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Simply the best: a hall of fame for the game's greats

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John Beattie | 10:08 UK time, Monday, 10 May 2010

There was an Englishman, an Irishman, a Scotsman, a Frenchman, a Welshman and an Italian...

For a bit of fun this week, let's pick our best; mine and yours. Who is your favourite player from each of the Six Nations countries over the last 40 years?

I grew up in the 1970s and I am still watching great matches from the Five and Six Nations and marvel at the abundance of talent from all of the teams that have graced the field of play.

But how on earth do you choose from such a glittering array of stars?

johnson595.jpgThe Italians are probably the easiest to analyse due to the brevity of their presence at the top level. One name sticks out for me: Diego Dominguez, the Argentina-born stand-off, who scored 983 points in 74 test matches. He was brilliant. Five foot eight and a half and eleven and a half stones of kicking beauty.

The Welsh? Oh man oh man. Where to start? I played against JPR Williams, marvel at Shane Williams and Mike Roberts, watched Ieuan Evans and his magic tricks, Jonathan Davies and his spark, Terry Cobner and the grit.

And I idolised the legendary Pontypool front row (the great Scottish lock Gordon Brown, 'Broon from Troon', had to shift to prop during a game in Cardiff in the 1970s and was told by the Pontypool front row, who could destroy him, that he would be much more comfortable if he put his legs back a bit).

The English: Again, what a list! I remember being taken apart by Andy Ripley after the great man had retired - what a player he was. Bill Beaumont was a Lions captain and Grand Slam winner who would often say to us: "I like the sound of leather on leather."

Guscott and Carling were both superb, Martin Johnson as good as anyone in the world. Then we have Dean Richards, Rory Underwood and Roger Uttley, it's a seemingly impossible list.

The French have always been scarily packed with top quality players. Serge Blanco, Philippe Sella, Rives, Skrela (the father of the current one), Dominici, Haget, Rodriquez, Berbezier, and a list of people who could combine thuggery with artistry quite subtly as it happens.

One of the above tried to kick me and another Scottish player with full swings to the head during a big game, and you would be surprised at which one it was.

Ireland: I have said before that Fergus Slattery swinging at me in my first international was a wonderful moment and he was superb. Ollie Campbell, Willie John McBride, Willie Duggan, Moss Keane, right up to the current generation of O'Driscoll and O'Connell, who have done so much to forge their country's greatness.

And what about Scotland? Eric Liddell, the 400m gold medallist at the 1924 Paris Olympics who was born in China, David Leslie, Andy Irvine, Mighty Mouse, Jim Renwick, the Brown brothers, John Rutherford, Finlay Calder, my little list goes on.

But here goes:

England: Martin Johnson - won a World Cup and was a winning British Lion.

Ireland: Brian O'Driscoll - frankly, at his peak he was a freak.

Wales: Phil Bennett - starting that try against the All Blacks and a winning British Lion.

Italy - Diego Dominguez.

France - Serge Blanco. Utterly unforgettable.

Scotland - John Rutherford. Sheer class.

What about you? Go on; remind me of people I have forgotten - just the last forty years...

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    England - Neil Back

    Ireland - Brian O'Driscoll

    Wales - Gareth Edwards

    Italy - Giego Dominguez

    France - Serge Blanco

    Scotland - Gavin Hastings

  • Comment number 2.

    I may be tempted to change my England pick to Lawrence Dallagio?

    Also I meant "Diego"

  • Comment number 3.

    Hard to argue with any of those, so just some others for consideration:

    Wales - The King, Barry John, destroyer of All Blacks and anyone he played against.
    Ireland - Keith Woods, one of the best leaders and hookers ever.
    England - Richard Hill, the most underrated of the great 2003 pack to casual fans, but probably first name on the teamsheet.
    France - Abdel Benazzi, had it all for such a big man.

    Can't really look past Dominguez for Italy and Irvine for Scotland

  • Comment number 4.

    England - David Duckham
    Ireland - Willie John McBride
    Wales - Gareth Edwards
    Italy - Sergio Parisse
    France - Alain Lorieux
    Scotland - Andy Irvine

  • Comment number 5.

    Great blog - But I don't like having to think on a Monday!

    Anyway here goes. I didn't really watch much rugby before 1990 however I have seen some clips and watched some videos of the great Welsh sides of the 70s and some of the Lions clips and of course that Baa Baa's game.

    Wales - Gareth Edwards, unbelievable pace, power, pass. He had everything and was years in front of the opposition. A winning Lion (TWICE!).

    Italy - Sergio Parisse, for the whole time I have seen Italian rugby he has been the stand out player - Dominguez was a bit too one dimensional for my liking. There was a long haired flanker pre 6 nations days but I've forgotten his name.

    Scotland - Gavin Hastings - Great all round player. But this was difficult as I thought about David Sole (That grand slam), Gregor Townsend and I always liked Doddie Weir - the comment in the 1997 Lions video when asked - You were seen in a pub having a few drinks in the pub when the team was under curfew. Have you any comment? The response - "Mistaken Identity" was classic. But playing wise - Gavin Hastings by a whisker!

    Ireland - Brian O'Driscoll. Amazing player..

    France - Serge Betsen - Power, guts, intelligence, general all round ability. I've only seen videos on Serge Blanco but Betsen for me!

    England - There are many players we could choose from. But for me there is only one player - Jason Leonard.
    He played right through the transition of amateur to professional. Played in several Lions tours, recovered from a serious neck injury, was a rugby player's rugby player! Amazing prop who destroyed opposition props. A TEAM Player. Awesome.


    Hope you don't mind John - But opening out to the Best Non-Six Nations Player in the last 40 years.

    My choice would have to be "Nobody" as in Mr John Eales. Amazing 2nd row, kicker. Played in 2 winning World Cup teams and captained one. Amazing!!!

  • Comment number 6.

    England - Peter Winterbottom (They called him the Straw man, though hard as iron and fearless)

    Ireland - Willie John McBride (Inspirational great leader. Humble, but took no prisoners)

    Wales - Gareth Edwards (Great vision, speed of thought and foot)

    Italy - Sergio Parisse (World class No. 8)

    France - Jean-Pierre Rives (Wholehearted, always bloodied, again an insirational leader)

    Scotland - David Leslie (An absolutely superb back row forward, tactician and leader of men. My personal all time great of the Northern Hemisphere) Close call with Finlay Calder though.





