It’s a debate as old as time.
Or at least as old as the sport of rugby.
Who is the best player in the world?
Our panel of Wales Online rugby experts have got together to come up with the finest 50 players on the planet right now.
This is the countdown to rugby’s greatest in 2020…
50. Sam Simmonds
He hasn’t played for England since 2018, but that’s their loss. For his double-winning club Exeter, the back-rower has been an inspiration en route to being named European player of the year.
49. Josh Adams
Not a vintage year for Adams, given his try-scoring exploits of 2019. Yet he’s still been quietly good in a Wales team that hasn’t provided him with too many opportunities.
48. Zander Fagerson
Quite possibly the form tight-head in the northern hemisphere, Fagerson has been in fine form for Scotland. Surely on course to be a Lions tourist next year.
47. Nicolas Sanchez
When Argentina defeated New Zealand for the first time in their history earlier this year, the cool, calm Sanchez was the difference. It was a performance that had many waxing lyrical that the fly-half is still world class.
46. Stuart Hogg
The dangerous runner from deep is a double-winner with Exeter Chiefs and has been integral to Scotland’s improvement.
45. Peceli Yato
If this guy is fit and firing, any opposition in the world will know they’re in for a game. For much of 2020 the multi-skilled Fijian back rower was off limits because of injury, but the sheer scope of his game is extraordinary.
44. Johnny Sexton
A former World Rugby player of the year, he’s still performing for Ireland and Leinster, if not quite at the levels he once hit.
43. Finn Russell
A true rugby maverick. Often sees passes that few would even contemplate. They don’t always come off, but that’s half the fun.
42. Samu Kerevi
If Kerevi collided with a tank, the tank would need the post-incident attention. The Australia centre is a hugely powerful runner who always bosses the gain-line.
41. Kotaro Matsushima
One of the stars of the 2019 World Cup with his electric running, the Japan back-three man hasn’t played Test rugby this year but has maintained his form at club level, starring for Clermont Auvergne. If you’re in need of a cutting edge, he’s your man.
40. Marcell Coetzee
“The best No. 8 in world rugby.” That’s how former Lion Stephen Ferris described Coetzee earlier this year. It’s a debate worth having. The South African’s performances for Ulster in the PRO14 have been sensational.
39. Liam Williams
After a stellar 2019, it’s been a frustrating 2020 for Williams with injury severely affecting him. Still a class act on his day, though.
38. Taulupe Faletau
Another Welsh player who has perhaps struggled this season. Not always been used well, but when he was, Faletau showed he’s World XV quality on his day.
37. James Ryan
Without always being at his best, he’s still shown he’s a class act for Ireland and Leinster with some dominant line-out displays and eye-catching effort around the field.
36. Mako Vunipola
The England loosehead is a player who can give his team 25 tackles and 15 carries while contributing to a strong scrum. Not many other No. 1s are in his league.
35. Jamie George
So good have his displays been that some see the England and Saracens hooker as an outsider for the Lions captaincy. Consistently strong.
34. Tadhg Furlong
Injury has stopped Furlong this year. But the big Irishman’s status as a scrummaging rock is undiminished.
33. Julian Montoya
He’s just completed a batch of superb performances for Argentina in the Rugby Championship, with his display against New Zealand off the scale of excellence.
32. Frans Malherbe
The man who anchored South Africa’s all-powerful scrum at the last World Cup. His country may not have played Test rugby in 2020, but his opponents will vouch for Malherbe’s quality.
31. Josua Tuisova
Fiji haven’t played much rugby in 2020, but the freakishly powerful and talented Tuisova crossed for a try in a strong performance against Georgia and has frequently stood out for Lyon in the Top 14. A immense, exciting player.
30. Billy Vunipola
It’s clear to see how much England miss their No. 8 powerhouse when he’s not there. Just a massive, massive carrier.
29. Johnny May
Still something of an eccentric, but he’s developed somewhat from often just running sideways like a headless chicken to becoming an accomplished Test finisher.
28. Owen Farrell
Tough as teak, he continues to be key to Eddie Jones’ relentless England juggernaut. Leads by example, surely the Lions 10 next year?
27. Alun Wyn Jones
Okay, probably not quite the force he once was. But the Wales talisman is still pretty handy and fully merits his place in the top 30 of our list.
26. Marika Koroibete
Came up with one of the individual performances of the year for Australia in their win over New Zealand in November. There was plenty more from the wing in other games too. “The man’s a beast,” someone said on social media. Sounds about right.
25. Brodie Retallick
Been a little inactive recently with his break, but the New Zealand lock still up there. Combines old-school hardness with modern day skills and athleticism.
