Subjective lists such as the 'Top 20 Rugby Players In The World' are never going to please everyone, but even taking this into account and giving it some leeway, the selection panel assembled in this month's Rugby World magazine have made some baffling choices.
The most striking element to the top 20 players as named by Rugby World, is the absence of any Irish players.
Rugby is a particularly difficult sport to compile such a list for, compared to basketball for example. This is due to the number of players in a starting team and the sheer diversity in skill-sets between different positions.
Here's how Rugby World explain their selection criteria
The key rules are that current form is given precedence and, as we’re comparing players across formats, positions and genders – a tough task – we look at influence within their teams as well as skill-set.
However, we can compare players in the same positions rather easily, which makes the non-selection of Tadhg Furlong objectively incorrect. Australia’s Taniela Tupou makes it in at no. 5 with Furlong nowhere to be seen despite his dominance during the autumn.
The Rugby World Top 20 also includes two women and a sevens player on the list. The brilliant Abby Dow and Rose Bernadou are included at #11 and #13 respectively, but it begs the question why are they not higher and why are there not more if they are serious about comparing the men’s and women’s games.
Fiji sevens legend Jerry Tuwai is included, and while the sentiment is respectable, the two different codes are chalk and cheese.
In defence of Rugby World, their top four of Antoine Dupont, Ardie Savea, Maro Itoje, and Michael Hooper is hard to argue with, although Lukhanyo Am (no. 7) could justifiably be amongst them as well. Three of the top four were nominated for World Rugby Player of the Year, and Dupont looks nailed on to claim the award.
Other Irish who are arguably deserving of a spot in the top 20 would be Johnny Sexton, given that both Beauden Barrett and Richie Mo’ounga are included. With current form in mind, surely Autumn Nations Player of the Series Caelan Doris should also be ahead of Hamish Watson.
Once you notice that the wind-up merchant and Rugby World columnist Stephen Jones was on the selection panel then the names on the list, which you can see below, make a bit more sense.
- Antoine Dupont
- Ardie Savea
- Maro Itoje
- Michael Hooper
- Taniela Tupou
- Aaron Smith
- Lukhanyo Am
- Cheslin Kolbe
- Tom Curry
- Sam Whitelock
- Abby Dow
- Brodie Retallick
- Rose Bernadou
- Beauden Barrett
- Richie Mo’unga
- Jerry Tuwai
- Eben Etzebeth
- Hamish Watson
- Courtney Lawes