  • Comment number 7.

    England- richard hill / david duckham
    Ireland- keith wood
    Wales- JPR
    France- Jauzion
    Italy- Dominguez
    Scotland- Gavin Hastings

  • Comment number 8.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for going with this

    Wingmanmikeaberdeenshire - Back, brilliant and so good to see him coaching, Gareth Edwards - do you remember his backflip in the Sam Doble match on TV after he had converted a try? And big Gav, I played in his first cap and he was not phased at all - we beat France.

    OldExile - Barry John, met him and it's like meeting a hero Keith Wood fantastic, Richard Hill again real fighter, Benazzi a huge man who became pals with Gregor Towsend. I'd forgotten about Benazzi.

    rje_dobbin - one of my favourite bits of tv is when David Duckham lost the camera with one of his sidesteps in that Baabaas game against the All Blacks, Parisse another top Argentinean for Italy, Lorieux the big second rower with the headband...

    LittleRew - I had to think on the Sunday to write it. Jason Leonard. Ally McCoist (to name drop) told me a story that he had played a bit of a game alongisde Jason Leonard in a charity match and had been patted in the face while at hooker. Jason Leonard, his team mate, admitted after the game that it had been him! "I saw your pretty face and just couldn't resist!" he is supposed to have said.

    Good shout about best non six nations player. You say Eales, I say JONAH LOMU! interviewed him, arms bigger than my legs.

    Doug - I agree! Betsen, David Leslie, Rives, Fin Calder. One of the autobiographies on my shelf is that of Rives, and there is a picture of him playing against Australia after wrecking his shoulder. He couldn't lift his arm from the week old injury but played a whole test. Bonkers. Used to talk of "painting beautiful pictures on the pitch". Aye. At his best when covered in blood.

  • Comment number 9.

    Duncan Coull - Jauzion, ach, forgot about him, unbelievable player. seems to have time, size, distribution skill, number one in any current team list

  • Comment number 10.

    I cant believe no one has said Jason Robinson for England. I'd still pick him over anyone today, he gave me goose-bumps whenever he ran. One of the best players to of ever graced this planet

  • Comment number 11.

    Dave - was he the quickest ever from zero to full speed? At his peak 2003? JB

  • Comment number 12.


    ITALY SERGIO PARISSE

    SCOTLAND ANDY IRVINE

    WALES JJ WILLIAMS

    FRANCE SERGE BLANCO

    IRELAND MIKE GIBSON

    ENGLAND ROB ANDREW

  • Comment number 13.

    I know that you had to think on a Sunday to write this blog John, but does that excuse you for including Eric Liddell in a list of the best 6N list of the last 40 years? Even on a Monday it's not hard to work out that even Scot who won gold at the olympics in 1924 would have struggled to keep pace with the game in 1970!

    good idea for a blog though...

    England - Richard Hill - hugely under rated, but so very influential on the pitch

    Ireland - Brian O'Driscoll - one in a million talent

    France - Phillipe Sella - magnifique!!

    Wales - Shane Williams - dancing feet and a physique so ill suited to the modern game, but with the gifts to prove that talent, skill & pace are more than a match for endless hours in the gym, an absolute delight to watch

    Italy - Mauro Bergamasco - seemed to carry early Italian 6N hopes on sheer willpower

    Scotland - aah, the hardest one, how can you rationally select the best player you've ever seen from a side that has, in the course of my 40 years on the planet, caused me moments of pure delirium, and also so much anguish? ochone, ochone, all part of the privelige of being one of God's Chosen People ;p Have to plump for Gary Armstrong for his thrawn tenacity - how often did the man get across the pitch to make tackles that prevented tries?

  • Comment number 14.

    I'd like to add my name to the growing list of John Beattie blog junkies. What a lovely balance you strike between cheerful whimsy and genuine understanding of the game!

    I submit that this kind of exercise should be headed "Date yourself, categorise yourself". I'll demonstrate: using standards understood by only a select few, my list is -

    France: Gerard Cholley
    England: Fran Cotton
    Ireland: Ray McLouchlin
    Scotland: Ian McLauchlan
    Wales: Graham Price.

    Runners-up, respectively: Michel Palmie, Martin Johnson, Willie-John McBride, Gordon Brown and Bobby Windsor.

    Also ran: Jean-Pierre Bastiat, Mickey Skinner, Keith Wood, John Jeffrey and JPR Williams.

    What, me one-eyed? C'mon, these guys put the fun into rugby!

  • Comment number 15.

    before i fill in my picks i'd like to highlight the key word in the criteria.... favorite!! ok here we go.

    England - Mike Catt (matt perry close second-still the most capped england full back ever despite the whole lewsy, robinson nonsense) - Most exciting england fly-half probably ever. His wide passes were sensational. I remember seeing a try for Bath were he passed out the back of a scrum, on the 5 metre tramline, the entire width of the pitch for the on-rushing winger to collect. magnificent.

    Ireland - Gordon Murphy - Depite being a leicster player he was brilliant, difficult to admit for a bath fan. but like matt perry, he was/is the meaning of the word solid. drops a high ball as often as an alien lands on earth.

    Scotland - Gregor Townsend - Denied England a grand slam! All a welshman needs to say! But still consistently excellent throught his career.

    France - Thomas Castaignede - Prolific and always a joy to watch. The epitomy of French stylish, gracefull yet merciless rugby.

    Italy. Sergio Parisse - Always brilliant and plays with raw emotion. The looks on his face when he guides Italy to their rare victories in the 6 nations remind us why this tournement is so special.

    Wales - So many, and the hardest to pick from for a Welshman. Neil Jenkins for his incessent reliability, Scott Gibbs for 'that try', obviously the big 5 (JPR, Barry John, Gareth Edwards, Phill Bennet, Dai Morris), Martyn Williams. But it comes down to 2. Had i been around to see Jonathan Davis play it would have been him (wizardy and character, i love to see the 'cheeky chappies' play. makes a nice change to see a player play with a smile on his face, and hes carried this through to his punditry too), however due to this it probably has to be Shane Williams.

