa) - Lock

Eben Etzebeth (left)

The South African lock is the enforcer of the Springbok pack, but he isn’t just all muscle and fight. He is very mobile for a big guy and lends great energy to the forward game. 

A tank in human form, the 23-year-old lock, stands 2-metres tall and weighs 118 kilograms. Like Retalick, when he gets going, there are few in world rugby who can look at stopping him. Etzebeth is also the leader at line-outs for the Springboks, taking over from world cup winning captain Victor Matfield. 

Etzebeth is currently one of the top forwards in world rugby and was nominated for the 2013 IRB Player of the Year award, but lost out to the All Blacks’ Kieran Read. He has amazing upper body strength and has been known to be being able to bench press 175 kg, and perform incline dumbbell chest presses with 60 kg dumbbells! Not someone you want to mess with.

Etzebeth will be a key cog as South Africa plot to win the Webb Ellis trophy for a record third time.

#5 Brodie Retalick (New Zealand) - Lock

Brodie Retallick is one-half of probably the best lock partnership in the world

Retallick has cemented his status as a world-class lock bringing with him a high work rate and an uncompromising attitude. Together with partner Sam Whitelock, the duo form probably the best lock partnership in the world, giving the All Blacks a massive advantage when it comes to scrums and line-outs. He impressed from the very beginning after making his debut in 2012 and has come to become a mainstay in the team. Standing at 2.04 m tall and weighing 117 kg, Retalick’s giant striding when he steps into the field is devastating. He is adept at carrying the ball and opposing teams find it difficult to bring down such a big man and in defence, he’s amongst the best in the world too.

Retalick is the reigning IRB Player of the Year having won the award in 2014. 

#4 Kieran Read (New Zealand) - No.8

Will Kieran Read help New Zealand defend their title?

Read has yet to achieve the immortal status of his partner-in-arms in the back row, Richie McCaw, but he is well on his way to being considered amongst the finest no.8s in All Black history. The intelligence in his play, his support lines and athleticism ensure that there almost no game passes by without a significant contribution from him.  

Part of the world cup winning team in 2011, Read will be looking to bag another medal at this year’s edition. Since 2009, Read has become a first-choice regular in the team and also led the team as captain in McCaw’s absence in 2013, when the latter went on a sabbatical.

Read was named the IRB Player of the Year in 2013. Along with the consistently outstanding performances on the pitch, he also brings great leadership skills to the game.

#3 Julian Savea (New Zealand) - Wing

Will iy be Julin Savea’s tournament?

Nicknamed ‘the bus’, Savea has caused quite the stir in the rugby world in a short span ever since bursting onto the scene. All Blacks coach Steve Hansen isn’t a man to throw compliments around lightly. And he’s described Savea as being a better winger than the legendary Jonah Lomu – yes, the man who’s the all-time leading try scorer in world cups with 15 and who scored 9 tries in the 1995 edition, lighting it up.

Savea scored another 11 Test tries in 2014 to add to his already impressive tally and take his overall total to a remarkable 30 tries from just 33 caps.

The fact that there was even cause for debate and comparison between Savea and Lomu goes to show just what Savea has achieved in such a short time. 

Savea will be one of the stars to watch out for in the 2015 World Cup as he will look to add a world cup winner’s medal to his collection.

#2 Dan Carter (New Zealand) - Fly Half

Dan Carter will look to make amends at this edition of the World Cup

Carter is the highest points scorer in Test match rugby with 1,516 points to his name. Now 33, Carter is a veteran of the sport, but still the very best fly-half in the game when zoned in. He has been beset by injuries a lot more in the last 4-5 years, but that has only made him more determined to bounce back. His 2011 World cup was cut short after an early injury that ruled him out for the rest of the tournament, but since then Carter has worked hard, recovering and recuperating, to contribute to the All Blacks’ drive for success in 2015.

Some of his recent performances, especially in the Rugby Championship, have been reminiscent of his best and he looks to be in prime form.

His tactical and accurate kicking, both in the air and on the ground make him stand out from the rest. 

Carter is a 2-time IRB Player of the Year winner (2005, 2012) and a 4-time nominee. He is second to only Richie McCaw in both.

#1 Richie McCaw (New Zealand) - Open Side Flanker

Richie McCaw has delayed his retirement decision

The one and only. McCaw is inevitably the first name on the team sheet for the All Blacks, and even if you were making a world XV, it would still be him.

Mr Indestructible, Mr Noble, Mr Success – you can hang any number of adulatory monikers on the New Zealand captain and all of them would be appropriate. 34 and still going strong, still the best at what he does, McCaw is all set to hang up his boots and walk away from the game at the end of the year. Having captained the All Blacks to victory on home soil in 2011, he would love to add another memroable chapter in his storied career by ensuring his side become the first ever team to win back-to-back world cups.

Unquestionably the greatest player of his generation McCaw also recently became the most-capped individual in rugby union history with an amazing 142 Test match appearances. He is a 3-time IRB Player of the Year winner (2006, 2009, 2010) while also being nominated another 8 times. He holds the record for most wins and most nominations. 

According to All Blacks coach Steve Hansen, McCaw’s constant striving for self-improvement is what has kept him at the peak of the game for so long. McCaw’s ability to anticipate a play as well as interpret the changes in laws and adapt his game according to different referees’ reading of it have come to mark him out amongst his peers.

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