There's no rugby side in the world today with a more prominent legacy than the mighty All Blacks of New Zealand.
Perenially, the ABs are found atop the International Rugby Board's
ranking system; and have a winning record against every international
rugby team with whom they've competed.
The All Blacks were named the IRB's team of the year in 2005, 2006
and 2008; and have 14 players who are members of the International
Rugby Hall of Fame.
New Zealand has one World Cup title in their resume, which was
coincidentally the inaugural competition held in New Zealand and
Australia in 1987; and the All Blacks will host the World Cup in
2011, where they have high hopes of bringing the trophy home once again.
Compiling a "greatest ever" list wasn't a simple task, especially by position; but here's my best attempt. Full Back
— Christian Cullen (1996-2002)
Also known as the "Paekakariki Express," Cullen showed exceptional rugby qualities at an early age.
Cullen's ability as an astonishingly prolific try-scorer is
reflected in the fact that in 58 tests between 1996 and 2002 he scored
46 tries, which became the All Black record at the time.
His entire first class career includes representation for
Horowhenua, Manawatu (15 matches in 1995-96), Central Vikings (nine
games in 1997), Wellington (39 matches in 1998-2003) and the Hurricanes
(85 Super 12 matches) he scored in excess of 150 tries. Wing
— John Kirwan (1984-1994)
John Kirwan was strongly built and unusually tall for a wing; he
dazzled the rugby world with his considerable pace and determination.
At his peak, in the seasons between 1986 and 1988, Kirwan was
magnificent, exceeding in those years even his great Australian rival,
In 1987, he was a star of the All Blacks' World Cup, his length of
the field run for a try against Italy is an enduring image remembered
by rugby fans across the globe.
He also scored a crucial try despite being in agony with a hamstring
injury in the final against France. His greatest year, certainly in
terms of try-scoring, was in 1988 when in five test matches against
Wales and Australia, he scored a tally of 10 tries. Outside Center
— Frank Bunce (1992-1997)
In his prime, Frank Bunce and North Harbour teammate Walter Little
formed a formidable midfield combination, arguably the best in the
In all, Bunce played 69 matches for New Zealand, 55 of them tests.
Inevitably, he is compared with another late blooming All Black
center, Joe Stanley, with his ability to read a game and make play for
Perhaps as a result of a background of working on Auckland trash
trucks, one of Bunce's assets was his strength in the tackle, either
giving or receiving. A subtle as well as a strong runner he scored 20
test tries. Inside Center
— Dan Carter (2003-Present)
Dan Carter is prominently known as the best fly-half in the world
today, but to make room for others on this list and considering his
strong play at inside-center at the 2003 World Cup, he makes his mark
Carter possesses a dynamic array of physical and mental skills,
including great speed, deceptive strength and a dangerous side-step. He
is a reliable goal-kicker, an astute tactician and a calm backline
In 2006, Carter's 25 points against South Africa at Wellington tied the All Black single-match record against South Africa.
His 15th Test try scored against England in London, set a new All
Blacks record for most test tries by a fly-half, a record he extended
against France in Lyon.
Carter also holds the record for the most points scored in Super 12/14 history. Wing
— Jonah Lomu (1994-2002)
At the peak of his career, Jonah Lomu, like Dan Carter, was known as the best player in the world.
At his best, which was when he first burst onto the New Zealand
rugby scene as an 18-year-old in 1994 and then in the two World Cup
tournaments, Lomu was virtually unstoppable.
Standing 6'5", and weighing up to 120kg, Lomu in top physical condition could run 100 meters in or about 11.0 seconds.
Given space and room, he was a nightmare for much smaller defenders
and the image of him trampling over England's Mike Catt in the 1995
World Cup semifinal will be one which persists through the next few
Statistics don't do full justice to the impact Lomu made in New Zealand and world rugby. Fly Half
— Grant Fox (1984-1993)
Grant Fox dominated the All Black fly-half position in the late
1980s through to the mid- 90s, and was one of the most potent scorers
in New Zealand history.
In 78 matches for the All Blacks, he scored 1067 points and in his
46 tests he registered 645 points, his sole try coming against Scotland
In 303 first class matches, he scored a record 4112 points, of which 2746 came in 189 games for Auckland.
A key member of the great Auckland sides of 1985-93, Fox scored 932
points in Ranfurly Shield rugby, nearly three times more than anyone
else. Half Back
— Sid Going (1967-1977)
"A bundle of barbed wire, cast iron and rubber, Sid ran like a
slippery eel making for the water. Without warning he exploded like a
bunch of firecrackers and some of his fantastic feats on the field
could only be equalled in a topline circus."
Sid ranks amongst the best running half-backs ever. Strong and
stocky, weighing 81kg and 5'7", he was a superb runner close to his
forwards, with a flair for the unorthodox.