  • Comment number 16.

    Im a little too young to have an opinion of the last 40 years, so im going to go with my best from when i started watching rugby:

    England: Jason Robinson, blink and you'd miss him

    Ireland: Keith Wood, Probably the best hooker of all time (or since i started watching)

    Wales: I'm tempted to go with Shane Williams for the same reasons as JR above, but i'll go with Colin Charvis, always admired him

    Italy: Parisse

    France: Dominici (I have probably seen enough of blanco to put his name down, but it can't hurt to vary this thread or it'll become stale)

    Scotland: The man that got me excited about rugby when i was playing full back as a young(er) man: Glenn Metcalfe, What a full back, unfortunately it is difficult to get the recognition if you play the smae position as Gavin Hastings.

  • Comment number 17.

    Nice blog John.

    My tuppence would be:

    England - Martin Johnson, phenomenal forward and possibly the scariest thing I've seen that isn't 18 rated.
    Wales - Barry John, a glider as opposed to Bennett the jinker.
    Ireland - BOD, without him Ireland would have never been the team of the noughties.
    Scotland - Gavin Hastings, put the ball straight out with his first kick in international rugby but what a player he became.
    France - Philipe Sella, the best centre that I have ever seen.
    Italy - Dominguez, the wee Argie.

  • Comment number 18.

    England - John Pullin

    (most under rated player and captain in the famous baa baa all black try only non welsh man, played all the british lions games in the winning tour of new zealand which no team has ever matched and captained england to wins in NZ, SA, and Aus before Johnson with a team rated as average whereas Johnsons team was recognised as the best in the world at the time plus captained a team to Ireland during the troubles when all the other nations wimped out)

    Wales - Barry John

    (probably the most gifted fly half to ever play the game and exceptional vision and awareness of the game around him.)

    Scotland - Tom Smith

    (the cornerstone of the SA lions scrum and a standout prop with durability and the ability to destroy much larger props with technique alone in the dark arts of the front row)

    Ireland - Willie John McBride

    (not sure if there is much needed to back this up apart from the fact he was quite literally a great leader of men and as hard as granite)

    France - Fabien Pelous

    (118 caps for france the bedrock of their team and managed to not only deal with the transition from amateur to professional but improved as a player and captain, no french flair backline could be released without the dominant french pack and there were some truely titanic battles with an excellent english pack of the late 90's early 00's in which he excelled)

    Italy - Sergio Parrise

    (Purely because at his peak he could arguably play in any other international team in the world)

    Very good article!

  • Comment number 19.

    Im a wee bit younger so mine is only based on 1990 onwards

    Scotland - Gavin Hastings, could run, kick, catch and was probably the first big full back I remember.

    Italy - Sergio Parisse, world class in a poor team

    France - Imanol Harinordoquay, not put up by most cos hard to spell and I dont know if i got it right

    England - Richard Hill, they won with him, lost without him, quiet guy who did the job that Brand Haskell should try and do.

    Wales - Scott Gibbs, the fastest prop ever.

    Ireland - Paul O'Connell, I dont like him but as a player he is hard to beat and gives everything he has.

  • Comment number 20.

    Have to agree with Pete MC, Irelands finest (second to Jack Kyle- but outside the era).

    Gibson provided style and substance and proved his worth at international level at virtually every position in the backs. At his best would give todays players a run for their money (like Tait is today). Uses his head on and off the pitch.

    Bill McLaren described him as the best footballer that he ever saw. That is an honour!!!

  • Comment number 21.

    How about :-

    Scotland - Andy Irvine
    Italy - Diego Dominguez
    France - Philippe Sella
    Wales - Jonathan Davis (or Merve the Swerve)
    Ireland - Willie John McBride
    England - Nigel Melville

  • Comment number 22.

    Wales - Ray Gravell

    Ireland - Simon Geoghegan

    France - Jean-Pierre Rives

    Scotland - Finlay Calder

    Italy - Mauro Bergamasco

    England - Brian Moore

  • Comment number 23.

    Pete Mc - JJ Williams, was he not a for real sprinter great on 74 Lions tour. Mike Gibson wonderful player and real gentleman - again, met him and it is extremely odd meeting heroes

    OwainGlyndwr - Ray Gravell, real legend, toured with him in 1980 when I were a lad - would always ask how he played, arguably rugby's biggest ever character. Geoghegan brought out the best in Bill McLaren, Finlay great player, Bergamasco superb, I sat beside Brian Moore when he said: "I had no part in John Beattie's injury at Twickenham - but I would like to have..." Snarly horror and a wonderful British Lion.

    Saint Jock - good to have you young people on board! Scott Gibbs, what a try of his at Wembley to beat England. Heard Scott Quinnell say Gibbs just asked for the ball in an unplanned move.

    weeswonders - John Pullin, ah, you take me back. This is the stuff I grew up watching. Took a high tackle from BG Williams and fed the ball on. I think I am an anorak. Pelous, fantastic, huge. Tom Smith, small man huge appetite and great ball carrier and scrummager now coaching Edinburgh.

    Jambonbey - too right! Sella = brilliance, and tough too.

    Segnes - Gerard Cholley was huge! Fran Cotton another legend, ah, all front rowers...

    akherb - Didn't have Eric Liddell in my final list, just as a real legend of the game.

    Can I please have lots of videos to watch of these great players......takes me back this does.

    Off to Edinburgh.

  • Comment number 24.

    Favourite player, so not necessarily the best.

    Wales - Gareth Edwards. I like his style and his attitude.

    Ireland - Simon Geoghegan (Thanks for the spelling OwainGlyndwr). Sheer entertainment every time.

    France - Serge Blanco. Sublime

    Scotland - Jock Turner. He was my next door neighbour for a while and introduced me to the game.

    Italy - The Bergamasco that had an outing at scrum half. Great enthusiasm, skill and entertainment. Shame about the pass.

    England - Rory Underwood. Sheer class. I was a bit disappointed when he finally scored a try at Murrayfield - we had kept him out for so long.

  • Comment number 25.

