Yes, it’s that time of week again. This time, we’re ranking the top number 8s in world rugby. In case you missed them, here are our full-back and out-half rankings. As ever, let us know your thoughts in the comment section below or on our Facebook page.
10 Johnnie Beattie
Beattie, currently at Castres, is one of the best 8s in the Northern Hemisphere. He was solid throughout Scotland’s 6 Nations campaign. Despite the Wooden Spoon, Vern Cotter’s side impressed at times, and were unlucky to come out of the championship without a win.
If Beattie and Co. get a run of form, the Scots could raise a few eyebrows at the World Cup.
9 Juan Manuel Leguizamón
Leguizamón is approaching the end of his career, but is still a top quality 8. He is still being selected for the Pumas, and fully merited to be there, in what is a formidable back-row.
Leguizamón is a ball-carrier, a footballer, and a leader. While he may be best remembered for his performances throughout the 2007 World Cup, he can still make a difference this Autumn.
8 Louis Picamoles
The Toulouse 8 may not be in Phillipe Saint-Andre’s World Cup plans, but is nonetheless a deadly operator. He is the latest in a long list of world-class rugby players snubbed by the erratic selection process of the French set-up. Having made his international debut in 2008, he was understandably behind Imanol Harinordoquy in the pecking order for the French side, but since the former Biarritz man’s international retirement, Picamoles has been one of the best 8s in France.
If selected for the World Cup, he could do a job.
7 Jamie Heaslip
Heaslip has had his troubles with injuries, but showed form towards the end of the 6 Nations, putting in a try-saving tackle against Scotland, which ultimately won Ireland the championship.
Heaslip, unlike others on this list, is not the most powerful of runners. But this is down to his footballing nous, prioritising ball retention. On the ground and around the park, he is the epitomy of an intelligent back-row forward.
6 Taulupe Faletau
Despite not being the biggest 8 around at 6 foot 2 inches, Faletau is more than capable of breaking tackles and getting around the field, and is a vital link in Warren Gatland’s chain.
At just 24, he has already been capped for the Lions, and has 6 Nations honours. If he can take another step up, Wales may surprise a few people at the World Cup this Autumn.
5 Samu Manoa
If Manoa were from a top rugby nation, he would be held in much higher esteem. Twice Northampton Saints Player of the Year, and nominated for the Aviva Premiership Player of the Year, he has done it all in England. He is now moving to Toulon, where he will compete with Duane Vermeulen for a starting berth.
Manoa is one of the great USA rugby players, and hopefully we will see more in the future.
4 Billy Vunipola
Vunipola is simply a beast. Although he may not be the most technically gifted footballer, he can run hard and fast. He has three tries in his 17 English caps to date, and both of those numbers are going to sky-rocket in the coming months.
This England side are strong and physical. They will be looking to bully Wales and especially Australia up front and at the breakdown this Autumn. Having a number 8 like Billy Vunipola is only going to help that cause.
3 Duane Vermeulen
Duane Vermuelen was nominated for IRB World Player of the Year in 2014. He was phenomenal all season. Most credit Handré Pollard for the Springboks’ surprise win over New Zealand in last year’s Rugby Championship, but credit should also be given to the number 8. Simply, it was one of greatest ever displays by an 8.
Vermuelen is Toulon-bound after the World Cup, and his stock looks set to rise further this season.
2 Sergio Parisse
The Italian would have walked on to any side in the world at any stage during his career. At times he cut a forlorn figure for Italy, but never lost heart. Parisse won the Top 14 with Stade Francais this term, and nobody in rugby would begrudge him.
Parisse is one of the best number 8s of all time, and a gentleman to boot.
1 Kieran Read
The 2013 IRB Player of the Year tops the list. Since bursting onto the international scene in 2008, Read has been a revelation, and continues to be regarded as the best 8 in world rugby. The 29 year-old has been a constant for the All-Blacks in recent seasons.
At 6 foot 4 inches, the Crusaders man can also move around the park at ferocious speeds. A complete 8.
Brian Barry, Pundit Arena.