24. Charles Ollivon
Inspired France during a year when they finally got their act together after years of under-achieving. The captain was at the centre of everything.
23. Sam Underhill
One half of England’s dynamic flanker partnership with Tom Curry, the Bath man has proved consistently excellent across 2020, a rock in defence and a force at the breakdown.
22. Gregory Alldritt
Performed remarkably during the Six Nations. Been tipped by Ronan O’Gara as the next French captain. What a back-row France have got.
21. Romain Ntamack
France’s revival in 2020 has been something of a joy to watch. The man pulling the strings at 10 is another of the reasons for that.
20. Damian de Allende
No Test rugby for him in 2020, but his classy shows from the World Cup in Japan are still fresh in the mind. Physical, skilful and a supreme defender. Now plying his trade with Munster.
19. Eben Etzebeth
Boasts the physical edge and abrasiveness you expect from a South African second row, while he’s a real lineout technician at 6ft 8ins tall. However, he also possesses startling pace and is comfortable with ball in hand. His performance for Toulon against the Scarlets in January was on a different level.
18. Faf de Klerk
The Springbok scrum-half has largely redefined how scrum-halves can defend, being given free rein in the Boks’ structure. Few 9s have mastered the art of the box-kick like de Klerk, either.
17. Michael Hooper
Australia’s player of the year, the third time he’s won the award, joining Israel Folau as the only man to achieve such a feat. A devastating breakdown operator, he also reached the landmark of 100 Tests.
16. Tom Curry
In an England team that is defined by its defence, the physicality of Curry is hugely important.
15. Richie Mo’unga
The Super Rugby Aotearoa player of the tournament, Mo’unga also had his moments at Test level, most notably with a devastating two-try display in the 43-5 hammering of Australia on Halloween.
14. Dane Coles
Arguably redefined the role of a modern hooker when he burst onto the scene. The All Black is still going strong.
13. Virimi Vakatawa
The French centre is in a real purple patch at the minute. Would be pushing to be in many people’s World XV.
12. Ardie Savea
Eddie Jones loves to talk about hybrid players. Savea might just be the closest we’ve got to that in the world game. Consistently makes copious metres after contact whether he’s playing six, seven or eight.
11. Sam Cane
A challenging debut season for the new All Blacks captain, but he ended it being crowned New Zealand’s player of the year as his team rallied to win the Rugby Championship.
The top 10
10. Justin Tipuric
Is there anything the Wales flanker can’t do? Has the handling skills of an outside back combined with the lineout, breakdown and tackling fluency of the finest loose forwards in the world.
9. Beauden Barrett
No player has been involved in more Test tries since 2016 than Barrett. Quite simply a joy to watch – often seeing opportunity where others see risk.
8. Pablo Matera
To begin with, his past tweets were nothing less than racist and vile. There’s no getting away from that and it’s on Matera to now show he has grown as a person. On the pitch however, back-rower Matera was as influential as you could possibly be in Argentina’s win over the All Blacks.
7. Pieter-Steph Du Toit
Last year’s World Player of the Year, we obviously haven’t seen him at Test level this year due to South Africa’s lack of matches. However, his destructive counter-rucking is key to the Springboks’ game plan and his ability isn’t in question.
6. Siya Kolisi
Look up the meaning of the word ‘inspiration’ in a dictionary and there’s a reasonable chance you’ll encounter a picture of this guy.
5. Aaron Smith
The All Black scrum-half will consider himself unfortunate to have missed out on World Rugby’s team of the decade recently. Regardless, his form in 2020 has been stellar.
4. Maro Itoje
The biggest compliment you can pay Itoje is there are few bigger thorns to deal with. He has the intelligence and athleticism to spoil any form of ball your team might have – be it in the lineout, the breakdown or open phase play.
3. Cheslin Kolbe
Probably hindered by the fact that the Springboks haven’t played any Tests this year. If they had, Kolbe would perhaps have been even higher, given his remarkable ability to step anyone on a sixpence.
2. Antoine Dupont
The French scrum-half is just sheer quality, perhaps the finest proponent of a pre-emptive supporting line in Test rugby at the moment. If you switch off in defence for even a second, you can expect to see Dupont running off a shoulder to score.
1. Semi Radradra
Whether it’s for Bristol Bears or Fiji, he has the ability to create havoc for defences.
He can go the direct route, bashing his way through in the centre, or he can take the scenic outside route, putting on the afterburners to arc around the opposition before delivering the decisive pass or offload.
The best player in the world right at this moment in time.