The 10 best players never to win a RWC

(Other) Wednesday 29 February 2012
The 10 best players never to win a RWC
Jonah Lomu set RWC 1995 alight with his barnstorming runs but he never tasted RWC success

Rugby, by its very definition, is a team sport, meaning some of the best players ever to grace the pitch have never felt the elation of lifting the Webb Ellis Cup. But just who are the greatest players to have been denied Rugby World Cup glory?

A quick look at our top 10 gives you some idea of the quality of the players who have missed out on the top prize. We followed only two rules in compiling our list: firstly, a player had to have played in a Rugby World Cup; and secondly, anyone likely to play in England in 2015 still has a shot at glory – so they don’t count either. 

Serge Blanco (France)
The 38 tries in 93 Test matches only tells half the story for the Frenchman who paved the way for some of the great attacking full backs of the last 20 years. A losing finalist in 1987, but generally acclaimed as one of the most exciting players of his generation. Much like…

Philippe Sella (France)
Alongside Blanco, the elusive Sella formed part of the amazing French backline at the 1987 and 1991 Rugby World Cups, and went on to a third tournament in 1995. He was never victorious, despite having – according to former France coach Jacques Fouroux – "the strength of a bull but the touch of a piano player".

Christian Cullen (New Zealand)
From the moment he scored a hat-trick on his All Black debut aged 20, no-one in New Zealand would have believed Cullen would not win a Rugby World Cup. And yet, despite 46 tries in 58 Tests, he only went to one tournament – in 1999 when France famously spoilt the Kiwi party. 

Jonah Lomu (New Zealand)
At one stage of Rugby World Cup 1995, while stomping all over the English backline and having Will Carling label him a “freak”, it seemed as if Lomu would win the tournament on his own. Instead, shock defeats in both 1995 and 1999 left the powerhouse wing empty-handed. 

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Josh Kronfeld (New Zealand)
Another All Black whose Rugby World Cup career spanned 1995 and 1999, the two tournaments which were seen as disasters back in New Zealand. But Kronfeld was still the model for the modern openside, so quick to the breakdown in the way Richie McCaw, David Pocock and Sam Warburton are now. 

Brian O’Driscoll (Ireland)
Having already announced that he is likely to retire in 2013, ‘BOD’ will never win the big one, but will go down as one of the finest outside centres the world has ever seen. The most tries by any centre, ever (46), give some indication of how skillful an attacking player Ireland’s best has been – and still is. 

Diego Dominguez (Argentina/Italy)
He may have played twice for Argentina, but it was the 74 caps for Italy that get him on this list. With an Italian side in the 1990s that was never even in contention to win a major tournament, he was still known as a world-class player, and is one of only five men to score more than 1,000 Test points. Enough said. 

Raphaël Ibanez (France)
One of the great hookers of the modern Game just edges Ireland’s Keith Wood from our shortlist, with 18 typically barnstorming, ball-carrying, combative Rugby World Cup appearances in his 98 Test career, including two semi finals and a Final. Close, but not quite close enough…

Peter Winterbottom (England)
Possibly a surprise choice to many, but every member of the England side that lost the 1991 Final at Twickenham knew just what a terrific flanker this man was – as did the All Black fans who were famously impressed by his performances in two British and Irish Lions tours to New Zealand. 

Shane Williams (Wales)
Only recently retired, but the history books will show just what an outstanding player the diminutive Welsh wing was. Came close to a World Cup triumph in his final act as an international last year, but the IRB Player of the Year 2008 can console himself with his astonishing record of 60 tries.

Do you agree with our selection? If not, visit the RWC Facebook or Twitter pages and tell us who would make your list.