    Philip - Jock Turner, perhaps before my time and I don't think I ever met him but, of course, he is a legend. And Rory Underwood - real flyer

    I was just thinking, Bill McLaren commentating on people like Jeremy Janion, Charles Kent, Bob Hiller - that's what I grew up watching. Colin Meads, Graham Mourie.....sorry, bit of a brain explosion but I find I think about rugby all the time.

    Sunny day in Glasgow, put that in your diaries please..

    JB

  • Comment number 26.

    Akherb at 13...........Quite right re Gary Armstrong, och, how could I forget GARY ARMSTRONG!!!

    I'm a bit blind to anyone other than great back row players I'm afraid, of which Scotland have produced (and still are) some true greats including Beattie Snr & Beattie Jnr.

    Gary really was a great for Jedforest & Scotland. A marvelous scrum half of the nuggety, never say die, back row variety. Extremely modest family man and a great credit to his country.

  • Comment number 27.

    Wales - its tough, at 29 i barely remember the magic of JPR (and that was watching the old recordings) but do remember it was something special, possibly more so that Shane Williams

    Scotland - I would have gone for Gavin Hastings, maybe still should, however, the current back row are all now pushing for recognition, together the 3 B's work as an awesome unit for their country.

    France - Blanco. No doubt. Magic (if a little 'dirty' at times with the opposition, loved it from the little man!)

    Ireland - i agree with the consensus of O'Driscoll, but Wood and O'Connell both push him close in my opinion

    Italy - Dominguez, but Bergamasco's passion pushes him close, if it wasnt for that god awful decision to play scrum half maybe just maybe...

    England - Tough call for me, its between 5. Could it be the most memorable and imposing northern hemisphere captain Martin Johnson. How about the glitzy sparkling feet of the cross code convert J Robinson?
    The dynamic (and arguable best openside of him generation) Neil Back? Bill Beaumont? Or unsurprisingly a guy who at his peak became the best Number 10 in world rugby and the most prolific points scorer and has become so used to breaking records its almost second nature and his presence alone lifts his team and used to worry his opponents, Jonny Wilkinson. (Admittedly he is far from that now, and many teams have learnt how to shackle him and control him, and without the experience and flair at centre that he once had beside him he seems far too exposed now too. Catty greenwood and tindall all shone beside him, but flutey always seems too none existant beside him, or stands too deep leaving him exposed, the only current player who links well anymore is his former team mate Flood.)

    How about the most promising talent for the future for each nation?

    Italy - Mclean?

    Wales - Halfpenny?

    Scotland - Barclay?

    France - Andreu?

    England - Cole/or that fullback from Northampton .... :-)

  • Comment number 28.

    I'm only going back to 1986 as I don't think I can really comment about a period I never saw.

    Scotland: Gavin Hastings.
    My first international was Big Gav's first game and he was nerveless, 6 out of 6 kicks after the worst possible start to an international career was amazing.

    England: Rob Andrew (you can't criticise Bill McLaren agreed!)

    Ireland: Brian O'Driscoll would make any world XV over any generation!

    France: Phillipe Sella

    Wales: Ieuan Evans

    Italy: Dominguez

    As an aside, the most memorable game I remember was the 1986 Scottish trial, which was definitely the start of a Scotish golden period that culminated in the 1991 World Cup 4th Place. Do you remember the trial JB?

  • Comment number 29.

    England - Richard Hill (back row, not scrum-half)
    Ireland - Mike Gibson
    Scotland - Jim Renwick
    Wales - Ieuan Evans
    France - Denis Charvet
    Italy - Sergio Parisse

  • Comment number 30.

    Put in brackets my second favourite player. Been watching since 2000 so haven't seen some of the great names people here have put down.

    England: Jason Robinson (Richard Hill)

    France: Damien Traille (Thierry Dusautoir)

    Italy: Sergio Parisse (Martin Castrogiovanni)

    Ireland: Brian O'Driscoll (David Wallace)

    Scotland: Jason White (Chris Cusiter)

    Wales: Gethin Jenkins (Shane Williams)

  • Comment number 31.

    Eng Mike Teague saved the 89 Lions
    Wal Terry Holmes as good as Gareth
    Ire Tony Ward Magic
    Scot Alan Tait pace power balance rugby brain
    Fra Sella nearly as good as Gerber
    It cant think of any...the burd that makes Valentinis ice cream

  • Comment number 32.

    Dinkers.

    Snap! 1986 in the red end. Gig Gv kicks the ball out on the full and Berbizier scores from a quick lineout! You've got to ask what the back row was doing though in not covering the touchline......Mr Beattie!

  • Comment number 33.

    Liked the list from Segnes and had nearly forgotten about Cholley. I seem to recall he was about 6'4, 20 stone and an ex-paratrooper and heavyweight boxer. Played prop and second row and was the scariest player I have ever seen. I think I can also remember him laying out about 4 Scots in about 20 seconds way back when.
    Imagine a pack with the likes of him, Pascal Ondarts, Geoff Wheel and Alain Esteve (the Beast of Beziers) at the heart of it!

  • Comment number 34.

    What struck me about my own selection was the number of centres picked (and yes I did). But looking through the posts there is a high percentage of centres there. Anyway, here goes;

    France - Phillipe Sella (fast, great eye for the break, less flaky than Blanco)

    Italy - Sergio Parisse (genuine world class, great ball carrier off the back)

    Ireland - BOD (instinctive finisher)

    England - Jeremy Guscott (seemed to glide over the pitch, subsequent commentary shows what a great rugby brain he has)

    Wales - Jonathan Davies (can you imagine what this guy would have done in the game if he hadn't switched codes)

    Scotland - The obvious choice is Irvine, but I'm going to go with John Jeffrey, harking back to the time Scotland had a succession of mobile, rampaging back rows that equally broke up opposition play and created opportunity (Gentle nod to one JB - no guesses which team I spent my formative years watching.

    Great idea for a blog.

  • Comment number 35.

    Just back from Edinburgh (strange place, other side of the country, got the train. (To crack an old joke a table and chairs on the pavement in Edinburgh is a cafe, in Glasgow it's an eviction)

    I think that from now on at the end of this blog I will induct a player a week into a hall of fame

    Mr Nims. Guscutt, and this hurts me, yes he does talk sense. JJ a true rugby player in every sense and one of the greats. Met him on Monday.

