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RugbyPass Top 100: Picking the 60th to 51st best players in the world

By RugbyPass
Robbie Henshaw and Aaron Smith (Photos by Getty Images).

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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.

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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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Lewis Ludlam
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Lewis Ludlam

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 60-51, with the remainder of the list to be released over the course of the next two weeks.

60: Steven Kitshoff

Springboks prop Steven Kitshoff. (Photo by Jono Searle/Getty Images)
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Age: 29
Test caps: 57
Nation: South Africa
Club: Stormers

Springboks prop Stephen Kitshoff is just one part of the humming pack that has rarely taken a step back over the past four years and, more often than not, well and truly dealt to their opposition, regardless of their calibre. Kitshoff has almost permanently remained a bench player for the Springboks, with 42 of his 57 appearances coming from the pine – although that’s not an indication of the strength and prowess the man possesses. At just 29 years of age, Kitshoff is only now coming into his prime as a scrummager – which should a scary thought for the opponents he’s dismantled in recent seasons.

59: Akira Ioane

Age: 26
Test caps: 13
Nation: New Zealand
Club: Blues

Despite his obvious potential from a young age, it’s taken Akira Ioane more time than many expected for the back-rower to break into the test arena – but he’s made almost every play a winner since finally earning selection in the All Blacks last year. Ioane could be the answer to New Zealand’s struggles in the blindside flanker role, with the former sevens star regularly leaving destruction in his wake. The big challenge for Ioane is to ensure that he delivers A+ performances against all opposition, with the big loose forward not struggling to assert himself against the likes of the Springboks and France in 2021.

58: Andrew Kellaway

Andrew Kellaway. (Photo by Andrew Cornaga/Photosport)

Age: 26
Test caps: 9
Nationality: Australia
Club: Rebels

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Andrew Kellaway was an unsurprising nomination for World Rugby’s Breakthrough Player of the Year award and was arguably the most deserving of the title, given both Will Jordan and Louis Rees-Zammit actually debuted in 2020. The ball seemed to follow Kellaway last year, with the prodigious winger touching down for eight tries throughout the season. Perhaps the most interesting thing about Kellaway’s elevation in the Wallabies’ ranks, however, is the path he’s followed to get there, playing in Australia, New Zealand, England and Japan before finally earning his debut off the back of a strong season with the Rebels in 2021.

57: Trevor Nyakane

Age: 32
Test caps: 52
Nation: South Africa
Club: Bulls

As the fourth Springboks prop on the list, Trevor Nyakane highlights the exceptional depth that South Africa possesses in the frontrow, especially after factoring in the likes of hookers Bongi Mbonambi and Malcolm Marx. Like his fellow Springboks, Nyakane is useful around the field but incredibly dominant at scrum time and his ability to cover both sides of the scrum at test level is a credit to the work the man has done off the field in recent years. While Nyakane started out his career as a super-sub for the Springboks, playing 35 of his first 37 matches off the pine, he took over as their first-choice tighthead prop throughout much of 2021.

 

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56: Garry Ringrose

Age: 26
Test caps:36
Nation: Ireland
Club: Leinster

Staying injury-free has seemingly been the biggest challenge for Garry Ringrose throughout his still burgeoning test career, with the Irish midfield taking to test rugby like a fish to water. 2021, like many years gone by, was not the easiest season for Ringrose, with the talented centre clocking up just three appearances in the Six Nations, and three during the Autumn Nations Series. Still, Ringrose has shown time and time again that with a run of injury-free matches, he has all the skills necessary to be a world-class midfielder – especially given his ever-growing combination with fellow Leinster representative Robbie Henshaw.

55: Robbie Henshaw

Age: 28
Test caps: 53
Nation: Ireland
Club: Leinster

Somewhat unsurprisingly, given many people’s difficulties separating Leinster and Irish teammates Garry Ringrose and Robbie Henshaw, the two occupy consecutive spots on the RugbyPass Top 100 players list for 2022. As with Ringrose, injuries haven’t always been kind to Henshaw, but he’s managed to stay on the park and earn some considerable minutes over the past few seasons, and was used as the starting outside centre by the British and Irish Lions in all three of their tests against the Springboks. Henshaw has always been earmarked for great things – ostensibly the heir-apparent to the great Brian O’Driscoll – and he’s now starting to consistently deliver on all that potential.

54: Aaron Smith

(Photo by Getty Images)

Age: 33
Test caps: 102
Nation: New Zealand
Club: Highlanders

The fact that Aaron Smith has been able to by and large maintain his exceptionally high standards since his debut back in 2012 until now is a sign of just how professional the halfback is. Many still consider Smith the greatest No 9 in the world and while he started off the year in electric form, his lack of availability in the latter half of the season certainly harmed his overall place in the pecking order for the Top 100. The All Blacks are a different team without their first-ever scrumhalf centurion running operations from the base of the ruck and with Smith set to return to the fold in 2022, that could be all that NZ needs to start ticking back into top gear.

53: Duhan van der Merwe

Age: 26
Test caps: 16
Nation: Scotland
Club: Worcester

Duhan van der Merwe is one of the new wave of Scottish players that’s helped transform the team from Six Nations also-rans to a formidable force. The South African-born winger was one of the pick of the British and Irish Lions’ players when they toured South Africa last year and his sizeable frame made him a useful weapon for the Lions under the high ball thanks to his ability to disrupt the opposition. Of course, no winger is complete without an eye for the try-line and Van der Merwe touched down five times during the 2021 Six Nations series, the most of any player in the competition.

52: Len Ikitau

Age: 23
Test caps: 11
Nation: Australia
Club: Brumbies

While Andrew Kellaway was busy scoring tries out wide for the Wallabies this season, Len Ikitau was performing equally as important a role further in-field, shutting down countless opposition attacks with some expertly timed rushes on defence. In just his first season of test rugby, Ikitau looked like a seasoned defender and after watching the 23-year-old perform for the Wallabies, it’s no surprise that Dave Rennie selected the young midfielder despite only having limited experience at Super Rugby level. Ikitau has a hugely bright future in the game, if 2021 is anything to go by, and the Brumbies centre will look to build from his test performances when Super Rugby Pacific kicks off next month.

51: Andrew Porter

Age: 25
Test caps: 39
Nation: Ireland
Club: Leinster

Andrew Porter has quickly established himself as a key cog in the Ireland engine room and the heir-apparent to Tadhg Furlong – although he’s also proven himself capable on the loosehead side of the scrum when called upon. After debuting for Ireland in 2017 and playing second-fiddle to the likes of Furlong and John Ryan, few Irish supporters would now have any concerns seeing Porter named to pack down the scrum as the starting No 3, regardless of who he’d be butting heads with at the set-piece. With 39 caps to his name already and at just 25 years of age, Porter is on track for a lengthy career with the Irish national side.

See the other rankings:

Players 91-100
Players 81-90
Players 71-80
Players 61-70

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