Following on from the battle of the fly halves piece, which concluded that Wilkinson has already earned legendary status in world cup folklore whereas Carter still seeks it, which other World Cup greats deserve to be mentioned as potentially the best player in the tournament’s history? Who are the contenders for the World Cup Hall of Fame?
It is my contention that in the modern, and especially the professional, era a player must have been part of a World Cup-winning team in order to qualify for greatness. This will cause some controversy, automatically ruling out obvious contenders such as Jonah Lomu, the ‘freak’ who certainly had the most significant individual impact on any World Cup, or indeed rugby as a whole. If the pantheon of true greatness is to be restricted to those with winners’ medals then the list must include those who have lifted the trophy for their team. David Kirk, Nick Farr-Jones, Francois Pienaar, John Eales and, of course, Martin Johnson. They were all fantastic players and they have all been further elevated to some degree by their team’s success in the global competition. Australia, with three finals and two victories, are the most successful team from the five tournaments to date and, to my knowledge, John Eales is the only player who can boast two winners’ medals. New Zealand, France and England are the other teams to have competed in two finals, with Sean Fitzpatrick, Jason Leonard, George Gregan and Stephen Larkham four players who have also featured in two finals.
There are a number of players experiencing their fourth world cup at this year’s competition, Os du Randt, Gregan, Gareth Thomas, Mike Catt, Rod Snow, Alessandro Troncon and Agustin Pichot joining Leonard and Gareth Rees on this fabulous achievement. The pick of these must be du Randt and Leonard, solely for having endured 16+ years of international rugby in the unforgiving land of the front row. However, for longevity the outright winner after his (less than memorable) appearance this year is the Samoan ‘chiropracter’, Brian Lima, having now represented his country in a remarkable five world cups. It can also be added that, as impressive as these feats all are, it may be somewhat of an indictment of that particular country’s ability to produce players of quality, at least in that position. It’s worth noting that no Kiwi features more than three times, Fitzpatrick, Andrew Mehrtens and Byron Kelleher their most noteworthy World Cup veterans with three appearances apiece.
With 227 from three tournaments, Gavin Hastings still holds the record for total number of points scored, and Jonah’s 15 tries comfortably tops the all-time list. Clearly, judging the best of all time depends on your perspective and criteria and in a few weeks we will surely have some more names to add to the mixer. Jonny’s already in there, Carter has yet to join him. The names listed above are all frontrunners for this accolade, but it is by no means exhaustive. This is obviously an emotive subject so get your opinions and comments posted on both Dan vs Jonny and also the leading RWC player. Sir Jonny gets my vote on both counts…!
By Rob Douglas