The Rugby World Cup is the biggest stage in the game. Over the years, players have earned themselves a place in the history books by producing magic moments when it mattered most. It’s interesting to note however, that while so many greats of the game will cement their legacy by lifting the Web Ellis cup, there are some men who arguably have given so much to the game but never earn the right to lift the trophy. The truth is there are so many icons of the game that could be worthy of a spot on this list, Doug Howlett, Paul O’ Connell and Carlos Spencer to name a few. Nevertheless, here’s my list of the top five rugby players who have never won a world cup.
5. Christian Cullen
Despite a shorter test career than others on this list, Cullen was one of the most exciting outside backs to ever take to a field. Nicknamed the Paekakariki Express, his speed, footwork and vision allowed him to vanquish defenders across the globe throughout a career that earned Cullen 46 tries in 58 appearances for the All Blacks. Unfortunately, the chance to showcase his thrilling stamp on the game at the world cup always escaped him.
4. Thierry Dusautoir
The French flanker served both his nation and a number of clubs throughout a career which earned him the nickname, “the dark destroyer”. Dusautoir made a record tally of 38 tackles in a match against New Zealand during the 2007 Rugby World Cup Quarter Final at the Millennium Stadium. To put that in perspective, one man made more tackles than the entire New Zealand team. Former All Black Mils Mulinia once said that during a game against Dusautoir, he found himself at the bottom of a ruck with him after seventy minutes and he wasn’t sweating.
3. Zinzan Brooke
Zinzan Brooke is widely considered as one of the best flankers in the history of the game. Having led the Auckland Blues to victory as a captain in the Super 12 championships in 1996 and 1997, he also earned 58 caps for the All Blacks in which he scored 89 points. At the time of his retirement, Brooke held the world record for a forward for scoring 17 tries test tries and was ranked the eighth greatest player of all time on the list of the “50 Greatest Rugby players” compiled by The Telegraph in 2007.
2. Brian O’ Driscoll
Former Irish professional rugby union player Brian O’Driscoll is widely regarded as the best outside centre in rugby history. At twenty years of age he carved up the French defence to score three tries and guide Ireland to a historic victory in Paris with what many still refer to as the greatest solo performance by any Irish player. The very next year he would manage to score what is possibly the greatest try ever scored by the British and Irish Lions when they faced Australia in the 2001 test series. During his long career which would see him captain Leinster, Ireland and the British and Irish Lions, he consistently produced moments of magic that stunned fans and players alike. At club level he achieved everything there is to achieve, the World Cup was a different story however, as he unfortunately never got past the quarter-finals of the tournament. O’ Driscoll retired in 2014.
1. Jonah Lomu
All the players on the list are some of greatest to ever pick up a ball, there’s no doubt about it. However, can any of them say that they changed the way the game is played? No rugby player in history could argue that they’ve had as much of an impact on the modern game as this man. At the age of 19 years and 45 days, Lomu became the youngest All Black test player when he debuted against France in 1994. South Africa may have won the 1995 world cup, but Lomu completely stole the show. His performance at the 1995 tournament established him as an icon of the game with attendances skyrocketing at any fixture which he appeared in. Lomu scored seven tries in five matches, two in the first match against Ireland, one in the quarter final against Scotland and a now legendary four tries in the semi-final against England. The first score saw Lomu receive a pass behind him, then continue to make a mockery of Tony Underwood, Will Carling and Mike Catt.