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Road Runners: The Five Greatest Rugby Sidesteppers Of All Time

While the power players like Jonah Lomu, Julian Savea and George North are rightfully revered for their ability to clear bodies from their windscreens, the twinkle-toed quicksteppers that slice through gaps leaving defenders sprawled in yoga poses can be just as thrilling.

Here’s a quick guide to the magicians with the finest sidesteps in modern rugby history.


Jason Robinson

SAINT-DENIS, FRANCE - OCTOBER 20: Jason Robinson of England takes on the South Africa defence during the 2007 Rugby World Cup Final between England and South Africa at the Stade de France on October 20, 2007 in Saint-Denis, France. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

‘Billy the Whiz’ may have been the quickest man in rugby, and his blinding pace was complemented with a sidestep which was not as outrageous as others on this list, but was all he needed to do, a simple, instant reorientation of body toward open space. And once he whirred clear of defenders, no one could run him down.


Christian Cullen

LLANELLI, UNITED KINGDOM - MARCH 30: Christian Cullen of Munster charges forward during the Heineken Cup quarter final match between Llanelli Scarlets and Munster at Stradey Park on March 30, 2007 in Llanelli, United Kingdom. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
Christian Cullen in action for Munster in 2007. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Cullen was a freak of nature in a team (Jonah Lomu, Jeff Wilson et al.) of All Black X Men. The greatest running fullback in history was smooth, silky  and at his peak, unstoppable. Brian Ashton, former coach of Ireland best summed up the task of stopping Cullen: “Cullen can run riot. His game has changed even in the two years since he exploded on to the scene. He’s more dynamic. His power, pace and elusive footwork make him ideal for modern rugby. Pound for pound he’s more powerful than anybody I’ve ever seen. When he runs at defenders he either glides past them or bounces off them. It’s almost as if tacklers don’t exist to him. He has a remarkable inner belief and his body language says I’m an All Black and I’m going to score.” (via The Independent)


David Campese

7 Dec 1996: David Campese of Australia leaves the field after his final match, during the Australian tour match against the Barbarians at Twickenham in Middlesex. Australia won 12-39. Mandatory Credit: Ross Kinnaird/Allsport

‘Campo’ was the ultimate showman. With tricks as slick as his hairstyle, he taunted the opposition, daring them to commit to a tackle, knowing that when the head lowered, there was less chance to adjust to changes in pace. Campo and his chip kicks, sidesteps and goosestep revolutionised rugby and was the closest player to Muhammed Ali rugby has had.

Former Irish five-eighth Tony Ward double-downed the effusive:

“He (Campese) is the Maradona, the Pelé of international Rugby all rolled into one. You cannot put a value on his importance to our game. He is a breath of fresh air and I think perhaps the greatest player of all time.” (via wikipedia)


Rupeni Caucaunibuca

MANCHESTER - AUGUST 4: Rupeni Caucaunibuca of Fiji breaks free to score a try during the Fiji v South Africa Men's Rugby 7's semi-final cup match at the City of Manchester Stadium during the 2002 Commonwealth Games, Manchester, England on August 4, 2002. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

A player whose legend lives on in player anecdotes. Scotland international Chris Paterson said of Caucaunibuca that “when he is fit, (he) can be the world’s best player” and that he “is the type who can win a game almost on his own.” England international centre Mike Tindall describes him as “the best player I have ever played against.” With the blinding speed of Robinson, the swerve of Cullen and the sidesteps and skills of Campese, for all too brief a moment, CauCau – at peak fitness – was the complete winger. (via wikipedia)


Shane Williams

CARDIFF, WALES - DECEMBER 03: Wales wing Shane Williams (c) sheds a tear during the national anthem flanked by Ryan Jones (l) and Scott Andrew before the Test match between Wales and the Australian Wallabies at Millennium Stadium on December 3, 2011 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Williams, like the final two names on this list, seemed to operate below the treeline in the rugby jungle, applying different laws of physics with his lower centre of gravity. His ability to turn on a dime, dynamic acceleration and opportunistic verve led to fifty eight tries for Wales.

Generation next: Nehe Milner-Scudder & Damian McKenzie

NMS set the 2015 World Cup alight with his cha cha cha sidesteps, which befuddled defenders and had commentators crowing that in an age of gym-constructed Orcs, magical hobbits like Milner-Scudder could still survive and thrive.

At 1.77 m and 81kg, Damian McKenzie is even smaller than Milner-Scudder and zigs, zaps and zags around the rugby pitch like a furious, multi-skilled, fire fly. If D-Mc and NMS ever combine in an All Blacks team, new peaks in swerving, passing and trickery may be reached.

Kaal Kaczmarek, Pundit Arena

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Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team.