The Fastest Players in World Rugby

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistSeptember 25, 2013

The Fastest Players in World Rugby

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    Matt Roberts/Getty Images

    While Jamaica's Usain Bolt might tear up matters with relative ease on the Olympic track, there's a whole other dimension of speed demons in the world of rugby.

    Taking players into account from both union and league, read on to find the quickest talents in the game.

    In truth, it's just about impossible to ascertain exactly who the fastest rugby players are from the legions of rugby speedsters. Numerous variables exist including running with or without the ball, on or off grass as well as weather and condition factors.

    Regardless, we've put the more recognisable (and some less so) faces into a top 10, with some attempt made at determining who would be fastest in the general sense, over both short distance and long.

    It's also worth noting that any candidate must currently be playing for a professional team in order to be considered.

    Feel we've made a glaring omission or disagree with the order of the players? Let us know in the forum below.

10. Jesse Mogg

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    Matt King/Getty Images

    Club: ACT Brumbies

    In the early exchanges of this year's Rugby Championship, Ewen McKenzie decided to give Jesse Mogg his shot at making a mark on the Australian national setup.

    In the end, the Brumbies' star didn't produce as the Wallabies may have wanted and showed some distinct shortcomings in defence, but nevertheless maintained his place as one of Super Rugby's quickest talents.

    As the New Zealand Herald's Wynne Gray suggested in August, Mogg is said to have a 100-metre time of under 11 seconds and tends to breeze past his defenders if allowed to get into a stride.

    The Brisbane native was an athletics star in his school days, specialising in the sprint events as well as 110-metre hurdles and it shows in his "we're going to score one more than you" style of play.

9. Tom Varndell

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    Club: London Wasps

    London Wasps are lucky enough to boast two of the Aviva Premiership's fastest wingers in Christian Wade and Tom Varndell.

    In the end, it's Varndell who gets the nod as the quickest of the two, a judgement simply made because the former Leicester man boasts more experience and has shown his blistering pace on countless occasions down the years.

    Back in 2006, BBC Sport reported that the 28-year-old had run a 100-metre time of 10.8 seconds in his socks as a schoolboy, a time that's only bound to improve with the right conditions and Varndell being in the prime of his career. 

8. Lwazi Mvovo

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    Club: Natal Sharks

    Lwazi Mvovo is a name that might be one of the lesser-known to Northern Hemisphere audiences, considering his speed-based exploits have been limited largely to Super Rugby.

    However, the 27-year-old South African should be better known for not necessarily being one of the sport's most rounded assets, but certainly a master of his particular trade.

    Again relying on schoolboy records, Times Live's Simnikiwe Xabanisa has reported that Mvovo clocked 10.6 seconds in the 100 metres during his youth, although it's unknown as to what the winger would clinch now.

7. Simon Zebo

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    Club: Munster 

    The standout member of Ireland's squad when it comes to speed, the last year-and-a-half of Simon Zebo's career have seen the Cork-born winger break into not just the Irish national setup but become a British and Irish Lion, too.

    Unlike some on this list, Zebo manages to combine his biggest asset with a certain degree of skill, however, arguably the most famous moment of which is captured in the attached video with a try against Wales.

    The player himself told the Guardian's Andy Bull that he ran a time of 11.10 seconds in the 100 metres while at school, but it's likely that time would be severely beaten now considering Zebo is 23 years of age and that he was carrying the ball on that occasion.

6. Matty Bowen

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    Club: North Queensland Cowboys

    An entrant from the NRL now as Matty Bowen's quicksilver skills earn him a spot among the sport's fleetest of foot.

    As the attached video will show, Bowen utilises his talents for defence (good) as much as he does attack (evil) and will undoubtedly enamour himself with fans as a result of that graft.

5. Taku Ngwenya

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    Club: Biarritz

    One of the most established Americans to have cut out a good name for himself in European rugby, Taku Ngwenya often lets his feet do the talking for him, almost exclusively when he's got ball in hand.

    Equipped with a wicked turn of pace, the Zimbabwe-born USA international has a jink in his step not too unlike Shane Williams.

    Should his sidestep be enough to initially evade the pressure of his opponent, what follows next is more often than not a savage incision of the opposing defence, where a mere foot of space means the difference between Ngwenya scoring or not.

4. Ugo Monye

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    Club: Harlequins

    Another of the Premiership's brightest sparks, Ugo Monye's lightning speed can often mean that an inopportune blink will see you miss some of his flash-in-the-pan brilliance.

    The Harlequins winger has fallen somewhat from the England national limelight he acquired circa 2008, but has always kept his place as one of the sport's swiftest talents.

    Monye sometimes requires the space to be there ahead of him before he can actually exploit it and, when talking to Eurosport in 2010, noted that his fastest 100-metre time was 10.33 seconds—close to the Olympic standard.

3. Tonderai Chavhanga

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    Club: Free State Cheetahs

    How apt it is that Tonderai Chavhanga has found himself now playing for South Africa's Free State Cheetahs, considering he's one of the fastest mammals in rugby's animal kingdom himself.

    The 29-year-old winger has consistently been one of the Southern Hemisphere's most reliable sources of tries over the last decade and even showcased his abilities to the European audiences, bagging 10 tries in just two seasons with Newport Gwent Dragons.

    Now back in his native South Africa, Chavhanga once again presents one of those wing assets where half-back teammates tend to simply say: "Get the ball to him."

2. Bryan Habana

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    Club: Toulon

    Earlier in his career, Bryan Habana was given the opportunity to race a cheetah. If that wasn't enough of a testament to his speed, the Springboks then took his chance in facing off with a plane (video attached).

    Regarded by some as possibly the best wing finisher ever to have played for South Africa or perhaps even played the sport, what's remarkable about Habana is he looks like he might even be quicker with the ball in hand.

    Give him an inch and he'll undoubtedly take you on the outside. Stand off too far and he'll expose a gap on your inside.

    In short, trying to get a grip on Bryan Habana is a defender's worst nightmare and Super Rugby teams all over are glad he's finally moved to Europe.

1. Carlin Isles

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    Club: San Francisco

    If you've been on Youtube lately, there's a great chance that Carlin Isles will have already stumbled into your vision at some point in the last year.

    The USA Sevens sensation often takes the highly entertaining tact of avoiding contact by running in a perfectly lateral angle before hitting the gap when it makes itself known.

    Coaches worldwide are tearing their hair out, shouting: "Straight!"

    According to the official IRB Sevens website, the former USA Olympic sprinting hopeful has run a personal best of 10.13 seconds and is unfortunate not to have made a go of things on the track, but was incredibly fortunate to have fallen into the wonderful world of rugby.