The finest players in the world sometimes don’t quite manage to produce their best on the biggest stage of all.
Others seem fired up by the global attention, playing in ways they never could for their club to become one of the Rugby World Cup Greatest Players.
Here are our 10 best rugby World Cup players:
10Tim Horan (Australia)
He was immense at the 1991 tournament, although had to take a back seat to Campese, but was able to fully flourish and was the best player at 1999. Capable of cutting teams to bits on attack, putting in solid hits on defence and creating chances for others, Horan was the complete player and World Cups, it seemed, brought out the best in him.
9Serge Blanco (France)
In 1987 he was in his pomp, even though he was getting through a couple of packets of cigarettes a day, and got France to the final. In the semi-final against Australia Blanco finished off the move, in injury time, that condemned the Wallabies to a 30-24 defeat in Sydney.
8Joost van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
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A powerful player, standing 6ft 2in, the South African had an eye for a gap, a bullet pass and an appetite for defending. The scrum-half pulled off one of the tackles of the 1995 World Cup final when he hauled down Jonah Lomu as the Springboks edged to a 15-12 extra-time win over New Zealand.
7Bryan Habana (South Africa)
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He finished up with 67 tries in 124 Tests for South Africa and was part of the Bok team, in 2009, which held every trophy they could win.
6Martin Johnson (England)
If Jonny Wilkinson was the driver of the 2003 England team, Martin Johnson was the brains and the grunt. He wasn’t a flash player by any sense of the word. What he was, was a tough, reliable worker. After the final, John Eales exclaimed that he thought Martin Johnson’s performance was the best ever by a lock.
5Dan Carter(New Zealand)
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4John Eales (Australia)
Some say he’s Australia’s greatest ever player. And they may very well be right. Nicknamed “Nobody,”—because, as they say, “nobody’s perfect”—Eales became the most dominant lock of his era and was part of two World Cup-winning teams, being captain for the second one.
3Jonny Wilkinson (England)
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The legend will forever be remembered for his extra-time drop goal that won the 2003 World Cup for England. But he was much more than this. He made his first World Cup appearance as a 19-year-old in 1999. The World Cup wasn’t a successful one for England but served as a learning curve for the youngster and the rest of the team. He then played in 2007 and 2011, again being one of his sides better performers. Could not be left out of a list of the Rugby World Cup Greatest Players.
2Jonah Lomu (New Zealand)
Never has there been a player as dominant as him. Rugby’s first global superstar had a unique combination of size, speed and power which saw him close to unstoppable at his best. Within weeks he took over the rugby world and became the face of the 1995 and 1999 World Cup.
1Richie McCaw (New Zealand)
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Possibly the best ever rugby player on the best ever rugby team! The flanker almost gets in on his pedigree alone! Playing the 2011 final with a fractured foot, McCaw led from the front with a game-high 18 tackles. He produced a ‘captain’s knock’ to inspire his team-mates to victory. In the 2015 Rugby World Cup final, there was no other man who worked harder than McCaw.