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RugbyPass Top 100: Picking the 90th to 81st best players in the world

By RugbyPass
(Photos: Getty Images / Photosport)

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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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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 90-81, with the remainder of the list to be released over the course of the next two weeks.

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90. Frans Steyn

Age: 34
Test caps: 74
Nation: South Africa
Club: Cheetahs

Springboks Frans Steyn
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

The fact he made his Springboks debut in 2006 and has still managed to force his way into the RugbyPass Top 100 in 2022 is a testament to Francois Steyn’s class and longevity. Although he rarely started a test this year, the veteran utility back made himself a key member of South Africa’s match day squads by coming off the bench to help close out matches. An outstanding kicker of the ball, both out of hand and from the tee, and an imposing physical unit, Steyn remains a strong contender to help the Springboks defend their world champion status at next year’s World Cup.

89. Liam Williams

Age: 30
Test caps: 79
Nation: Wales
Club: Scarlets

Wales player ratings Liam Williams
Liam Williams /Getty
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He’s been one of his country’s most exciting players for a long time, but now Liam Williams is also one of the most senior and experienced figures in Wales. An elusive outside back whose running and kicking game makes him a potent backline threat, Williams enjoyed a memorable 2021 test campaign where he won a Six Nations title and embarked on his second tour with the British and Irish Lions.

88. Kwagga Smith

Age: 28
Test caps: 19
Nation: South Africa
Club: Shizuoka Blue Revs

(Photo by GEOFF CADDICK/AFP via Getty Images)

After making his name as a powerhouse figure on the World Sevens Series circuit, Kwagga Smith carried his form and reputation into test rugby four years ago and has become a mainstay of the Springboks squad. The burly loose forward carries the ball as hard as he tackles and is world-class at the breakdown, but seemingly never tires throughout the course of a test match. Those attributes made him a vital member of South Africa’s 2019 World Cup success, and they proved to be important again in 2021.

87. Tate McDermott

Age: 23
Test caps: 15
Nation: Australia
Club: Reds

McDermott de Klerk Wallabies
(Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images for Rugby Australia)

He’s long been earmarked as a future star of the Australian game, and the global rugby fraternity finally got to see glimpses of what Tate McDermott is capable of with ball in hand for the Wallabies in 2021. An outstanding runner of the ball, the young halfback was sensational at times for Australia last year and was the best player for his country in their ill-fated Bledisloe Cup series against the All Blacks. He was then used as a back-up option to the more experienced Nic White for the rest of the year, but it wouldn’t surprise to see McDermott push for starting honours throughout 2022.

86. Jasper Wiese

Age: 26
Test caps: 11
Nation: South Africa
Club: Leicester Tigers

(Photo by MICHAEL SHEEHAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Breaking into the Springboks set-up on the back of some stellar displays for the Leicester Tigers in the English Premiership, Jasper Wiese was rewarded with a test debut for South Africa against Georgia last July. From there, the energetic loose forward became a prominent member of his nation’s playing sides, featuring in a total of 11 of South Africa’s 13 tests in 2021. There is little doubt that Wiese will add more tests to his name this coming year.

85. Richie Mo’unga

Age: 27
Test caps: 32
Nation: New Zealand
Club: Crusaders

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Tipped by many to start ahead of Beauden Barrett following another exceptional Super Rugby campaign with the Crusaders, Richie Mo’unga was initially favoured by All Blacks boss Ian Foster as New Zealand’s first-choice No 10. That enabled the mercurial pivot to shine against Tonga, Fiji and the Wallabies early in the season, but his decision to skip most of the Rugby Championship cost him his starting place upon return to the All Blacks. Nevertheless, Mo’unga’s footwork, vision and playmaking guile will keep him well in contention to contest starting honours with Barrett this year.

84. Pieter-Steph du Toit

Age: 29
Test caps: 58
Nation: South Africa
Club: Toyota Verblitz

(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Crowned World Rugby Player of the Year in 2019 in the wake of South Africa’s World Cup success, Pieter-Steph du Toit was robbed of the chance to capitalise on newfound stardom in 2020 as the Springboks skipped the entire test season. Instead, it seemed 2021 would be the year for the back rower to flex his muscles as the world’s best player, but injury prevented that as he only featured in three tests against Georgia and the British and Irish Lions. His talents can’t be ignored, though, so Du Toit forces his way into the RugbyPass Top 100 on the basis of his top-class reputation.

83. Hugo Keenan

Age: 25
Test caps: 16
Nation: Ireland
Club: Leinster

(Photo By Harry Murphy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Being one of Ireland’s lesser-experienced players hasn’t deterred Hugo Keenan from making his country’s No 15 jersey his own since his test debut back in October 2020. In the ensuing year-and-a-bit, the Leinster fullback has established himself as the successor to the recently-retired Irish great Rob Kearney, featuring regularly in the test arena and starring in Ireland’s recent Autumn Nations Series where they convincingly swept the Brave Blossoms, All Blacks and Los Pumas.

