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The 50 best rugby players in the world in 2020

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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.

Nicolas Sanchez has been in dazzling form in the Tri-Nations

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.

James Ryan wins a line-out ball against England

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?

Owen Farrell is pivotal to England

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.

Faf De Klerk

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.

Justin Tipuric shows his class

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

France’s Antoine Dupont has been brilliant

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

A game-changer.

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.



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Six Nations Rugby

Eddie Jones names 45 man England Squad

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England men’s head coach Eddie Jones has named a 45-player squad for a short training camp.

The group will meet at The Lensbury, Teddington on Sunday 26 September – Tuesday 28 September.

It will be the first time England’s new coaching staff will work with the players, after the appointments of Richard Cockerill, Martin Gleeson and Anthony Seibold over the summer.

There are eight uncapped players named in the squad (Mark Atkinson, Jack Kenningham, Louis Lynagh, Gabriel Oghre, Raffi Quirke, Sam Riley, Bevan Rodd and Ollie Sleightholme). 

Nine players who made their debuts in England’s summer series of fixtures have also been selected (Jamie Blamire, Trevor Davison, Alex Dombrandt, Joe Heyes, Lewis Ludlow, Adam Radwan, Harry Randall, Marcus Smith and Freddie Steward).

There are returns to the squad for senior and experienced players, including England’s second most-capped player Ben Youngs (109 caps), alongside Owen Farrell, Courtney Lawes, Joe Marler, Jonny May and Anthony Watson – all of who have more than 50 caps.

The camp will form part of England’s preparations for the Autumn Nations Series in November.  England will host Tonga [Saturday 6 November, 3.15pm KO], Australia [Saturday 13 November, 5.30pm KO] and world champions South Africa [Saturday 20 November, 3.15pm KO].  All matches will be live on Amazon Prime.

Jones said: “This is an exciting squad made up of experienced players and young guys who did well in the summer and have earned their place again.

“We have left out some experienced players but we’re really clear that the door isn’t closed to them, and we’re looking forward to seeing them work hard to get back into contention.

“We have five campaigns now until the 2023 World Cup so each one counts, and this is a chance for this 45 to impress the new coaching staff.”

Tickets for England v Tonga are on general sale priced from £37 for adults and £22 for children. Tickets can be bought via EnglandRugby.com/Tickets.

Tickets for England v Australia and England v South Africa are on sale now to the rugby family.

FULL SQUAD

FORWARDS
Jamie Blamire (Newcastle Falcons, 2 caps)
Callum Chick (Newcastle Falcons, 2 caps)
Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs, 31 caps)
Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, 33 caps)
Trevor Davison (Newcastle Falcons, 1 cap)
Alex Dombrandt (Harlequins, 1 cap)
Charlie Ewels (Bath Rugby, 23 caps)
Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers, 30 caps)
Joe Heyes (Leicester Tigers, 2 caps)
Jonny Hill (Exeter Chiefs, 9 caps)
Ted Hill (Worcester Warriors, 2 caps)
Maro Itoje (Saracens, 48 caps)
Jack Kenningham (Harlequins, uncapped)
Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, 87 caps)
Lewis Ludlam (Northampton Saints, 10 caps)
Lewis Ludlow (Gloucester Rugby, 2 caps)
Joe Marler (Harlequins, 72 caps)
George Martin (Leicester Tigers, 1 cap)
Beno Obano (Bath Rugby, 3 caps)
Gabriel Oghre (Wasps, uncapped)
Sam Riley (Harlequins, uncapped)
Bevan Rodd (Sale Sharks, uncapped)
Sam Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs, 7 caps)
Kyle Sinckler (Bristol Bears, 44 caps)
Will Stuart (Bath Rugby, 12 caps)
Sam Underhill (Bath Rugby, 24 caps)

BACKS
Mark Atkinson (Gloucester Rugby, uncapped)
Owen Farrell (Saracens, 93 caps)
George Furbank (Northampton Saints, 4 caps)
Ollie Lawrence (Worcester Warriors, 7 caps)
Louis Lynagh (Harlequins, uncapped)
Max Malins (Saracens, 8 caps)
Joe Marchant (Harlequins, 6 caps)
Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby, 66 caps)
Raffi Quirke (Sale Sharks, uncapped)
Adam Radwan (Newcastle Falcons, 1 cap)
Harry Randall (Bristol Bears, 2 caps)
Dan Robson (Wasps, 14 caps)
Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs, 40 caps)
Ollie Sleightholme (Northampton Saints, uncapped)
Marcus Smith (Harlequins, 2 caps)
Freddie Steward (Leicester Tigers, 2 caps)
Manu Tuilagi (Sale Sharks, 43 caps)
Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby, 51 caps)
Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 109 caps)

ENDS

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Nothing easy for McFarland’s men as they seek to build on progress

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Prospects

Last season was Ulster’s third under Dan McFarland and at face value it might not be interpreted as continuing the progress made in the first two campaigns under his watch.

Yet in actual fact they won 14 out of 16 matches in Conference A of the Pro14, compared to eight wins in 15 regular season games the season before when qualifying for the semi-finals and reaching the final.

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Six Nations Rugby

Who will provide spark England so desperately need? | Sport

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At a training camp in May, earlier this summer, the England Under-20s were preparing for a warm-up game at Bisham Abbey and they were joined for the day by Eddie Jones and some of his England coaching staff. At one point, Jones gathered the squad around him and you would imagine they listened hard.

The message he gave them was this: “One person in this circle is going to make it to 2023. Is that person going to be you?”

The 2023 reference was, of course, the 2023 Rugby World Cup. Jones may as well have said that he was looking for the new model Tom Curry — because Curry was in the same position four years earlier.

Jones loves the art of identifying and

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