The Gods of Rugby Heaven: The number eights

Quick and powerful: Toutai Kefu.
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Zinzan Brooke. Photo: Craig Golding

Zinzan Brooke (New Zealand)

Amazingly agile, mobile and strong, Zinzan Brooke, now 50, played 58 Tests for the All Blacks and also led the Auckland Blues to their Super 12 titles in 1996 and 1997.

Brooke was blessed with remarkable running and skills akin to that of a back. He once kicked a drop goal from 47 metres in the 1995 World Cup, which was one of three drop goals he booted for the tournament. He also had an incredible read of the game.

Brooke retired from international rugby in1997, after which he played for Harlequins in England and later became their coach, while continuing to play amateur rugby.

Lawrence Dallaglio. Photo: Getty Images

Lawrence Dallaglio (England)

Laurence Dallaglio, 43, debuted for England in November, 1995 against the Springboks.

By 1997, Dallaglio was in the British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa and became England captain over Martin Johnson who had led the Lions.

Dallaglio lost the captaincy to Johnson in 1999, but in 2001 toured with the Lions to Australia where a knee injury ended his trip.

He played in the 2003 World Cup for England who beat Australia in the final, and in the 2007 World Cup, making the semi-final and retired in 2008 with 88 Test caps, 85 for England and three with the Lions.

Toutai Kefu. Photo: Tim Clayton

Toutai Kefu (Australia)

Toutai Kefu, now 41, is arguably best known for his match-winning try at the end of Wallabies captain John Eales’ final game against the All Blacks in 2001.

But there was much more to Kefu, now 41, than a headlining try. Tongan-born, he was as quick and powerful as he was big.

He debuted for the Wallabies on August 23, 1997 off the bench against South Africa and went on to earn 60 caps.

He made the No.8 jersey his in 1998 when he started against England in the June domestic Test Australia won 76-0. Kefu was also a key member of the Wallabies squad winning the 1999 World Cup.

Sergio Parisse. Photo: Iain McGregor

Sergio Parisse (Italy)

Argentine-born Sergio Parisse, now 31, has great ball-handling skills that proved so valuable in the lineout and in running play.

He stood out in a team that was mediocre, but there was no doubting his pure class.

Parisse’s Test debut at age 18 was in June, 2002 when coach Italy John Kirwan picked him for Italy’s 64-10 loss to the All Blacks in Hamilton.

Parisse played in the 2003 World Cup where he scored his first Test try against Canada. His 50th Test was in 2008 in the Six Nations against England.

Parisse also played in the 2007 and 2011 Worlds Cups, captaining Italy in the latter.

Wayne Shelford. Photo: Russell Cheyne

Wayne Shelford (New Zealand)

After touring with the unauthorised Cavaliers squad to South Africa in 1986, Wayne “Buck” Shelford debuted for the All Blacks later that year against France in Toulouse.

Now aged 57, Shelford was a member of the All Blacks who won the inaugural 1987 World Cup, playing in five of their six games, including the final against France.

After that World Cup, Shelford became the All Blacks captain up until 1990. In that time, the All Blacks never lost a game, but they drew once to Australia in 1988.

He ended his Test career with 48 appearances for the All Blacks, of which 22 were in Tests.

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