Following on from our review of who currently rank as the top 5 scrum halves and top 5 openside flankers in rugby right now, here we have decided to take a stab at the pivotal Number 8 position in a list which is sure to lead to a host of debate.
At 26 years of age Talupe Faletau has already become one of the supreme number 8’s in Welsh rugby history. A true work horse at the rear of the scrum, the Bath-bound talent is instrumental to Warren Gatland plans as he consistently out works players in nearly evert facet of the game whether that be ball carries, line breaks, offloads or tackles.
Faletau will receive considerable pressure in retaining his Lions test jersey for next summers tour from non other than cousin Billy Vunipola. This seasons Aviva Premiership is sure to throw up some highly contested bouts between the two when they face off.
In a side which embarked on the season for the first time in over a decade without the world class talent of Ma’a Nonu, Conrad Smith, Jeremy Thrush and Ben Franks, one would have been forgiven for somewhat quashing Hurricanes Super Rugby title ambitions. However as faith would have it the Wellington franchise steamrolled their way to the final, pulverising all in their path. A key determinant to the Hurricanes’ success is the efforts of Victor Vito who in his final season for the side was simply outstanding.
Vito is a number eight of real strength, power and speed and had his athletic aptitude on full display in his 100th and final appearance for the Hurricanes at this weekend’s Super Rugby final. With the likes of Kieran Read ahead of him in the All Blacks pecking order Vito has not collated the amount of caps that perhaps someone of his talent is deserving of. However La Rochelle have undoubtedly secured proven quality.
Any list comprising of the elite number eights in the world over the last decade will surely have included the name of Sergio Parisse. The Italian talisman personifies cool and calmness when under pressure and is a talent of true out-and-out class.
His leadership qualities are second to none and when all is said and done his name will be etched down as one of rugbys greatest of all time.
With the bear-like strength of Billy Vunipola at their exposal, the packs of Aviva Premiership and European Champions Cup champs Saracens and Grand Slam holders England have been able to bully opposing packs all season.
While Vunipola may not be the most technically gifted number eight in the world, his iron-ore strength and power have been too much to handle for opponents time-and-time again. Vunipola has been one of a number of players to really excel under Eddie Jones’ stewardship as questions of fitness which had once surfaced in he past, have now been addressed as Jones continues to orchestrate one of the elite back-rows in the game.
Arguably no-one in world rugby was more suited to fill the mammoth like boots of Richie McCaw in taking on the All Blacks captaincy.
Week in and week out Read provides a world class standard in both defence and attack. With hard running lines and hits, Read links up both forward and back play that results in the All Black machine being as devastating as it is. Read fully utilises his shrewd skill set in tying in players and opening up space and is nearly unprecedented in his dominance of the lineout.
A clear frontrunner for the player of the year accolade.
- Duane Vermeulen
- Louis Picamoles
- Johnnie Beattie