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Best ever rugby union wingers

By Jack Tunney
England winger Joe Cokanasiga

Rugby can be a complicated game, with so many rules and so many different roles.

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But when it comes down to it, the object of the game is to catch the ball and run forwards, preferably fast and hard.

The most electrifying players in this part of the game tend to be the wingers, designed to be the fastest, the most agile, and nowadays some of the most powerful, so as a result can be mesmerising.

Let’s have a look at the ten greatest to have ever worn the 11 and 14 jerseys.

10) Doug Howlett

FRANCE – SEPTEMBER 08: Marseille New Zealand Routs Italy 76-14 at Rugby World Cup in Stade Velodrome in Marseille, France on September 08, 2007 – Doug Howlett. (Photo by Xavier ROSSI/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

Doug Howlett was a prolific try scorer, capped 63 times by New Zealand during his long and illustrious career. At the domestic level, he also represented the Blues, Munster, and a host of other elite sides.

A super-fast winger, Howlett could run the 100m in 10.94 seconds, which meant in clear space he was almost impossible to catch up with.

During his time in the black of New Zealand, he scored 49 tries which to date remains a record for the All Blacks.

9) Rupeni Caucaunibuca

Ryan Lamb
Rupeni Caucau of Fiji. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
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One of the most flamboyant and exciting players to have ever played the game, Rupeni Caucaunibuca was often described as being one of the world’s greatest-ever wingers.

It was in 2003 that the flying Fijian came to light, with his incredible individual tries in that year’s world cup. Almost impossible to stop one on one, he also had a devastating wing partnership with Joe Rokocoko for the Blues that year.

Following on from his early career exploits, Caucaunibuca moved to France and went on to win France’s Player of the Year award in 2006, as well as multiple top try scorer awards.

Unfortunately due to his lack of discipline and other issues, Caucaunibuca never quite hit his astronomical potential. This led many fans and pundits to ponder the question, what if?

8) Jeff Wilson

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Jeff Wilson is a former winger and fullback who was a ‘double All Black’. As well as receiving 60 caps for the New Zealand rugby union side, he also represented his country in cricket.

Wilson’s talent for the game was obvious as soon as he burst onto the scene with Southland, making his debut for the All Blacks only a year later. Between 1993 and 2001, he made 60 appearances for the side and scored 44 tries. At the time of his retirement, this was a record for the All Blacks.

7) Joe Rokocoko

Joe Rokocoko
Joe Rokocoko at the 2003 Rugby World Cup. (Photo by Manuel Blondeau via Getty Images)

Thought to be the natural successor to the great Jonah Lomu, Joe Rokocoko had an incredible career lasting sixteen years. Although his All Blacks career lasted just seven, he achieved a strike rate that only the very best could match.

A different style of winger to Lomu, Rokocoko relied on pure pace and a side-stepping ability that would leave defenders stuck in the mud. Noted in particular for his spinning side-step that would leave all disorientated, bar him.

Following his career in New Zealand, Rokocoko moved to France where he turned out for Bayonne and later Racing 92 with whom he won the Top 14 championship.

6) Jason Robinson

Robinson Sale
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Billy Whizz as he was affectionately known during his playing days, was one of the greatest back-three players England has ever seen. His incredible sidestepping abilities and acceleration off the mark saw the Sale and England player strike fear into any defence that dared give him space.

Jason Robinson was one of the leading players in England’s 2003 world cup victory and appeared on two British and Irish Lions tours.

Despite officially retiring from international rugby in 2005, Robinson returned in 2007 to help bring back some leadership and winning qualities into the squad at the time. With this Robinson continued on that year to help the national side reach another world cup final.

Even to this day, the former player is seen as the benchmark for all future England back-three players to achieve.

5) Shane Williams

Shane Williams
Am grew up revering players like Shane Williams who had a natural flair (PHOTO/GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/Getty Images)

After a slow start to his international career, Shane Williams went on to become one of Wales’s greatest-ever players.

Known for his slender size, this little speedster had the agility of very few others that had played the game before or after him. Able to plant either foot down to change directions in milliseconds, defending players needed an extra arm or three if they were to get any sort of hold on him.

Williams spent the majority of his career in Wales, before moving into semi-retirement over in Japan with Mitsubishi Dynaboars. By this time, Williams had multiple caps for the British and Irish Lions, as well as holding the Welsh try-scoring record with 58.

4) David Campese

David Campese is a Wallabies rugby legend and Rugby World Cup winner in 1991. (Photos by Getty Images)

Over a century of caps for Australia, David Campese was an electric back-three player known for his trademark goose-step. There were very few players in the history of the game that could bring a crowd to their feet like Campese.

As well as representing many of Australia’s top sides, David Campese also spent nine seasons in Italy where he won the Italian title on five occasions.

He appeared in three world cups, winning it in 1991, and in doing so was named the Player of the Tournament.

3) Julian Savea

Photo By Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Nicknamed ‘The Bus’ due to his storming direct running, Julian Savea clocked an incredible strike rate of a try almost every game in his All Blacks career.

A former nominee for the World Player of the Year Award, Savea has been a dominant force in Super Rugby for the Hurricanes since 2011. Despite the incredible world-beating form he was in at the start of his career, Savea started to lose form in 2016.

Following his deterioration of form, he made the move to France to restart his career with Toulon. Being away from home and lacking form made the French experience a torrid one for the former All Black legend.

Since returning to Wellington with the Hurricanes, Savea has started to show glimpses of his former magic. This time he has returned to New Zealand as a centre with albeit less speed but a much more rounded game.

2) Bryan Habana

Bryan Habana of South Africa. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)

The man raced a Cheetah. He was quick. Bryan Habana could sprint 40 metres in just 4.58 seconds, making him one of the fastest to have ever played the game.

During the 2007 world cup, he scored a record-equalling eight tries in total as part of the winning South African side. Just four years later Habana went on to score seven tries over in New Zealand, putting him joint top of the all-time world cup try-scoring charts, level with the late great Jonah Lomu.

His club career saw him playing for some of South Africa’s top sides, before moving over to France to play for the Galactico’s of rugby, Toulon.

1) Jonah Lomu

Lomu house for sale
(Photo by Dave Rogers/Allsport)

Jonah Lomu is a giant of rugby. Although he sadly passed away unexpectedly in 2015, he remains one of the most famous rugby players to have ever played the game.

Over his illustrious career, Lomu played for a number of Super Rugby clubs including the Blues, Chiefs, and Hurricanes as well as teams in Wales and France. However, he’s best known for his electrifying performances in an All Blacks shirt.

At 1.96m and 120kg, Lomu was a new-generation of winger. Bigger than most second rows, and faster than most wingers. This fascinating player was able to literally run over the opposition, and speed away from any that dared chase him.

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