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The top ten rugby families of all time

By Philip Bendon
The Farrells

As they saying goes “It runs in the family” unfortunately most of us mere mortals this is not the case! In the case of these special individuals rugby is in the genes and really is the family business.

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Whether it is making a bone crunching hit or simply being a magician with ball in hand, these families have it all.

So let’s dive right into it and take a look at the top 10 Rugby families of all time.

10. The Wallaces

The Wallace brothers are three brothers from Cork Ireland who all represented Ireland and The British & Irish Lions. Richard who is the eldest was a winger, Paul the middle was a prop and David the youngest was a backrow forward. Richard is the current all-time highest try scorer for an Irish 7’s player at the Rugby World Cup 7’s with ten tries. Paul was a starting prop for the Lions in their famous victory over the World Champion Springboks in the 1997 tour of South Africa. David is regarded as one of Ireland’s greatest ever backrow forwards and also won two Heineken Champions Cups with Munster as well as the Six Nations Grand Slam in 2009.

9. The Ntamacks

Brothers Emile and Francis Ntamack represented Toulouse and France in late 90s into the early 2000s. Emile is regarded as one of the finest attacking players that France has ever produced which is saying something considering their storied history. Playing primarily in the centres he could also play in the back three positions with equal comfort. As captain of Toulouse, he became the first man to lift the Heineken Cup as the French giants won the inaugural tournament in 1996. International he was a member of France’s Six Nations Grand Slam winning side of 1997 and played in both the 1995 and 1999 Rugby World Cups. As a coach Emile led France to the U21 World Cup in 2006 as they became the first northern hemisphere team to win the tournament. Francis was a one-time capped French number eight earning his lone cap against South Africa in 2001. Whilst his international career was short lived, his club career was a long and storied one. Starting at Toulouse in 1991 and finishing Blagnac in 2010. Most recently he has been in the role of head coach for the Madagascar national team. Romain who is the son of Emile is the current first choice flyhalf for both Toulouse and the French national team. In partnership with Antoine Dupont, they form one of the best attacking halfback partnerships in the game. Romain is known as a dangerous runner of the ball but also possess a strong tactical kicking game. His career resume to date his highly impressive and includes Six Nations Grand Slams at both U20 and senior level as well as an U20 World Championships title. At club level he has won both the Heineken Champions Cup and Top14 titles for Toulouse. With France hosting the 2023 Rugby World Cup, Ntamack looks set to play a crucial role as the hosts look to win the global tournament for the first time in their history.

8. The Bergamascos

Italy’s most famous Rugby family the Bergamascos are known for their feisty, passionate and confrontational style of play. Arturo, who is the father, was backrow for Italy in the 1970s making four appearances for the Azzuri. At club level he won two Italian championships, firstly with Rovigo and later with Petrarca. His sons Mauro and Mirco were stalwarts for their national side throughout the 2000s. Older brother Mauro who earned 106 caps for Italy was a sensational backrow who when partnered with Sergio Parisse and Alessandro Zanni gave Italy one of the best backrows in World Rugby. Mirco was just short of 100 Italian caps as he ended his career with 96 appearances for his country. Initially being viewed as back three player, Mirco shifted to the inside position for the 2006 Six Nations a tournament which he would be one of the best players. In 2011 he was instrumental in one of Italy’s most famous victories as he kicked eight penalties to give the Azzuri a first ever Six Nations victory over France. He is also a dual code international having represented the Italian Rugby League team in five test matches in the 2016/17 season as they pushed for World Cup qualification.

7. The Giteaus

Matt and Kristy Giteau are both former Australian professional Rugby players. Matt is a Wallabies centurion having represented them 103 times. His impact on Australian Rugby was so great that it forced Rugby Australia to change its rules with regards to picking players who were not based in Australia. The Giteau rule as it became known allowed the Wallabies coach to pick overseas based players with over 60 caps. The rule certainly paid dividends as the Wallabies reached the 2015 World Cup final where they came up just short against an All-Blacks squad filled with future Hall of Fame players. Kristy was a winger for the Australian national team the Wallaroos. She was a member of the 2010 team that finished 3rd place at the 2010 World Cup. As her career wound down, Kristy found great success as part of the highly successful Australian touch rugby team.

6. The Hastings

Brothers Gavin and Scott were stalwarts of a successful Scotland team throughout the 90s. Both brothers represented the British and Irish Lions and were part of the Scotland team that came within a penalty kick of the 1991 World Cup Final. The brothers were renowned for their attacking flair and educated kicking games. Until 2008 Gavin held the Scottish points record with 667 International points, a figure which was surpassed by Chris Paterson. Gavin’s son Adam is a current Scotland international flyhalf who plays his club rugby for English Premiership side Gloucester.

