The Gods of Rugby Heaven: The inside centres

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Felipe Contepomi. Photo: Richard Cosgrove

Felipe Contepomi (Argentina). After representing his country at under-19 and under-21 level, as well as sevens, it was obvious Contepomi was always destined for the top tier of the international game. A classy playmaker as well as goalkicker, he began his career at No.10 before finding a home at inside centre. He would feature for Los Pumas in four World Cups, captaining them in his final tournament in 2011. By the end, he would amass 651 points through 87 caps and was one of the men that put modern Argentine rugby on the map.

Jean De Villiers. Photo: Reuters

Jean de Villiers (South Africa). The imposing centre, now 34, will captain the Springboks in what will be the last of his three World Cups. Injury has slowed him in recent years but he has been a dominant force in the South African back line since he first appeared in 2002. Some 107 Tests later, de Villiers has a World Cup victory (2007) to his credit, while his direct and confrontational running has seen him rumble over for 27 tries. If he stays healthy, expect him to be a handful once again.

Tim Horan. Photo: Colorsport

Tim Horan (Australia). Horan regularly gave away size to his opposite number but could find space on a football field like few others. His wins in the 1991 and 1999 World Cup put him in elite company and he became known as one of the true greats of centre play throughout his 80 Tests for the Wallabies, in which he started on each and every occasion. His centre pairing with Jason Little was brilliant and Horan would be named the player of the tournament in the 1999 World Cup.

Ma’a Nonu. Photo: John Selkirk

Ma’a Nonu (New Zealand). Think Nonu, think brute power. The huge All Blacks battering ram with the fearsome dreadlocks only knows one way to the tryline. Stopping him is another issue entirely. His crash-ball running off the hip of Dan Carter can ring the bell of any defensive line. He’d crossed 29 times in 97 Tests by the start of the World Cup and has hit form just at the right time. His World Cup record? Nine matches for nine victories.

Jamie Roberts. Photo: Andrew Gorrie

Jamie Roberts (Wales). At 193cm and 110kg, Roberts might just be the most imposing centre in world rugby on his day. Since making his debut in 2008, he’s had a virtual mortgage on the Welsh No.12 jersey, capping it with a storming performance in the 2011 World Cup as Wales finished fourth. He scored a try in the series-winning game of the 2013 British and Irish Lions tour of Australia and is a clear match winner on his day.

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