    Old Exile - Cholley, huge. Was he not the heavyweight boxing champion of the Basque region of France as well. Big jaw? I don't think he kept his hands to himself. Ondarts, Wheel, Esteve - Phil Bennett tells a good story about Exteve and Bobby Wilson.

    Stirling Flanker - Aye, quick throw in, the truth is that we didn't know the rule!

    Rugbyron - great names, Teague, Holmes, Tait.

    GARY ARMSTRONG - has his own haulage business and delivers stuff in Glasgow. One of the best EVER

    Right, off for some food, back later

  • Comment number 36.

    Great blog John, really had me thinking, the 1st game I have any memory of is Wales v Scotland in 1982 and that still hurts. After hours I've gone for the following

    France - Phillippe Sella I don't care what the current day pundits say I've never seen a better northern hemisphere centre. He inspired me to play there and I still thank god I saw him play and thank god Wales never had to face him again when he retired.

    England - Richard Hill A lot has been said about Johnno, Dallegio, Back et al but England would never have won the World Cup without Hill. Phil Bennett told on BBC Wales once how he met up with Back, Dallegio and Hill and asked them who was the star man and without a thought Dallegio and Back said Hill. He was simply brilliant for England the best British 6 I've ever seen.

    Ireland - It's so easy to say O'Driscoll who has been massive for them. Simon Easterby was like Hill hugely underated, Hickey to. But after much debate I went for Ciaran FitzGerald, a real hard nut who captained the mid 80's team and made a nuissance of himself like hookers tend to do.

    Scotland - Rutherford, Rennie, Irvine they all haunted me as a kid, it was 82 and the spanking we got. Iain Paxton was a pain as well as the author of the blog. Gavin Hastings was awesome and like someone mentioned earlier I always thought Metcalf added a lot to the team. However time to get of the fence so I'll go for that big blonde pain 'the Great White Shark' John Jeffrey.

    Italy - It's quite easy to nail this one down and despite the claims of others the site of Bergamasco making a monkey out of Chris Patterson is enduring. His longevity helps but he remains for me the greatest Italian player I have seen.

    Wales - Whilst he won't be remembered by most I must mention Mark Ring who if not struck down by serious knee injuries would have been unbelivable, as good as Jonathan Davies if not better. However after a lot of mental debate I'll go for the man who replaces Scott Gibbs as the fastest ever prop Mr Gethin 'Melon' Jenkins. It's just not right seeing a winger in full flow being chased down and tackled by a prop, that's just not rugby! He should be banned from the front row union! And he still fronts up to do the dirty stuff! Thank God he's Welsh

  • Comment number 37.

    Scotland - David Sole (surprised he hasn't been mentioned yet?)Gary Armstrong.
    England - Mike Teague. Jason Robinson.
    Ireland - Keith Woods. Brian o'Driscoll
    Wales - Colin Charvis. Gareth Edwards.
    France - Abdelatif Benazzi. Phillipe Sella.
    Italy - The foreign scrum half chap with the outrageous side-burns

  • Comment number 38.

    Wales - Robert Jones
    France - Olivier Magne
    Ireland - BoD
    Scotland - John Jeffery
    Italy - Sergio Parisse
    England - David Duckham

  • Comment number 39.

    Groundbreaker - Robert Jones was key in that series win over the Aussies. And Olivier Magne was best at open field running.

    Captainmidnight - David Sole I was honoured to play alongside. One of the greatest players of all time

    Pontygog - ah a proud Welshman - I played in 1982! Yeeha! Yes, I am an old man! And you bring up the name of Mark Ring who as you say was exceptional and did he give in to a bad knee eventually? Richard Hill is a name that keeps coming up here. I suppose Richard Hill was the archetypal abrasive wing forward who is first on every team sheet. That and a tight head prop like Graham Price.

    JB

  • Comment number 40.

    Changing it slightly, but what about those players that made the ticket price worth every penny. The ones that could make something out of nothing!
    England - Jason Robinson (although Guscott came a close second)
    Ireland - Brian O'Driscoll, could glide through any defence in his prime.
    Franse - Phillippe Sella (again, Blanco was a close second)
    Wales - Shane Williams although there are so many to chose from.
    Scotland - Gregor Townsend, not the greatest at controlling games but could make things happen
    Italy - Mirco Bergamasco although not as many stand out candidates. Had a good tournament in 2003 and dangerous with ball in hand.

  • Comment number 41.

    Italy - Dominguez
    Ireland - Willie John McBride - Captain Supreme
    Wales - JPR Williams - A Genuis and played Club Rugby into his 50's,
    England - Jerry Guscott, for that drop goal for the Lions in SA !
    Scotland - Andy Irvine - The reason I fell in love with Rugby Union

  • Comment number 42.

    Could you perhaps share a bit of banter with us JB about the real characters you played with and against?

    Who had the changing rooms in fits of laughter? Who was tough as teak and feared by all?

  • Comment number 43.

    No one has mentioned Didier Camberabero, in the era of Rob Andrew a healthy adversary!

  • Comment number 44.

    Italy - Alessandro Troncon
    Wales - Ieuan Evans
    Ireland - Simon Geoghegan
    England - Jeremy Guscott
    Scotland - John Jeffrey
    France - Philippe Sella

  • Comment number 45.

    Wasp with a rose - Gregor Townsend...I was lying in bed, on the morning of that match in Paris, and being interviewed on radio over the phone. Geoff Webster, a friend of mine, asked me live if I thought Scotland would win. "No!" I said, easy one word answer. A Toony flip later and my oh my it was a Scottish win.

    Captain Midnight - ooh, will have to think about this. Probably Jim Renwick funniest man of all time. Andy Irvine speaks of a team talk where they are thinking about getting JPR Williams under a high ball, let him catch it, then get him to ground and kick him. Andy says he thinks the Welsh might be talking about doing the same thing to him. Renwick says: "Don't worry, you are safe.....you will never catch it."

    Craig - Didier Camberabero. Big tall bloke good kicker of have I got the wrong bloke? I remember the New Zealand commentators mis-pronouncing his name...CAMberABERO

    JB

  • Comment number 46.

    One player I used to love to watch was Thierry Lacroix. As amusing on the field as off it...

