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RugbyPass Top 100: Picking the 100th to 91st best players in the world

By RugbyPass
(Photos / Getty Images)

Who is the best player in the world? It’s a question every rugby fan has an answer to, but rarely are any two answers the same.

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That’s why RugbyPass has undertaken a comprehensive deep dive into the last 12 months of test rugby to formulate an answer of our own.

In doing so, five members from our editorial team – split between the northern and southern hemispheres – compiled their own lists of the top 100 players on the planet.

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From there, the cumulative lists were averaged out to create the RugbyPass Top 100, an overall list of the 100 best players on the planet based primarily on test rugby performances in 2021.

Other factors that, to a lesser extent, contributed to how players were ranked included test rugby performances from previous years, the influence of a player within their team, and how players fared at club and domestic level.

However, in essence, the RugbyPass Top 100 is a celebration of the stars who shone the brightest on rugby’s biggest stage last year.

That celebration begins today by announcing the players ranked 100-91, with the remainder of the list to be released over the course of the next two weeks.

100. Anton Lienert-Brown

Age: 26
Test caps: 56
Nation: New Zealand
Club: Chiefs

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(Photo by Niall Carson/PA Images via Getty Images)

Now a long-serving All Black with more than half a century of caps to his name, Anton Lienert-Brown stands as New Zealand’s most senior midfielder since the departures of Sonny Bill Williams and Ryan Crotty following the 2019 World Cup. Fleet-footed on attack and solid on defence, the 26-year-old didn’t enjoy a vintage test campaign in 2021 as injuries kept him sidelined for various spells, but his stature is large enough for him to sneak into the RugbyPass Top 100.

99. Ox Nche

Age: 26
Test caps: 9
Nation: South Africa
Club: Sharks

RUGBYU-NZL-RSA
(Photo by Patrick Hamilton/AFP via Getty Images)

Ox Nche came on in leaps and bounds for South Africa in 2021, three years after his sole test outing, to become his country’s starting option at loosehead prop. That wasn’t the case for much of the year, but after starting in South Africa’s shock Rugby Championship win over the All Blacks, the 26-year-old held his place in the Springboks No 1 jersey for the Autumn Nations Series. A robust ball carrier and strong scrummager, expect to see more from Nche for the Springboks in 2022.

98. Cameron Woki

Age: 23
Test caps: 11
Nation: France
Club: Bordeaux

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(Photo by John Berry/Getty Images)

Among numerous youthful talents to emerge from France’s recent test rugby renaissance, Cameron Woki produced a string of compelling performances for Les Bleus in 2021 to ingrain himself as a starter for Fabien Galthie’s team. Can cover lock and the back row, was a standout for a second-string France outfit that pushed the Wallabies to the limit last July and replicated his efforts in November to star in his side’s victory over the All Blacks.

97. Josh van der Flier

Age: 28
Test caps: 35
Nation: Ireland
Club: Leinster

(Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

A hard-working flanker, Josh van der Flier was unfortunate to miss out on British and Irish Lions selection for their tour of South Africa after playing superbly for Ireland and Leinster at the backend of the 2020-21 European season. However, he rebounded strongly by playing a prominent role in his side’s Autumn Nations Series victories against the Brave Blossoms, All Blacks and Los Pumas.

96. Lood de Jager

Age: 29
Test caps: 56
Nation: South Africa
Club: Sale Sharks

(Photo by Richard Huggard/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

A member of South Africa’s elite cohort of second rowers, Lood de Jager forces his way into the RugbyPass Top 100 on the back of a 2021 campaign where he played in almost every test for the Springboks. Working in tandem with fellow second rowers Eben Etzebeth and Franco Mostert, De Jager’s presence makes the reigning world champions that bit more formidable each time they take to the field.

95. Ellis Jenkins

Age: 28
Test caps: 14
Nation: Wales
Club: Cardiff Blues

Wales player ratings
(Photo by David Davies/Getty Images)

Three years after his last test appearance as a result of a knee injury, Ellis Jenkins returned to the Welsh national set-up for their Autumn Nations Series matches. The 28-year-old flanker did so with aplomb as he started in three tests against the Springboks, Fiji and Wallabies as the Six Nations champions ended their year with back-to-back victories over the latter two sides.

94. Sam Simmonds

Age: 27
Test caps: 10
Nation: England
Club: Exeter Chiefs

Simmonds Lions Exeter
(Photo by Getty Images)

Despite having been left out of the England squad since 2018, Sam Simmonds was picked to travel with the British and Irish Lions to South Africa on the back of his stunning form at club level. The loose forward even managed a test appearance off the bench in the decisive third test, and was then recalled by Eddie Jones to face the Wallabies and Springboks during the Autumn Nations Series.

93. Uini Atonio

Age: 31
Test caps: 39
Nation: France
Club: La Rochelle

(Photo by John Berry/Getty Images)

A veteran of French rugby, Uini Atonio stands as an experienced leader in a youthful and exciting Les Bleus side building towards the peak of its powers. As such, the enormous New Zealand-born tighthead prop is a vital figure in the French squad from an off-field perspective, but at 1.96m and 152kg, Atonio also offers France with immense physicality on the park.

92. Ken Owens

Age: 35
Test caps: 87
Nation: Wales
Club: Scarlets

Ken Owens Lions
Photo / PA

A back problem saw Ken Owens fail to take to the field for Wales in the Autumn Nations Series, but the veteran hooker still managed an admirable 2021 season where he won a Six Nations title and played three tests for the British and Irish Lions.

91. James Ryan

Age: 25
Test caps: 40
Nation: Ireland
Club: Leinster

(Photo By David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Another crucial member of Ireland’s high-flying forward pack, James Ryan was considered by many as unlucky to miss the British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa. The 25-year-old lock’s exclusion didn’t deter him from bouncing back with array of strong performances for Ireland, though, as he started in each of his side’s comprehensive wins over Japan, New Zealand and Argentina.

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