Greatest Ever: Rugby Union: Top Ten Centres of All Time

Barney Corkhill@@BarneyCorkhillSenior Writer IAugust 13, 2008

The 14th 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 Ten Fly Halves of All Time", I will look at the top ten players ever to play at Centre.

A hugely important position for both attacking and defending, centres are the players that can create a chance from nothing. Both inside and outside centres need to be very skillful and solid in the tackle if they are to be a big success. They are often big try-scorers for club and country.


10. Tana Umaga (NZ) - Originally a winger, Tana Umaga faced stiff competition for a place in the All Blacks side early on in his career. After a roller-coaster career, he was named New Zealand captain in 2004, finally pinning down a regular spot in the line-up.

He went on to win 79 caps, scoring 185 points through his attacking running and natural flair. He faced controversy in his career, especially for the infamous spear tackle on Lions opponent Brian O'Driscoll.

His last major action as captain of the All Blacks was to lead them to only their second ever Northern Hemisphere Grand Slam.


9. Will Carling (ENG) - England's youngest ever captain at just 22, Carling is also one of their most successful skippers. He led them to three Grand Slams, included two in succession, and to the final of the 1991 World Cup.

He was captain of England for eight years, despite a small spell in which he was sacked, but then re-instated due to public pressure. He was capped 72 times for England.


8. Brain O'Driscoll (IRE) - Current captain of Ireland, BOD is also the highest try scorer in their history. He has developed a reputation as a fearsome tackler and an immensely skilled individual.

In 85 caps for Ireland he has managed to amass 167 points. He has also been a member of two British and Irish Lions tours in 2001 and 2005. He was named captain of the 2005 tour to New Zealand. He has won seven Lions caps over those two tours.


7. Frank Bunce (NZ) - Incredibly, Frank Bunce first played for New Zealand when he was 30 years old. Still, his aggressive running where he often ran through or over people rather than past them managed to win him 55 caps.

He scored 20 test tries in those 55 caps, and created many more. He was also renowned for his big hits, stopping opposing attackers in their tracks with crunching tackles.


6. Gwyn Nicholls (WAL) - Known as "The Prince of Threequarters", Nicholls won his first Wales cap back in 1896. He played for Wales for ten years after that, winning 24 caps. He also won four caps on the 1899 British Isles tour (now the British and Irish Lions).

His heroics on the field were surpassed off it when he rescued a man from drowning. However, Nicholls suffered from this for the rest of his life, eventually dying due to heart failure.

In 2005, Nicholls was inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame.


5. Mike Gibson (IRE) - A highly versatile player, Gibson played for his country in four different positions, but it was at centre where he was his most devastating. His 15 year international career won him 69 Ireland caps, a record which stood until 2005 when Malcolm O'Kelly surpassed it.

He went as a player on four Lions tours, in 1968, 1971, the highly successful 1974 tour, and in 1977. He holds the unique distinction of being the first ever replacement in International Rugby history, coming on for Barry John.

In 1997, Mike Gibson was one of the International Rugby Hall of Fame's initial inductees.


4. Jeremy Guscott (ENG) - Guscott burst onto the International Rugby scene, scoring a hat-trick on his debut. This was a sign of things to come as he won 65 caps for England, scoring 143 points.

His fluent and evasive running coupled with his hard tackling secured him a place on three Lions tours, where he won eight caps. He scored the winning drop-goal in the second test against South Africa in 1997.


3. Tim Horan (AUS) (pictured) - One of very few players to have won two Rugby World Cups in his career, Horan terrorised the world's defences throughout the 90s. A fantastic all-round player with very few weaknesses, he was good in both attack and defence.

Overall, he amounted 80 Australia caps, scoring 140 points. He also formed a fearsome partnership with Jason Little (a player unlucky not to get in this list) throughout the nineties.

A horrible knee injury almost ended his career in 1994, but he fought back to his best and, by 1999 was inspirational in winning the Wallabies another World Cup crown.


2. Danie Gerber (RSA) - A talent hugely affected by South Africa's apartheid, Gerber only won 24 caps in a 12 year International career. However, he consistently showed what he was capable of. In the rare occasion he couldn't go round someone he would just go through them, and vice-versa.

He has been named in many ex-players all time XV, or top ten players of all time. It is almost scary to think what Gerber could have done in the game had he been able to play as regularly as other countries.

In 2007, Gerber was inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame.


1. Philippe Sella (FRA) - He was as majestic as they came on a rugby pitch. Sella could make something out of nothing whenever he got the ball, be it with his blistering pace, his deceptive strength, or his fantastic rugby brain.

He won 111 caps for France, a world record at the time, and scored 125 points in his 13 year International career. Sella is one of few players to have scored a try in every game of a Five Nations series.

In 1999 Philippe Sella was inducted into the Hall of Fame, and he has secured his status as the best centre of all time.


Coming soon - Top Ten Wingers 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

Top Five No. 8s of All Time

Top Five Scrum Halves of All Time

Top Ten Fly Halves of All Time


    Ireland squad to face Australia

    Australia Rugby logo
    Australia Rugby

    Ireland squad to face Australia

    RW Staff
    via Rugby World

    Australia prop James Slipper banned for taking cocaine on two occasions

    Australia Rugby logo
    Australia Rugby

    Australia prop James Slipper banned for taking cocaine on two occasions

    via Therugbypaper

    Wallabies prop James Slipper banned after positive cocaine test

    Australia Rugby logo
    Australia Rugby

    Wallabies prop James Slipper banned after positive cocaine test

    Australian Associated Press
    via the Guardian

    Chris Ashton back at Twickenham with point to prove to Eddie Jones

    England Rugby logo
    England Rugby

    Chris Ashton back at Twickenham with point to prove to Eddie Jones

    Gerard Meagher
    via the Guardian