  • Comment number 47.

    camberabero wee guy
    lescarabouro big guy d/g genius

  • Comment number 48.

    Thierry Lacroix, I think he was one of the players who shaved all hair off in 1995 world cup, just to help the commentators.

    Rugbyron - thanks, Lescaboura (haven't checked the spelling) tall man, other little French stand offs are aplenty.

  • Comment number 49.

    Scotland - Gary Armstrong
    Wales - Ieuan Evans
    France - Jean-Pierre Garuet
    Ireland - Keith Wood
    Italy - Sergio Parisse
    England - Simon Shaw

  • Comment number 50.

    S: Andy Irvine
    W: Gareth Edwards
    Ir: Brian O'Driscoll
    E: Jason Robinson
    F: Serge Blanco
    It: Martin Castrogiovanni
    Other: Johah Lomu

  • Comment number 51.

    Heard Bobby Windsor tell a story on tv about Esteve, who would bully him all match and punch him in every scrum. Windsor said he got his own back when Esteve was lying prone on the side of a ruck and thought he'd killed him after kicking him as hard as he could, only to turn round and see Esteve get up smiling and say "Bobbbbeeee" in a taunting manner as he had done all match. Windsor admitted to being slightly scared. Even now nearly 40 years later.

  • Comment number 52.

    France - Serge Blanco. The only full back you could pick in a world XV ahead of JPR.
    Ireland - Mike Gibson. Played in all back line positions apart from full back and excelled at all of them. All Blacks thought he was the best. Not a bad recommendation!
    Italy - Sergio Parisse (as above)
    Scotland - John Jeffrey. Brilliant flanker. At his best no-one could live with him. Fast, agile great in the line out and loose.
    Wales - Gareth Edwards - Simply the greatest player of all time.
    England - Martin Johnson. Awesome player and leader in the last 5 years of his career.

  • Comment number 53.

    Oldexile - I have heard Gareth Edwards tell that story at speeches - both of them seemed delighted to be involved in the argy bargy.

    Donald Dunbar - you and me are not too far apart here.

    Hugues from France. I remember being sent down to film a piece on Kenny Logan a long time ago when he had moved to Wasps and seeing Simon Shaw for the first time. Huge and to think he was key on the last Lions tour. Armstrong legend, and I am not going to cheat and pretend I know everything - Garuet was a prop was he not? Was he from your area?

    JB

  • Comment number 54.

    I like this line I have nicked from the internet: "Monsieur Jean-Pierre GARUET, ancien pilier droit de l'équipe de France, de 1983 à 1990." So, the French must just call them left and right props. Much simpler. Maybe we should change the position titles - stand off, lock...etc. Left and right prop, easy. No wonder they invented wine.

    JB

  • Comment number 55.

    Cant remember 40 yrs but from what i can remember:

    England: Martin Johnstone

    Wales: Scott Quinell

    Ireland: Keith Wood

    Italy: Sergio Parisse

    France: Thomas Castaignède

    Scotland: Jason White.. Here comes the BOOM!!

  • Comment number 56.

    Wales - Gerald Davies sheer class
    England - Martin Johnson inspirational
    Ireland - Mike Gibson could do it all
    Scotland - Andy Irvine a true great
    France - Rives everywhere

  • Comment number 57.

    What an excellent way to waste 15 minutes on a drab Thursday afternoon!

    Players I would pay to watch any day of the week, in their pomp:

    England - (painful one this, given his appreciation of all things Scottish...) Jeremy Guscott - natural athlete, incredibly smooth and balanced runner, awesome acceleration at his peak. He even managed to thrive later in his career when centres were starting to become the "big bangers" most of them are today.

    France - Philipe Sella - awesome mixture of pace, power, touch and artistry, and hardness (physical and mental) - he must have been a nightmare to play against.

    Italy - Sergio Parisse for me - big, mobile, great hands, and he shines in a (sometimes) very average, beaten team. Dominguez wasn't enough of a rugby player for me ("Hugo Porta-lite", anyone?).

    Ireland - O'Driscoll is obviously a great player, but Mike Gibson for me - fantastic ball-player, no weaknesses, and again was always one of the best players on the park in an Ireland team that sometimes didn't really show up.

    Scotland - Jim Calder - scorer of three of Scotland's best or most important tries (v Wales in 82, v England in '83, v France in '84), and so much more besides - incredible to think his 27(?) cap career ended two years before his twin Fin's Scotland career started! - imagine being a solid club player playing v Stew/Mel with both of them still gunning...!

    Wales - That fellow Edwards - no contest, for me. He took the role of the scrum-half to an entirely new level, with Sid Going being whipped along in his slipstream. As fast as a winger, and as hard as a flanker. The best there has ever been in my book.

  • Comment number 58.

    Redbud - Scott Quinnell was arguably one of the best British ball carriers of all time. Sore knees meant he didn't train much
    and I recall Jason White's blind side hit on Phil Vickery in one Scotland England match.

    VewypwoudScot - I should have mentioned Jim Calder. As you say scored some huge tries and was a natural open field runner in the classic mould. I think I once played against a Stew Mel pack with four Calders, Gav, John Jim and Fin, and two Brewsters. Scary business.............

    JB

  • Comment number 59.

    I've really enjoyed reading the responses, great idea for a blog. Hard to pick but here goes;

    England - Jason Leonard, the epitome of what a player's player should be. Over one hundred caps in the front row spanning both the amateur and professional era, a world cup winner, an awesome scrummager and a top bloke.

    France - Serge Blanco, to see him run with the ball was as close as rugby has ever come to an art form! I might think about forking out eighty quid for an international ticket if he was still playing!!

    Italy - Alessandro Troncon, a close call with Dominguez but he seemed to improve with age, real class and a great leader.

    Wales - Gareth Edwards, where do you start with Wales? I could have easily picked 20 but for genuine excitement, pace and brilliance this man was the business. Oh, and he was a great captain on Question of Sport!!

    Ireland - John Hayes, okay so there have been far more impressive players, Gibson, O'Driscoll, McBride to name but a few but the "Bull" has had an amazing career. He started late in life and has kept on going and going despite not being the greatest scrummager. Once again over one hundred caps in the front row is a magnificent achievement.

