RugbyPass Top 100: Picking the 40th to 31st best players in the world
Who is the best player in the world? It’s a question every rugby fan has an answer for, but rarely are any two answers the same.
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.
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 continues today by announcing the players ranked 40-31, with the remainder of the list to be released over the course of this week.
40. Bongi Mbonambi
Test caps: 48
Nation: South Africa
Ingrained as South Africa’s starting hooker, Bongi Mbonambi has become a vital component of the Springboks’ forward pack since his test debut in 2016. It was in 2019, though, when the nuggety rake established himself one of the world’s best as he helped steer his nation to World Cup glory, and his form and quality have kept him in the green-and-yellow No 2 jersey ever since then.
39. Ali Price
Test caps: 49
Club: Glasgow Warriors
Ali Price’s status as one of Scotland’s most important players was reflected when he was named in last year’s British and Irish Lions squad to tour South Africa. Not only was he named in the squad, he played in all three tests against the Springboks, and started in all nine of Scotland’s Six Nations and Autumn Nations Series fixtures. Undoubtedly one of the game’s premier halfbacks, Price has done well to assert himself as Greig Laidlaw’s successor in the navy blue No 9 jersey.
38. Louis Rees-Zammit
Test caps: 12
A World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year nominee in 2021, Louis Rees-Zammit stands as one of rugby’s most exciting young prospects. Still just 20 years of age, the electric wing carried the form that got him noticed on the global stage in 2020 into last year as he won British and Irish Lions selection and helped Wales clinch a Six Nations title with three tries in five tests. Just 12 matches into his international career, the sky truly is the limit for Rees-Zammit.
37. Wyn Jones
Test caps: 39
Another member of both the British and Irish Lions squad and the successful Welsh Six Nations side, Wyn Jones has earned his place in the RugbyPass Top 100 through his highly-rated scrummaging and top-end work rate in general play. The loosehead prop was subsequently recognised with selection in World Rugby’s Dream Team of the Year in 2021.
36. Jamison Gibson-Park
Test caps: 12
A journeyman halfback who made his way to Ireland in 2016 after years of hard graft in New Zealand, Jamison Gibson-Park has transformed into one of the world’s top players and has made himself an integral member of the Irish squad. Equipped with a strong kicking game, the former Maori All Blacks representative overtook veteran star Conor Murray as Ireland’s first-choice halfback by the end of last year and was crucial in his side’s famous victory over his homeland in Dublin two months ago.
35. Caelan Doris
Test caps: 12
It’s a testament to Caelan Doris’ form throughout November that he was crowned Autumn Nations Series Player of the Series by the public. That accolade came after the young loose forward starred in Ireland’s clean sweep of the Brave Blossoms, All Blacks and Los Pumas, and is an indication of what’s to come from Doris over the coming year.
34. Semi Radradra
Test caps: 11
Club: Bristol Bears
Although he didn’t turn out for Fiji in any of the nation’s five test matches in 2021, Semi Radradra remains among the most blockbusting players in the rugby world. The former NRL star’s season was blighted by injury, which prevented him from playing in the Autumn Nations Series, but he still bagged an Olympic gold medal with his nation’s sevens side. An enthralling return to the test arena is imminent in 2022.
33. Nic White
Test caps: 47
Threatened by the impressive showings of youngster Tate McDermott during the July test series against France and Bledisloe Cup series against the All Blacks, Nic White bounced back strongly to establish his credentials as Australia’s top halfback. The experienced operator’s directorship and slick running game were key aspects of the success the Wallabies enjoyed in 2021, and he was rewarded with seven consecutive starts to end the year.
32. Cheslin Kolbe
Test caps: 18
Nation: South Africa
Injury denied Cheslin Kolbe the chance to strut his stuff throughout most of the Rugby Championship and Autumn Nations Series, but his reputation as one of the game’s most potent attacking players remains firmly intact. Renowned for his world-class footwork and agility, the new Toulon recruit was responsible for scoring the decisive try that helped the Springboks secure the British and Irish Lions series, but only played one further test in 2021. Expect him to be back to his best this year.
31. Damian Penaud
Test caps: 28
Another core member of France’s youthful contingent that has helped propel Les Bleus back to the forefront of rugby supremacy, Damian Penaud had a year to remember in 2021. A skilful outside back who has been part of the French set-up since 2017, Penaud played in every test for France last year, a rare feat given the number of players rested for the July test series against the Wallabies, and ran in eight tries in 11 appearances.
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