Greatest Ever: Rugby Union: Top Five No.8s of All Time

Barney CorkhillSenior Writer IAugust 10, 2008

The 11th 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 10 Flankers of All Time," I will look at the top five players ever to play at No. 8.

The controlling force behind the scrum, the No. 8, completes the pack in this Greatest Ever: Rugby Union countdown. Normally tall and athletic, but incredibly strong, they are key ball winners with the strength of forwards and the speed of some backs.


5. Morne du Plessis (RSA) - A highly successful South Africa skipper, du Plessis had a 10-year international career, five years of which he served as captain. As the son of another Springbok captain, they remain the only father-son pair to have captained South Africa.

He played 22 times at international level, a total largely affected by the sports boycott that was occurring in South Africa at the time. In 1999 he was inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame.

Morne du Plessis was also the manager of the Springboks at the historic 1995 World Cup, which South Africa won.


4. Hennie Muller (RSA) - Another captain turned coach of the Springboks, Muller is regarded as one of their best ever players. Despite only winning 13 test caps, Muller captained his country in nine of those, becoming one of the most successful South Africa captains ever.

During his four years as a South Africa player he tasted a whitewash victory over New Zealand, a Grand Slam Tour of Europe, and a tour victory over Australia—more than most players achieve in 15 years.

In 2001 he was inducted into the International Hall of Fame.


3. Wayne Shelford (NZ) - Another former captain of his country, the All Blacks didn't lose a single game while Shelford was at the helm. The only match they didn't win was a draw to Australia.

He is credited with bringing about the improved Haka to strike more fear into their opponents before they even started the game. In 1987, Shelford was a key member of the All Blacks team which triumphed in the first ever Rugby World Cup.


2. Lawrence Dallaglio (ENG) (pictured) - One of the most decorated players in history, Lawrence Dallaglio has done it all in his career. He has won five Premiership crowns, three Powergen Cup trophies, two Heineken Cup medals, and a Parker Pen Challenge Cup with Wasps.

With England he won four Six Nations and of course the 2003 World Cup. He was also a finalist in the 2007 World Cup, and captained his country on numerous occasions.

He won 85 England caps, scoring 85 points, and has been on three British and Irish Lions Tours. Despite being on three tours, injuries have limited him to just three caps for the Lions.


1. Zinzan Brooke (NZ) - A brilliant all-round player, Zinzan Brooke spent a decade at the top with the All Blacks. He made 58 test appearances, scoring 89 points. He scored 17 tries in test matches throughout his career, which was then a world record for a forward.

He was a part of three World Cup squads, including the victorious 1987 group. In the 1995 World Cup he famously kicked a 50-metre drop goal—something most fly-halves have trouble doing—showcasing his wonderful all-round skills and supreme confidence.

It is this confidence in his ability and his fantastic all-round ability that makes him the greatest No. 8 of all time.


Coming soon—The Top Five Scrum Halves of All Time!


Other articles from this series include:

Top Three Loose Head Props of All Time

Top Three Hookers of All Time

Top Three Tight Head Props of All Time

Top 10 Second Rows of All Time

Top 10 Flankers of All Time