As we enter 2019, we look back at the people who we believe have made the biggest impact on the game globally over the past year. These players, coaches and administrators have all contributed to the growth of the game, and their influence will shape the future of the sport for many years to come.


Siya Kolisi

Earlier this year, Kolisi was named the first black captain of the Springboks, before proceeding to lead South Africa to a memorable series victory over England and the Boks’ first win over the All Blacks on New Zealand soil since 2009. The evolution of the rainbow nation has walked hand-in-hand with rugby and Kolisi’s achievements have been the latest in a lengthy list of examples of rugby helping the nation come together and heal old wounds. As well as being an icon of South African rugby, he is also an active role model to the children and aspiring Springboks in the townships of South Africa.

Joe Schmidt

The World Rugby Coach of the Year, Schmidt has had a fantastic 2018, first helping Ireland surpass England as the top northern hemisphere nation, before downing the All Blacks in Dublin and undermining all assertions that New Zealand are the undisputed number one side in world rugby. The Ireland coach is set to hand the reins over to Andy Farrell after next year’s Rugby World Cup but does so safe in the knowledge he has helped take Ireland from a nation punching above their weight to genuine world beaters.

Mark McCafferty

The CEO of Premiership Rugby, McCafferty is the man behind much of the competition’s recent success and few deals have the potential to impact the sport as much as the CVC Investment deal. CVC’s 27% stake in The Gallagher Premiership for £200m is changing the investment landscape for the game. For the first time, big, private institutional money is involved at a competition ownership level – and judging by how many other bids Mr McCafferty managed to attract – this is unlikely to be the last. Rugby has always been severely under monetised relative to the size and affluence of its customer base. The CVC deal represents the most significant way Rugby can change these fortunes. McCafferty may well have paved the way for Rugby to take its position as a financially profitable and sustainable sport in the future.


Portia Woodman

A Rugby World Cup-winner, Woodman has added gold medals in the Commonwealth Games and Rugby World Cup Sevens this year, with the wing lighting up the tournaments on the Gold Coast and in San Francisco respectively. She has established herself as one of, if not the most dominant player in the women’s game and was at the spearhead of a New Zealand side that became the first in the country’s history to be offered professional contracts.

Andrew Forrest

Distressed at his beloved Western Force being removed from Super Rugby competition this past year, Forrest has set about creating a new tournament in the Asia-Pacific region. After a year of exhibition matches for the Force, the Perth-based team are set to headline Forrest’s Global Rapid Rugby competition in 2019, which will feature sides from the Pacific Islands, Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan, as well as tweaking current laws to make for a faster paced and more marketable product.


Jurie Roux

Being CEO of the South African Rugby Union can be an unthankful job, but Roux has managed to balance well the unique demands of the role. He has brought in Rassie Erasmus and overseen an upturn in the Springboks’ fortunes, made further progress with player quotas in a bid to bring about transformation in South Africa rugby, and continues to grow opportunities for South African club sides, with involvement in both Super Rugby and the Guinness PRO14.

Dan Carter

Having won almost everything in the game, Carter turned his sights towards Japan after his Racing 92 contract expired in the summer. He joined up with the Kobelco Steelers on a two-year contract and in his first season with the club, helped guide them to the Top League title, as they beat Suntory Sungoliath, 55-5, in the final. He was also named Top League MVP and won the award for best kicker in the competition. His successful season has helped drive huge interest in the game ahead of the Rugby World Cup in Japan later this year.

Agustín Pichot

Having already successfully campaigned for the eligibility rule in international rugby to be extended from three years to five years, Pichot continued his influential work as Vice Chairman of World Rugby in 2018, pushing forward the idea of a ‘league of nations’. The competition, which will change the way the June and November test windows are conducted, is designed to make the international game more appealing and competitive.

Raelene Castle

In January of this year, Castle was appointed CEO of Rugby Australia, becoming the first woman to be in charge of one of Australia’s major football codes. She has laid out ambitious plans to help the Wallabies return to the top of the international game and drive more interest in the game at grassroots level. She recently oversaw the appointment of Scott Johnson as director of rugby until 2021, and has thrown her support fully behind embattled head coach Michael Cheika.

You may also enjoy

Video Spacer

Mailing List

Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.

Sign Up Now