The tenth installment of my Greatest Ever series is here!
In this series I will look at the greatest talents to grace various sports. This time I continue to look at Rugby Union, and, following my "Top Three Tight Head Props of All Time," I will look at the top ten players ever to play in second row.
Second Rows, also known as Locks are usually the tallest players in the rugby team, and the primary line-out jumpers. They also provide the extra push in the scrum.
10. Malcolm O'Kelly (IRE) - Standing at over two metres tall, former Ireland captain Malcolm O'Kelly is the most capped player in Irish Rugby history. Still an active member of the Ireland squad, O'Kelly has won 91 International caps in a career spanning over ten years.
He has also been selected for two British and Irish Lions tours in 2001 and 2005, but he had to withdraw from the latter one due to injury.
9. Gordon Brown (SCO) - As a man who played in the amateur days of Rugby Union, Brown never got what his talents deserved. A Scottish international from 1969 to 1976 he won 30 caps for his country.
He was also selected for three Lions tours in 1971, 1974 and 1977, winning eight caps. On the 1974 Tour to South Africa, Brown scored a phenomenal eight tries for the Lions, including two against South Africa themselves to help the Lions to a fantastically successful tour.
In 2001 Brown was inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame.
8. Bill Beaumont (ENG) - Another member of the International Rugby Hall of Fame, Bill Beaumont is a hugely popular and highly respected figure in rugby. The former England captain won 34 caps for his country, which included the 1980 Grand Slam, an unexpected bonus and Beaumont's finest moment as captain.
He won seven caps for the Lions, captaining them on the 1980 tour to South Africa. This made him the first Englishman to captain the Lions for 50 years.
7. Fabien Pelous (FRA) - Former captain of France, Pelous is their highest capped player, with 118 caps, over an international career spanning 12 years. This total puts him second on the all time list of international caps, although Jason Leonard is sometimes put above him due to his five Lions caps being added to his 114 England caps.
Nicknamed Lurch, Pelous' uncomprimising and forceful play helped his club team Toulouse to a European Cup victory. He has been part of three Rugby World Cup squads, but missed out on captaining France through the 2007 World Cup due to injury problems leading up to the tournament.
6. Sir Brian Lochore (NZ) - Not just a New Zealand legend for his playing days, but for coaching the All Blacks to so far their only World Cup triumph, Lochore is held in high esteem in his native New Zealand. Equally adept at playing number eight, he was an all round talent the likes of which we rarely see.
Lochore captained the All Blacks in 18 of his 25 tests, scoring 21 points in the process. In 1999 he was inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame.
5. Willie John McBride (IRE) - Incredibly, McBride didn't start playing rugby until the age of 17, yet he became one of the greatest players in Irish history. He played 63 Tests, 11 of which were as captain, in an international career that lasted 13 years.
As well as this, McBride toured with the Lions five times (four as a player and one as a coach), which gave him a huge 17 Test caps. He was captain of the hugely successful 1974 tour to South Africa, partnering Gordon Brown in a formidable second row. He was involved in controversy throughout this tour, allegedly ordering a player to punch a one-eyed opposing player in his good eye to effectively blind him, so he would have to be replaced.
4. Frik du Preez (RSA) - Voted South Africa's greatest player of the twentieth century, du Preez could play in both flanker and second row. A rare all-rounder forward, he could both kick and drop-kick as well as most fly-halves.
He made 38 test appearances for South Africa and will forever be regarded as one of the greats of South African rugby.
3. John Eales (AUS) - Another one of the rare all-rounders, John Eales was perhaps the most skilled lock ever to play the game. Nicknamed "Nobody" because "Nobody's perfect", Eales is arguably Australia's most successful captain.
Just to give you an idea of what a good all-rounder Eales was, he scored 173 points for Australia, yet he only scored two tries. The rest come from 99 penalties and 69 conversions.
He is eighth on the list of all-time points scorers for Australia, third on the list of most tests as captain (55 of his 86 caps) and is the second most capped forward in Australian test rugby history. He is one of a handful to have won the Rugby World Cup twice, doing so in 1991 and 1999.
2. Colin Meads (NZ) - An All Black icon, Meads was one of the greatest players to ever play the game. Voted New Zealand's Player of the Century, he was renowned for his brutal play and his winning mentality.
He was an enforcer, and didn't let anything get in the way of his goal, as shown in a game where he emerged from a ruck with his arm dangling at a horrible angle, obviously broken, yet he completed the game, leading his team to victory.
He won 55 caps and was captain of the All Blacks on a number of occasions, although he never got the captaincy full-time.
1. Martin Johnson (ENG) - Recently appointed manager of England, Martin Johnson has already established himself as a legend of the game and an England icon. Known for his no-nonsense approach, Johnson is a highly respected and highly decorated player.
He helped his club team Leicester Tigers to five Premiership trophies and two Heineken Cups, as well as leading England to five Six Nations successes two of which were Grand Slams, and, of course, the Rugby World Cup.
He very nearly played for New Zealand instead, after Colin Meads had spotted him, but a move to England blessed us with this great talent. He has been on three British and Irish Lions tours, winning eight caps, and he remains the only player ever to have captained the Lions twice.
His place in English and International rugby history is secure, whatever he may do as England manager, as he is the greatest second row of all time.
Coming soon - Top Ten Flankers of All Time!
Other articles form this series include:
Top Three Loose Head Props of All Time