The Gods of Rugby Heaven: The five-eighths


Dan Carter. Photo: Getty Images

Dan Carter (New Zealand). Carter is a true golden boy of New Zealand rugby, with his boyish good looks well and truly matched by a game that many regard as peerless in terms of No.10s. He is the leading point-scorer in international rugby, with his radar boot the perfect complement for an all-rround game that has stood the test of time. A groin injury before the final pool game against Canada meant Carter missed the long-awaited 2011 World Cup victory. Few would be more deserved in the 2015 edition.

Grant Fox. Photo: Getty Images

Grant Fox (New Zealand). One try in 46 Tests for the All Blacks suggests that Fox wasn’t much of a threat with ball-in-hand. Put it on a mound of sand and it was a different story. Fox remains one of the greatest goal kickers the game has seen, with his deadly boot integral as New Zealand won the first World Cup in 1987. He finished his career with 645 points and was also regarded as an adept tactician and playmaker.

Stephen Larkham. Photo: Steve Christo

Stephen Larkham (Australia). The lanky five-eighth was a mainstay of the Wallabies throughout the late 90s and 2000s, an era that reaped plenty of rewards including the 1999 World Cup. His drop-goal in the semi-final that year against the Springboks has now become legend. It was his first in international rugby and he only booted two in a superb 102-Test career. Larkham’s former life as a fullback meant he could slice through gaps, while his ability to hit his outside men was pivotal to unleashing the Wallaby backline.

Michael Lynagh. Photo: Getty Images

Michael Lynagh (Australia). The former Wallaby captain combined his ability to conduct a backline with pin-point accuracy from the boot. Lynagh was capped 72 times for Australia in an 11-year career that would end in 1995 with 911 points on the board. The man known as ‘Noddy’ would reach the pinnacle in 1991 when he was vice-captain of the Wallaby side that won the World Cup.

Jonny Wilkinson. Photo: AP

Jonny Wilkinson (England). Very few players occupy the same World Cup rare air as England’s heroic match-winner. In 2003, he would fire the ultimate shot at arch-enemy Australia when he slotted a drop goal to win the final, elating one country while deflating another. He was a voracious point-scorer (1179) across his 91 caps for England although his latter career was curtailed through injury. He played on until the end of 2011, starting four of the five World Cup games before retiring at the end of the year. His kicking stance, hands clasped together, knees bent, became an iconic image for English rugby.

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