The Gods of Rugby Heaven: The outside centres


Frank Bunce. Photo: Jack Atley

Frank Bunce (New Zealand). Bunce was the Cal Ripken jnr of rugby, a midfield ironman who missed just a single match for the All Blacks during his 59-Test career from 1991-1997. He started in every match he was selected for and was part of the All Blacks side that fell to South Africa in the 1995 World Cup decider. Bunce was a tough customer with the ball and added plenty of starch in defence.

Jeremy Guscott. Photo: Reuters

Jeremy Guscott (England). Guscott oozed class in the English No.13 jersey, featuring in three World Cups as part of his 73-Test career. He was a free-striding outside back who could slip through a gap with his deceptive pace. It resulted in 31 tries, the last of which was an intercept against Tonga in his final World Cup appearance in 1999.

Brian O’Driscoll. Photo: Lawrence Smith

Brian O’Driscoll (Ireland). The Irishman has left records in his wake during a brilliant international career that has only been surpassed – in caps at least – by the great Richie McCaw. O’Driscoll appeared 141 times in the emerald green and considered trying to reach a fifth World Cup before eventually retiring. A gifted all-round athlete, there was little O’Driscoll couldn’t do on a rugby field and although he would never savour World Cup success, ended his playing days regarded as one of the great outside centres.

Philippe Sella (left). Photo: Reuters

Philippe Sella (France). Australian rugby fans might best remember French great Sella from his crunching king-hit on Wallaby lock Peter FitzSimons in 1990. But that moment of brutality was a far cry from his dangerous stylings in the back line, where he combined pace and beautiful hands throughout his 111-match career. His presence would help the French to five Five Nations crowns but he missed out in all three World Cups, with the closest shave coming in the final in 1987.

Conrad Smith. Photo: John Selkirk

Conrad Smith (New Zealand). Smith has been a picture of consistency in a settled All Blacks back line, combining brilliantly with Ma’a Nonu and being one of his country’s strongest contributors in the 2011 World Cup victory. He’s never been blessed with the greatest speed or silken skills, but has a natural grasp of the game and times his involvement to perfection. The 33-year-old won’t win games by being flashy but we doubt any of the current All Blacks would consider trading in one of their most dependable campaigners.

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