    Scotland - Iain Milne. Where do you start with the "Bear"? His performance in the 1984 Grand Slam game was possibly the bravest from any Scottish player ever. In today's professional era he would have earned a fortune as a tremendous tight head prop forward who never went backwards.

    I make no apology for the front row bias!!!!

  • Comment number 60.

    Oh Boy, can I commend to you David Currie's piece about the Glasgow warriors with the Miss Scotland finalists:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/scotland/8681565.stm

  • Comment number 61.

    great idea for a blog JB right here goes
    England-Martin Johnson-for leadership from the front
    Italy-Sergio Parisse-just a different class
    Scotland-Andy Irvine-great runner
    France-Serge Blanco-just seemed to glide over the turf not bad considering he used to smoke 40 a day
    Ireland-Keith Wood-never stopped running
    Wales-Gareth Edwards-for the try in the corner against Scotland when he was covered in red mud sorry JB

  • Comment number 62.

    Scotland - Has to be John Jeffrey.

  • Comment number 63.

    Peter Verdi - The Bear was the most naturally talented tight head prop Scotland ever produced. Unbelievable ability in the scrum, in fact when we played a Lions game in one of the midweek matches in New Zealand he was penalised by the local referee for "pushing too hard" Fantastic.

    Osprey 2k5 - Keith Wood a great sportsman

    Jon Lawrie - I suppose JJ summed up all that was good about a certain era of my country's rugby with a never say die attitude.

    Oh, and this recent decision about the Ospreys is interesting is it not?

    JB

  • Comment number 64.

    I just watched David Curries bit on the Glasgow Warriors send off for the Warriors. Fantastic.

    "Is Dean Park playing?"

    "Dean Park? That's a hotel in Renfrewshire..."

    Classic.

    John, how do you fancy Glasgows chances tonight?

    And in a similar vein to this blog, who was the best captain and coach you played with?

    I watched the Living with the Lions documentary on a long haul flight recently and listening to Telfers speech whilst at 30,000 feet probably wasn't my greatest idea. Adrenaline was pumping, made sleeping a bit tricky!

  • Comment number 65.

    My choice would be -

    Scotland - Andy Irvine
    England - Jason Leonard
    Ireland - Brian O'D
    Wales - Garath Edwards
    France - Serge Blanco
    Italy - Castrogiovanni

    However, the man I admired the most throughout my playing career was the late Bruce Hay.

  • Comment number 66.

    As a Scotsman in Leicester I have to pick a couple of Tigers one old and one new

    England - Close call but it has to be Deano (sorry Johnno)- Deano was a colosuss - when his big mitts where on the ball you knew we (tigers) were ok EXCEPT when he was playing for England against Scotland and then you knew we (scotland) were in the mire. A great player, great coach and his grumpy silence with the media makes him even better in my view. Do the talking on the pitch.

    Italy - Has to be a current Tiger - The mighty Castro - The way he detroys other scrummages is a sight to behold.He is also a great character and owns a fine retaurant!

    Ireland - I have to go with some others on here and say Mike Gibson - he was a truly calss act

    France - so many to choose from but from pure durability it has to be Sella

    Wales - possible the hardest of all to choose but I will have to go with my lions heart and the most mecurial of all welsh outside halves and say Phil Bennett

    Scotland - bringing me home and a very hard hard choice, with Brown and Milne and Hastings and Leslie and dare I even say old JB himself right up there but it has to be my old Childhood hero, one for all the old short fat boys, el preidente himself the legendary Mightymouse - Ian McLauchlan - he was an emmense scrummager - destroying much larger opponents, but with the ball skills of a "modern" prop, with determination of steel and guts of iron and a fair captain too - another grumpy old sod - just like Deano - wonderful

    And for my non six nations player I have to go back to a Tiger I am afraid - and singulary the best player I had the pleasure to watch live - Better than Deano or Jonno or Backy or Underwood and that was Josh Kronfeld - When he was on the field your eyes where glued to him - he seemed to be able to anything - He would tackle a man - get up take the ball of him and charge down the field riding tackles and 4 blokes hanging off him - awesome!

  • Comment number 67.

    Andymclellan - David Currie, pretty good stuff. I think it's going to be tough for Glasgow tonight, Ospreys are a great team and haven't been beaten since September on their home ground and have All Black and British Lions in the team. Tough, but winable. I suspect if Hola, Collins and Shane Williams get room to move the Ospreys will win.

    Best coach - Jim Telfer, honest man with direct thoughts.

    Gettaefalkirk - Peter Wright's hero was Bruce Hay as well, a wonderful man and wonderful player.

    Scottish tiger - Dean Richards' first cap was my last. Ahem...

    As for your comments about Josh Kronfeld I can remember watching him play, I think for Otago, against the British Lions and being mesmerised by this perpetual motion and sheer belligerence as well as skill. Amazing player.

    Very kind of you to include me, but I do realise that I wasn't a legendary player like the others mentioned.

    JB

  • Comment number 68.

    53, 54 JB
    Garuet is not from my area, I mentionned him because he was a "pilier" with a good stomach (at this time they had restaurant party the Friday night before the 5 nation game).
    His shape a bit like Tom Smith (one of my favourite), small guy but strong and good to steal balls.

    " So, the French must just call them left and right props. Much simpler. Maybe we should change the position titles"

    Yes and NO,
    I played back row, and a bit ignorant technically about the props and their head position in the scrum.
    Thank you the British, with "loose and tighthead" I tried to understand and, I know now why tighthead is so hard and important the scrum.

    I'm so excited to watch and support GLASGOW tonight(via satellite).

    Glasgow diserves something for all their work through the season.

    A win would be massive for Scottish Rugby, and Glasgow area!

  • Comment number 69.

    These are my favourite players

    Italy - Mirco Bergamasco

    Scotland - John Jeffrey followed by Gavin Hastings and Gregor Townsend

    Ireland - Keith Wood, just over Brian O'D for his better leadership

    Wales - Ieuan Evans, Johnathan Davis and Shane Williams very close

    France - Serge Blanco, my personal favorite followed by Phillipe Sella

    and Jean-Pierre Rives

    England - Richard Hill, the ultimate team player followed by Jerermy

    Guscott.

