This Saturday the All Blacks skipper Kieran Read will play his 100th test match for the World Champions in the deciding match against the British & Irish Lions. In doing so he becomes the 48th player to reach 100 test and the 7th New Zealander. Sticking to a standard XV man formation, I select a World 100 Cap XV, this was tough.
1. Tony Woodcock (NZ) – 118 Caps
Tony Woodcock is widely considered to be the world’s best loose-head prop. Woodcock made his debut for the All Blacks against Wales in 2002 shortly following his 22nd birthday. Woodcock is a fine scrummager, but is also far more than an also-ran in the loose, improving his skill set all the time to become a more than competent presence around the field. And will always be a hero in New Zealand for his World Cup winning try in 2011 breaking the duck!
2. John Smit (RSA) – 111 Caps
Former Springbok Skipper John Smit is remembered most for leading his country memorably to the Rugby World Cup title in 2007. He made 111 Test appearances for the Springboks, which includes appearing in a record 46 consecutive Test matches between 2003 and 2007. He then steered South Africa to the Webb Ellis Cup in 2007 before four years later, when the Boks were knocked out by Australia in the quarter-finals, Smit stepped into international retirement.
3. Jason Leonard (ENG) – 119 Caps
England and British Lions star Jason Leonard spent a total of 14 years in the white of national team spanning over both the amateur and professional eras, and he was successful in both. He made his debut as a raw 22-year old in 1990 before going on to make an incredible 119 appearances, which is more international caps than any other prop in history. The former carpenter won every one of international rugby’s major accolades; Triple Crowns, Grand Slams and in 2003, The Rugby World Cup. The former Harlequins and Saracens forwards ability to play both loose head and tight head with almost equal expertise made him without a doubt the best scrummager of his generation and in our opinion all time.
4. Paul O’Connell (IRE) – 115 Caps
Inspiring Ireland and British Lions Skipper Paul O’Connell was one of the most consistent players in Northern Hemisphere rugby in a decade. The veteran warrior has won in the emerald green of Ireland three Six Nations titles including a Grand Slam triumph in 2009 as well as winning the Triple Crown four times in 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2009. The legend retired from rugby in 2016.
5. Victor Matfield (RSA) – 127 Caps
South Africa’s Victor Matfield defined the attributes required to be a modern-day second row: tall, powerful, mobile and with great hands. During his 127 Test caps with the Springboks, he formed a formidable second-row partnership with Bakkies Botha that played a crucial role in South Africa claiming the 2007 World Cup in France. Besides almost always winning his own line-out ball, Matfield is known for his exceptional skill at disrupting opposition line-outs, which was a key asset to the Springboks during their triumph in 2007.
6. Richie McCaw (NZ) – 148 Caps
His stats are quite remarkable. He earned a world-record 148 caps for the All Blacks, winning 131 of those games and captaining his country 111 times. Perhaps my favourite stat is he has played in 32 per cent of New Zealand’s Test match victories since 1903! Add to that his leadership and you have the perfect package. Lifting the 2011 World Cup in his backyard was a fitting tribute to one of the greatest ever All Blacks, but he went on to secure true legendary status as he continued for four more years, breaking record after record and uniquely hoisting the Webb Ellis trophy for a second time. It was to be a perfect ending not just to his international career but also his playing career, as he confirmed his retirement from the game this week.
7. George Smith (AUS) – 111 Caps
Although George Smith bowed out of international rugby following a heavy defeat to the British and Irish Lions the flanker wrote his name into history with a star-studded career. The consistent performer was capped by the Wallabies 111 times over a decade, making him the highest capped forward of all time, overtaking the legendary John Eales.
8. Sergio Parisse (ITA) – 126 Caps
The 6ft 5in Italian Sergio Parisse was outstanding in the lineout and had the flair and pace across the ground to gain valuable ground when the Azzurri drives forward. Parisse won the first of his 126 caps to date at the age of 18 and aged 33 could still have a few years of international rugby still to go.
9. George Gregan (AUS) – 139 Caps
In many ways, Gregan typified what we have come to regard as the typical scrumhalf. Tough as nails, cocky, confident and a constant nuisance for the opposition. For many years the Wallabies scrumhalf was enemy No 1 when he played against the Springboks, but few can argue that he remains an absolute legend of the game who served effectively as the heartbeat of Australian rugby for over a decade.
10. Daniel Carter (NZ) – 112 Caps
Dan the man. The greatest back of the professional era, his record speaks for itself. Way out in front as the leading point’s scorer in international rugby history, with 1,598 points from his 112 caps. Throw in a further 1,708 points for the Crusaders and the fly-half’s impact on the game cannot be emphasised enough. He averages almost 15 points a Test, the highest of any player in history who has scored more than 500 points.
11. David Campese (AUS) – 101 Caps
Capped by Australia on more than 100 occasions and scorer of 64 international tries, David Campese was once the world’s top scorer, but now has to settle for the honour of second place. To summarise, if there was even the slightest bit of daylight between the try-line and his opposite man, Campese was as good as over. Whether it was by use of his patented “goose-step” or with use of the more archaic barrelling motion, the Wallabies legend was simply a magnet for scoring.
12. Ma’a Nonu (NZ) – 103 Caps
Nonu is well known for his explosiveness and powerful attacking runs and regularly breaks the defensive line at will, however is also known for his dangerous shoulder charge tackles, which have often seen him sent off during games. Nonu is an exceptional crash ball runner who excels at breaking the line and creating space for outside backs. This ability has seen him score 31 tries in his 103 test matches.
13. Brian O’Driscoll (IRE) – 141 Caps
One of the most feared players in the game, O’Driscoll was also one of the most consistent. His 141 Test caps, including eight for the Lions, place him second on the all-time list behind Richie McCaw. Ireland’s record try scorer with 46 touchdowns, O’Driscoll also led his country more times than any other player and his brilliant defensive qualities and dazzling attacking skills made him a threat all over the field. Holds the Six Nations record for most tries with 26 and was chosen Player of the Tournament in the 2006, 2007 and 2009, leading Ireland to one Grand Slam and three Triple Crowns. Europe’s finest.
14. Brian Habana (RSA) – 124 Caps
Anyone who races cheetahs in his spare time is likely to be reasonably rapid and the Jo’burg-born speedster has scorched his way to 67 Test tries – second on the all-time list – including a record-equalling eight to help the ‘Boks win the 2007 World Cup. Further trophy triumphs followed with Toulon and he’s still a razor-sharp presence as he proved this autumn by drawing level with Jonah Lomu at the top of the pile with 15 career World Cup tries.
15. Percy Montgomery (RSA) – 102 Caps
To this day, Montgomery remains the highest ever points scorers for the Springboks in test rugby, helping them to two Tri-Nations titles and the 2007 World Cup. Montgomery became the first Springbok to earn 100 caps and to this day remains their all-time top point scorer with 893 points in internationals.