Though sometimes criticised for the quality of his passing and
trying too much himself. Going was nevertheless a gamebreaker supreme. No. Eight
— Zinzan Brooke (1987-1997)
Zinzan Brooke was of the most skillful forwards to have played for the All Blacks and was one of the most versatile and durable.
Brooke received the ultimate compliment from All Black coach John
Hart when he said there would never be another player like him.
His 17 tries in tests were a world record for a forward. Many of his
more than 150 tries in his first-class career came from pushover tries
at the base of the dominant Auckland pack, but the nature of the tries
don't detract from the skill and competitiveness of one of the All
Black giants of the 1990s, and one to live with the giants of the past. Openside Flanker
— Richie McCaw (2001-Present)
Richie McCaw is a key figure for the All Blacks and is generally recognised as the world’s best openside flanker.
McCaw has the size and strength to be a punishing defender, the cool
head and quick hands required to master the breakdown area, and the
speed and handling skills to play a traditional tearaway’s linking role
to superb effect.
McCaw was named as All Blacks captain for the first time for the
test against Wales in 2004 aged just 23; in 2006, he captained the side
in all 12 test matches.
McCaw was awarded the IRB Player of the Year award in 2006 after
being a finalist in both the International Rugby Players Association
and IRB awards in 2003 and again for the IRB in 2005. Blindside Flanker
— Michael Jones (1987-1998)
Michael Jones was nicknamed 'the Iceman' or 'Ice' because of the
cool but confident manner in which he played, and the number of
icepacks he needed for injuries.
Prominently know as an openside flanker, Jones also spent na great
deal of time on the blindside. He has been voted by Rugby World
magazine as the third best All Black of the 20th century.
Jones won many plaudits for his on field deeds, even being acclaimed by some judges as the greatest rugby player of all time.
Part Samoan heritage, he was a splendid role model off the field as
well. Always polite and quietly spoken, and a solid student who gained
two university degrees, he won respect for the dignified manner with
which he stuck to his principles. Lock
— Ian Jones (1989-1999)
Long and lanky, Ian Jones overcame constant carping, especially in
his early years, about his perceived lack of bulk to become one of New
Zealand rugby's greatest ever locks.
When he left the New Zealand game in 1999 to finish out his playing
days with a lucrative English contract with Gloucester, he had 79 tests
to his credit, second only to Sean Fitzpatrick's 92.
In the Super 12, Jones made 38 appearances, often as captain, for
the Chiefs between 1996 and 1999. He once scored three tries in a match
against the Waratahs in 1996. Lock
— Colin Meads (1957-1971)
Aptly nicknamed "Pinetree", for nearly 14 years in All Black rugby,
Meads, firstly as a siderow forward but more constantly as a lock, was
a towering presence, and was one of the best and most inspiring players
New Zealand rugby has known in any position.
Meads received just about every honor the game bestowed, including
membership of the International Hall of Fame and the New Zealand
Sporting Hall of Fame. T
here was no dispute when at the end of the 1999 The New Zealand
Rugby Monthly magazine proclaimed him the New Zealand Player of the
Century and in the New Year Honours list of 2001 he was made a New
Zealand Companion of Merit. Tighthead Prop
— Carl Hayman (2001-2007)
By the time he had left at the end of the 2007 World Cup for an
overseas contract, Carl Hayman was generally seen as the world’s best
tighthead prop and one of the best New Zealand has produced in the
Nobody in the history of the sport came close to Hayman's
exceptional abilities at the scrum. Besides his strong scrummaging
technique, he possessed surprising mobility and considerable ability as
an effective lifter. Hooker
— Sean Fitzpatrick (1986-1997)
Sean Fitzpatrick, with his durability, competitiveness and his role
in making the hooker a dynamic cross between a tight and loose forward,
He was also an inspiring leader and of the record 92 tests he played
for the All Blacks between 1986 and 1997 he captained 51 of those, also
a record. Fitzy had established himself as one of the most significant
All Blacks of all time.
As a legend, he's rated with the most notorius men who have a status not simply as rugby stars, but as folk heroes. Loosehead Prop
— Olo Brown (1990-1998)
When Olo Brown played, he was the cornerstone of the pack. With his
technique and straightness of back, he was rated by scrummaging experts
as one of the finest props to play for New Zealand at any time.
His provincial and test teammate, Sean Fitzpatrick, swore by his
prowess; and few scrums anchored by Brown were ever bettered. Around
the field too, he was a competent player capable of also playing at
He also had above-average intelligence, having had a fine academic
record at Auckland's Mt Albert Grammar, and even when the game had
become professional, continued with a "real" job as a chartered
accountant. Honorable Mention
Doug Howlett - Wing (2000-2007)
Joe Rokocoko - Wing (2003-Present)
Tana Umaga - Outside Center (1997-2005)
Justin Marshall - Half Back (1995-2005)
Wayne Shelford - Number 8 (1985-1990)
Ali Williams - Lock (2002-Present)
Tony Woodcock - Loosehead Prop (2002-Present)