    Favourite overseas players Mark Ella and Tim Horan

    That was hard work!

  • Comment number 70.

    my best non 6 nations player would have to be michael jones the all black

  • Comment number 71.

    A shame, Warriors too much penalised to win a semi final.

    Congratulations to the guys on the pitch, they battled untill the last minute.

  • Comment number 72.

    England - David Duckham - surely one of the most under rated English layers of all time
    Ireland - Simon Geoaghan(sic) - A bundle of energy and entertainment
    Wales - Gareth Edwards - say no more
    France - Jean Pierre Rives - surely no player has ever split more blood for the cause
    Scotland - Andy Irvine - Without JPR would have been considered the best full back in the world in his day
    Italy - Diego Dominguez - the twitching maestro

  • Comment number 73.

    Not necessarily the best John, but you asked for favourites!!!

  • Comment number 74.

    Scotland: Billy Steele.
    Ireland: Mike Gibson.
    Wales: Martyn Williams.
    England: Martin Johnson.
    France: Philippe Sella.

  • Comment number 75.

    In no particular order....

    Wales - Gareth Edwards(nobody does it better)
    France - Phillipe Sella (the choice is endless from the most engaging rugby team to watch)
    Ireland - Keith Wood (I think he was the catalyst for the current Irish side)
    Italy - Sergio Parisse (a phenomenal athlete)
    Scotland - Gregor Townsend (he seemed to be able to break the line at ease and suffered because the opposition always marked him out of the game. I watched the Scotland trial when he was 17 or 18 and he made 2 or 3 fifty yard breaks. Fantastic.)
    England - Jeremy Guscott. No need to explain, just brilliant.

    Other - Christian Cullen (watch his tries on youtube)

    This is great fun!

  • Comment number 76.

    Big Ondy - Gregor Townsend - where was that Scottish trial?

    Ellyboo - Martyn Williams - ex judo player I think I read and as good as anyone around the ruck and on the floor and a great open field ball carrier

    And as for Michael Jones, what a hard man - Samoan.

    Christian Cullen - such balance.

  • Comment number 77.

    Scotland - Gary Armstrong; or Gordon Brown, or Toonie, or Alan Tait, or David Leslie or.....the list goes on....you're in there too JB...just a wee bit behind junior.

    England - Always liked Andy Robinson, moreso now obviously

    France - J-P Rives

    Ireland - Wood or O'Driscoll

    Wales - Gareth Edwards

  • Comment number 78.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 79.

    I may be mistaken as I was probably worse for wear but I'm sure it was at Murrayfield - the possibles vs the probables (or was it blues vs reds?). As the two backlines came together he'd make a move, confusion amongst both sets of backs would ensue and he'd tear through leaving everyone in his wake - he was just a skinny wee boy! It must have been 1991 or 92. He was at his best when he had an inside centre who could read his moves i.e. Guscott or Leslie.

    Does it ring a bell? When did the last trial take place?

  • Comment number 80.

    How about this for a centre partnership?

    Brian Gerard O'Driscoll and Michael Cameron Gibson....awesome.

  • Comment number 81.

    I've got to admit John, that you and your son Johnnie are better number 8s than I could ever hope to be, but in my opinion Ryan Jones is the best of all. He really showed that in yesterday's Magners League Semi-Final. Truly exceptional man and player.

  • Comment number 82.

    I'm only 20 so i'm going to stick to picks from this generation:

    England: Jason Robinson
    France: Yannick Jauzion
    Ireland: Brian O'Driscoll
    Italy: Sergio Parisse
    Scotland: Euan Murray
    Wales: Martyn Williams

  • Comment number 83.

    There's some great players around these days but the players of the '70s are the ones that still stand out for me. Nostalgia for a bygone amateur age maybe, but anyway:

    England: David Duckham. He had that 'Wow!' factor that thrilled people. Selling dummies that even fooled the cameraman. Cruelly misused by England stuck out on wing.

    Wales: Lots to choose from. JPR, Barry John, John Taylor - great flanker, but it's just got to be Gareth Edwards, the complete player.

    Scotland: Andy Irvine - not the best defensive fullback maybe but, by God, what a fantastic attacking one.

    Ireland: Mike Gibson. Looks small compared to today's centres but was a mesmerising player. Great in defence and had that Barry John-like ability to slip through gaps that just weren't there.

    France: Serge Blanco in full flow was in a class of his own. You could only watch and admire.

    Italy: weren't playing in the '70s but any team would kill to have somebody the quality of Parisse playing for them.

  • Comment number 84.

    Somewhat late but my views are:

    England: David Duckam (known as Dai in Wales for obvious reasons)We Welsh fans always gave him a great reception because of the way he played the game. Man of the match in the famous 1973 Barbarians v all Blacks

    Ireland: Mike Gibson - the complete player

    Scotland: Gary Armstrong - epitomises Scottish courage allied to a great rugby brain

    Wales: Gerald Davies - scored tries out of nothing and one of the great ambassadors of the sport.

    Italy: Sergio Parisse - Good enough to play for any country.

    France: Phillipe Sella - the French version of Mike Gibson.

  • Comment number 85.

    Like deedeerfc, I'm also too young to pick from over the last 40 years, but my favourite players currently playing are undoubtedly:

    Wales: Ryan Jones
    Scotland: Johnnie Beattie
    Ireland: Jamie Heaslip
    France: Imanol Harinordoquy
    Italy: Alessandro Zanni
    England: Nick Easter

  • Comment number 86.

    England. Peter Winterbottom
    Wales. Gareth Edwards
    Ireland. BOD
    France. Philip Sella
    Scotland. Colin Deans

  • Comment number 87.

    What about Scott Hastings - he was good too and Jim Telfer never lost a match against the 'big three', so surely he should be in with a shout.

  • Comment number 88.

    Sorry, I forgot about the other countries!
    Wales. either Gareth Edwards or JPR
    France. Raphael Ibanez
    England. Jason Robinson
    Ireland. Willie John McBride
    Italy. Diego Dominguez

  • Comment number 89.

    Ok - first five inductees into our hall of fame here are Gareth Edwards, Eric Liddell, Mike Gibson, Serge Blanco, Martin Johnson and Alessandro Troncon

    JB

 

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