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5. The Vunipolas

Fe?ao, Elisi and Manu are all former Tongan international rugby players who have all played at Rugby World Cups. Manu the eldest was a scrumhalf in his playing days and has since gone on to coach the Tongan sevens team. Currently he is the Tongan Minister of Sport. Fe?ao was a hooker and played at both the 1995 and 1999 World Cups. In 1998 he signed for Welsh side Pontypridd where his family settled. Elisi who is the youngest of the brothers was a flyhalf for Tonga at both the 1995 and 1999 World Cups. Elisi also played for ACT Brumbies in Super Rugby before joining the Bay of Plenty in the New Zealand competition. Fe?ao’s sons Mako and Billy are star players for both their club Saracens and international side England. Billy who is renowned as one of the most physical number eights in World Rugby has played for England 64 times at the time of writing and was selected to tour with the 2017 British & Irish Lions. Unfortunately, he had to withdraw from the squad due to injury. Older brother Mako is a dynamic loosehead prop who is sitting on 70 England caps and has played for Lions on 9 occasions on their successful tours of Australia in 2013 and New Zealand in 2017. As key members of Saracens the brothers have won both the English Premiership and Heineken Champions Cup. Elise’s son Manu plays alongside his cousins a Saracens, following in his father’s footsteps he is a flyhalf. Whilst has not made a senior debut for the England national side he has represented them at both U18 and U20 levels.

4. The Whitelocks

Headlined by senior All Black Sam, the four Whitelock brothers have each enjoyed successful professional careers. Sam, who is currently the second most, capped All Black of all time, remains an integral cog in the international game. Sitting 14 caps shy of the legendary Richie McCaw on 134, Sam looks set to take the record by the time he retires. Eldest brother George is a one time All Black backrow who had a stellar career for both Canterbury and the Crusaders. The only backline player in the family, Adam was an All-Blacks sevens player and like his brothers had a long career with the Crusaders before heading joining Japanese side Panasonic Wild Knights. Luke who is the youngest of the four has made 8 appearances for the All Blacks and has played for both the Crusaders and Highlanders in Super Rugby. Luke has most recently played for French Top14 side Pau.

3. The Barretts

The Barrett’s are one of New Zealand’s most famous rugby families. Father Kevin represented Taranaki in the late 90s whilst all four sons have gone on to play professionally in New Zealand. Eldest brother Kane is now retired but followed in his father’s footsteps representing Taranaki and later the Auckland Blues. The three current players Beauden, Scott and Jordie are regulars in the All-Blacks squad at the time of writing. Beauden is a two-time World Player of The Year who plays flyhalf and Fullback for the Blues. Scott is a secondrow-cum-backrow who represents the Crusaders and Jordie is a utility back who regurly plays fullback and centre for the Hurricanes. All three players are renowned for their great ball skills and attacking flair. Both Beauden and Jordie are goal kickers with Jordie being the current first choice kicker for the All Blacks. The young fullback has a large kicking range and has been known to take shots at goal from over 60 meters out. Beauden is known to be one of the of the fastest players in the professional game which is a unique trait for a number ten.

2. The Farrells

Andy Farrell was regarded as one of the greatest ever Rugby League players before switching codes to represent Saracens and England in Union. Since then, he has gone on to become one of the preeminent coaches in World Rugby. Starting his coaching career as an assistant at Saracens, Farrell was quickly snapped up as defence coach for England. Whilst working with England, Farrell was called up to tour with the British & Irish Lions for their 2013 tour of Australia. In the wake of the Lions 2 – 1 series win, Andy was regarded as one of the world’s top defence coaches. After England crashed out of the 2015 World Cup, he was let go along with the rest of the coaching staff. England’s loss would be Ireland’s gain as he was snapped up by the Irish Rugby Football Union as the side’s new defence coach under Joe Schmidt. In this role, Ireland rose to number one in the world. During this time Farrell was once again selected to be an assistant coach with the Lions this time for their tour of New Zealand. The Lions enjoyed a successful drawn series with Farrell getting many of the plaudits as one of the key architects for the success. In 2019 following Ireland’s very disappointing World Cup quarterfinal exit, Farrell took over as head coach. At the time of writing, he has returned Ireland to the number one spot on the world ranking and has just overseen a first ever Irish win in New Zealand as they beat the All Blacks 2 – 1 in a three-test series. Andy’s eldest son Owen is a senior figure and former captain of the English national side. A multiple European, Premiership and Six Nations champion, Farrell is regarded as one of England’s greatest ever players. Owen is set to become a centurion for England in their upcoming November series as he currently sits on 97 England caps.

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1.  The Tuilagis

Rugby’s first family has had six brothers go on to play professional rugby. Five brothers Alesana, Anitelea, Freddie, Henry, Sanele Vavae have represented Samoa. Whilst the youngest brother Manu has gone on to represent England and the British & Irish Lions. The brothers are synonymous with the English Premiership side Leicester Tigers having all represented the club at some stage. Known for their trademark physicality, videos such as the one below highlights just how dominant the Tuilagi’s have been in the game for the past twenty years.

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