Rugby Union’s Top 10: The best players for the All Blacks over the years

The second instalment of our Rugby Union Top 10 series, as we look at 10 of the All Blacks’ greatest performers.

Keep an eye out over the next few weeks as we look at 10 of the best players from the 10 leading rugby-playing nations in the world: England, New Zealand, Ireland, South Africa, Wales, Australia, Scotland, Australia, France and Italy.

  • Rugby Union’s Top 10: England’s best players

Next up it’s the All Blacks…

George Nepia (1924-1930)

The full-back was the star of the ‘Invincibles’ Tour of 1924/25, and also the first Maori player to make his mark in the black jersey.

In 1990, Nepia was inducted into the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame, featured on a set of postage stamps during the same year, and in 2004 was selected as number 65 on a list of New Zealand’s Top 100 History Makers.

He has been described as “New Zealand rugby’s first superstar” and was the personification of one of the greatest All Black teams. He passed away in 1986 at the age of 81.

Colin Meads (1957-1971)

The second row was the quintessential All Black forward of the 20th century.

He represented his country for some fifteen years, clocking up 133 appearances – 55 of which were Tests – stats unheard of at the time.

Meads captained the All Blacks against the Lions in 1971 and was voted New Zealand’s Player of the Century at the NZRFU Awards in 1999. He passed away in August 2017 at the age of 81.

Michael Jones (1987-1998)

The openside flanker was the star of the first Rugby World Cup in 1987, with the All Blacks clinching the title.

Jones had exceptional athletic ability and changed the role of the modern openside. Former coach John Hart, who first selected him for Auckland, labelled him “almost the perfect rugby player.”

Proved a trailblazer for Pacific Island players in the All Blacks.

John Kirwan (1984-1994)

The wing was another star of that maiden 1987 Rugby World Cup.

Big, strong, fast – he set the template for what wings could do in the years to come. Kirwan was a key performer in the All Blacks’ 23 test unbeaten run from 1987 to 1990.

His total of 199 first-class tries in his career remains a New Zealand record.

Sean Fitzpatrick (1986-1997)

Considered one of the greatest, Fitzpatrick was a mainstay of the All Blacks at hooker for a decade from 1987, leading them from 1992 as a record-breaking captain.

He led the All Blacks as captain on their stunning run to the 1995 World Cup final, only for the team to fall to the Springboks.

Was at the helm as they ventured into professionalism later that year, and then to a historic away series win over South Africa in 1996.

Ian Kirkpatrick (1967-1977)

An incredible athlete who skippered New Zealand in nine Tests from 1972-73, Kirkpatrick is attributed with evolving the role of a blindside flanker to the specialist position it is today.

A tough uncompromising flanker who could also score tries, Kirky was at one point New Zealand’s leading try scorer with 16. Most notably of his tries was his 60m effort against the Lions in 1971 – still regarded as one of the greatest solo All Blacks tries.

Jonah Lomu (1994-2002)

Rugby’s first global superstar and the most physically dominant player of his generation, there’s been no-one like the wing since.

His 15 tries across two World Cups in 1995 and 1999, and the manner in which he attained them still marvels. The late, great Lomu single-handedly changed the sport, on the field and off it.

Tragically passed away in November 2015 at the age of just 40.

Christian Cullen (1996-2002)

Arguably New Zealand’s most gifted all-round attacker of the modern era, Cullen possessed acceleration, top-end speed and a side step that fooled opponents the world over.

Immensely strong for his size too, his 46 tries from 58 caps marks him out as one of the most potent backs in the history of the sport.

Dan Carter (2003-2015)

With an unprecedented skill set, Carter was New Zealand’s most complete and influential fly-half. With 1598 points in 112 caps, Carter is the record points scorer for the All Blacks.

With an exceptional rugby brain, Carter seemed to have more time on the ball than anyone else and his decision making was impeccable.

Richie McCaw (2001-2015)

McCaw is the world’s most-capped player with 148 Test appearances – 111 matches as captain winning 131 times with two losses and just 15 losses.

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