Ranking the 6 Best Scrum-Halves in Rugby History

Terence O'RorkeContributor IAugust 28, 2013

Ranking the 6 Best Scrum-Halves in Rugby History

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    Ranking the best scrum-halves in rugby history is one of the easier lists to produce due to the nature of the position. 

    Scrum-halves also tend to be some of the biggest personalities, a trait required for their pivotal role. They also need to boss a bunch of much bigger and usually much hairier forwards. 

    A good scrum-half needs the full range of skills, and this ranking list in descending order contains six players who had that in abundance.

6. Matt Dawson, England

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    Perhaps not everyone's choice, but Matt Dawson's resume stacks up against any in the game. His finest hour undoubtedly came in 2003 when he played a leading role for England in their 2003 World Cup victory

    He also boasts a winning British & Irish Lions tour, a Heineken Cup winner's medal and 77 international caps. Dawson also helped England secure the first World Cup Sevens title in 1993. 

    A natural leader on the field, Dawson's slick all-round game was matched by a true winner's mentality.

    This was never more obvious than when he scored this crucial try (go to 1:57) in the first Test of the 1997 Lions Tour, and four years later slotted this touchline conversion in the last minute to defeat the Brumbies.

5. Terry Holmes, Wales

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    Terry Holmes started his international career at the tail-end of a glorious era for Wales rugby. He went on to win 25 international caps before heading north across the border to join the professional ranks of rugby league with Bradford Northern. 

    Holmes' strength and power saw him selected for two Lions tours—in 1980 and 1983but he was restricted to just one cap due to injury. 

    Although Holmes may not have achieved quite as much as others on this list, he was as effective and feared as any scrum-half in rugby history.

    His size allowed him to play like a flanker as this try (go to 3:46) amply shows.



4. Nick Farr-Jones, Australia

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    Captain of Australia when they won the 1991 World Cup, Nick Farr-Jones was a key member of the Wallabies team that matched and often bettered the All Blacks in the late '80s and early '90s. 

    Farr-Jones was not the fastest or most powerful player in his position, but his game had no weaknesses. It was also backed up by superb leadership that saw him captain the Wallabies on 36 of his 63 caps. 

    Key to his success was the outstanding partnership he formed with fly-half Michael Lynagh, a combination that was to feature a world-record 47 times for the Wallabies.

3. George Gregan, Australia

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    Although he played in two World Cup finals, including victory in 1999, George Gregan is often remembered for "that" tackle in the 1994 Bledisloe Cup. 

    Gregan was a relatively new member of the Wallabies team that had developed a significant lead over New Zealand. 

    But as usual the All Blacks fought back, and wing Jeff Wilson was a near-certainty to score the Cup-winning try in the final minute victory until Gregan intervened

    The diminutive scrum-half would go on to earn a remarkable 139 caps for the Wallabies, a record for international rugby that stands to this day.

    For 13 years Gregan was the heartbeat of Wallabies rugby.


2. Joost Van Der Westhuizen, South Africa

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    Few players embody South African rugby quite like Joost van der Westhuizen. The scrum-half had all the skills but combined them with an almost pathological refusal to be dominated on the rugby field. 

    Van der Westhuizen became a national hero when he played a key role in the Springboks' 1995 World Cup triumph in South Africa. Having squeezed past France in the semi-final, South Africa were seen as underdogs for the Jonah Lomu-inspired All Blacks. 

    Lomu had quite literally trampled all over the opposition on the way to the final, but Van der Westhuizen showed the rugby-watching world how to deal with the giant All Black.

    After a stellar career that included 38 tries in 89 Tests, Van der Westhuizen faces his biggest challenge yet after being diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 2011.   


1. Gareth Edwards, Wales

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    Quite simply, the greatest scrum-half in rugby history and very possibly the finest player of all time. 

    Gareth Edwards is revered throughout Wales for an international career that saw him win 53 caps and play 10 times for the Lions on victorious tours to New Zealand in 1971 and South Africa in 1974. 

    Remarkably, Edwards won all of his Wales caps in successive matches, an indication of his superb levels of form and fitness. Edwards was at heart of a golden period for Welsh and Lions rugby. 

    Although Edwards scored an impressive 20 tries for Wales, he is best known for this remarkable score for the 1973 Barbarians against New Zealand, fondly remembered as the best try of all time. 

    Edwards was blessed with superb speed and strength and formed great half-back partnerships for Wales and the Lions with fellow legends Barry John and Phil Bennett.