The Gods of Rugby Heaven: The halfbacks

Great organiser: George Gregan. Photo: Anthony Johnson
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Nick Farr-Jones. Photo: Getty Images

Nick Farr-Jones (Australia). The calm and collected Farr-Jones earned the first of his 63 Wallaby caps on the 1984 tour of Europe but will always be remembered as one of the key men in Australia’s 1991 World Cup breakthrough. Always regarded as a thinking man’s playmaker, Farr-Jones marshalled a back line that included names such as Lynagh, Horan and Campese. An injury in the 1991 semi-final against Ireland looked as if it may have cruelled Wallaby chances but after a miracle escape, Farr-Jones would return to be an instrumental figure and hoist the William Webb Ellis Cup at Twickenham.

George Gregan. Photo: Tim Clayton

George Gregan (Australia). Tough, endlessly competitive and with vocal chords that seemed to be in perpetual motion, Gregan was one of the great halfbacks of his generation and an inspiration to the Wallabies in their 1999 World Cup victory. He played in 20 World Cup matches, starting in 18 of them and finishing with 16 wins and four defeats. Gregan may not have had the silky skills of some of his contemporaries but the Wallabies were rarely out of a contest with Gregan barking orders. He played well above his size in defence and finished his career with an extraordinary 139 caps.

Justin Marshall. Photo: Tim Clayton.

Justin Marshall (New Zealand). Marshall would never taste World Cup success but he would finish his career as the most-capped All Blacks halfback with 81 appearances for his nation. He appeared in 10 World Cup matches across 1999 and 2003. Marshall was a dynamic ball-running No.9, crossing for 24 tries in his career, by the far the most for any All Blacks halfback.

Agustin Pichot. Photo: Getty Images

Agustin Pichot (Argentina). The feisty halfback was one of the faces of Argentinian rugby throughout his 13-year career for Los Pumas, making his first World Cup appearance at just 19 when he was plucked from a club side in Buenos Aires while still an amateur. His 1999 side would reach the quarter-finals before losing to France, although there would be revenge on the horizon. After a disappointing 2003 World Cup, Pichot would lead Argentina to victory over host nation France in a memorable 2007 opener, before beating them again in the third-placed play-off.

Joost van der Westhuizen. Photo: Reuters

Joost van der Westhuizen (South Africa). The record-breaking Springbok strode his lanky frame into history as part of South Africa’s famous 1995 World Cup win. He would captain his side in the global tournament four years later before retiring in 2003 after his third World Cup, finishing with a then-benchmark 89 caps, as well as 38 tries. A fearless attitude in defence added to an elite overall package that is regarded as one of the best the game has seen. In a sad post-script to his career, van der Westhuizen was diagnosed with motor neurone disease and has now been confined to a wheelchair.

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