82. Iain Henderson

Age: 29
Test caps: 65
Nation: Ireland
Club: Ulster

(Photo / PA Images)

A key cog in the Irish juggernaut that stunned Japan, New Zealand and Argentina two months ago, Iain Henderson furthered his credentials as one of Ireland’s best in 2021. In addition to his second selection for the British and Irish Lions, the experienced lock played in all of his side’s Six Nations tests and started in the two Autumn Nations Series victories over the Brave Blossoms and All Blacks. Will be key for Ireland at next year’s World Cup.

81. Ellis Genge

Age: 26
Test caps: 31
Nation: England
Club: Leicester Tigers

(Photo by Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images)

Renowned for his aggressive style of play on either side of the ball, Ellis Genge continued his development at test level in 2021 by featuring regularly throughout the year for England. After featuring primarily off the bench in all of his side’s Six Nations matches, the loosehead prop flourished in the absence of those picked for the British and Irish Lions as he started in both of England’s July tests. A sole outing against Tonga was all he got in November, but expect to see more of Genge in 2022.

RugbyPass Top 100

1. TBC (14/1/2022)
2. TBC (14/1/2022)
3. TBC (14/1/2022)
4. TBC (14/1/2022)
5. TBC (14/1/2022)
6. TBC (14/1/2022)
7. TBC (14/1/2022)
8. TBC (14/1/2022)
9. TBC (14/1/2022)
10. TBC (14/1/2022)
11. TBC (13/1/2022)
12. TBC (13/1/2022)
13. TBC (13/1/2022)
14. TBC (13/1/2022)
15. TBC (13/1/2022)
16. TBC (13/1/2022)
17. TBC (13/1/2022)
18. TBC (13/1/2022)
19. TBC (13/1/2022)
20. TBC (13/1/2022)
21. TBC (12/1/2022)
22. TBC (12/1/2022)
23. TBC (12/1/2022)
24. TBC (12/1/2022)
25. TBC (12/1/2022)
26. TBC (12/1/2022)
27. TBC (12/1/2022)
28. TBC (12/1/2022)
29. TBC (12/1/2022)
30. TBC (12/1/2022)
31. TBC (11/1/2022)
32. TBC (11/1/2022)
33. TBC (11/1/2022)
34. TBC (11/1/2022)
35. TBC (11/1/2022)
36. TBC (11/1/2022)
37. TBC (11/1/2022)
38. TBC (11/1/2022)
39. TBC (11/1/2022)
40. TBC (11/1/2022)
41. TBC (10/1/2022)
42. TBC (10/1/2022)
43. TBC (10/1/2022)
44. TBC (10/1/2022)
45. TBC (10/1/2022)
46. TBC (10/1/2022)
47. TBC (10/1/2022)
48. TBC (10/1/2022)
49. TBC (10/1/2022)
50. TBC (7/1/2022)
51. TBC (7/1/2022)
52. TBC (7/1/2022)
53. TBC (7/1/2022)
54. TBC (7/1/2022)
55. TBC (7/1/2022)
56. TBC (7/1/2022)
57. TBC (7/1/2022)
58. TBC (7/1/2022)
59. TBC (7/1/2022)
60. TBC (6/1/2022)
61. TBC (6/1/2022)
62. TBC (6/1/2022)
63. TBC (6/1/2022)
64. TBC (6/1/2022)
65. TBC (6/1/2022)
66. TBC (6/1/2022)
67. TBC (6/1/2022)
68. TBC (6/1/2022)
69. TBC (6/1/2022)
70. TBC (5/1/2022)
71. TBC (5/1/2022)
72. TBC (5/1/2022)
73. TBC (5/1/2022)
74. TBC (5/1/2022)
75. TBC (5/1/2022)
76. TBC (5/1/2022)
77. TBC (5/1/2022)
78. TBC (5/1/2022)
79. TBC (5/1/2022)
80. TBC (5/1/2022)
81. Ellis Genge (England)
82. Iain Henderson (Ireland)
83. Hugo Keenan (Ireland)
84. Pieter-Steph du Toit (South Africa)
85. Richie Mo’unga (New Zealand)
86. Jasper Wiese (South Africa)
87. Tate McDermott (Australia)
88. Kwagga Smith (South Africa)
89. Liam Williams (Wales)
90. Frans Steyn (South Africa)
91. James Ryan (Ireland)
92. Ken Owens (Wales)
93. Uini Atonio (France)
94. Sam Simmonds (England)
95. Ellis Jenkins (Wales)
96. Lood de Jager (South Africa)
97. Josh van der Flier (Ireland)
98. Cameron Woki (France)
99. Ox Nche (South Africa)
100. Anton Lienert-Brown (New Zealand)

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