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South Africa begin the defence of their Rugby World Cup crown in just three weeks and fans are set to flock to France in anticipation of seeing some of the stars of the game.

With players such as Antoine Dupont, Aaron Smith and Siya Kolisi set to feature in France, it is easy to forget some of the stars of the past that lit up the tournament.

Here are our selections for the greatest ever Rugby World Cup XV.

WhatRugby World Cup 2023
WhenFriday 8th September - Saturday 28th October
How to watchITV
OddsNew Zealand 5/2, France 3/1, South Africa 9/2, Ireland 5/1, Australia 10/1, England 11/1


15: Full-back - Serge Blanco (France)

Nicknamed the 'Pele of Rugby', Serge Blanco produced one of the most memorable moments of the inaugural Rugby World Cup in 1987 as he finished off a move to eliminate hosts Australia in the semi-final.

Although his France side were beaten by the All Blacks in the showpiece, Blanco went on to captain the side in the 1991 edition and still holds the try record for France with 38.

14: Right wing - David Campese (Australia)

One of the biggest inspirations for rugby's modern footwork, David Campese is among the greatest wingers in the sport's history and became the first Australian to reach 100 Test caps.

Campese's thrilling attacking play was a huge draw for Wallabies fans and he played an instrumental role in their 1991 Rugby World Cup win, winning the top try scorer award with six tries in as many games, including a masterclass to eliminate New Zealand in the semi-final.

13: Outside centre - Ma'a Nonu (New Zealand)

A key member of New Zealand's back-to-back Rugby World Cup titles in 2011 and 2015, Ma'a Nonu is considered almost the perfect midfielder thanks to a well-balanced but explosive game, which enabled him to excel in both the 12 and 13 shirts.

His crowning glory came in the 2015 Rugby World Cup final, when he scored a magnificent solo try to help the All Blacks beat Australia.

12: Inside centre - Tim Horan (Australia)

Winner in 1991 and 1999, Tim Horan is another of just 21 players to have won multiple Rugby World Cups and he was instrumental for Australia in both tournaments.

Campese took most of the plaudits for the 1991 success but Horan was fantastic, too, scoring four tries. 

His finest hour came in 1999, though, where he was arguably the best player of the tournament despite being struck down with a bout of severe food poisoning the night before their semi-final win over South Africa.

11: Left wing - Jonah Lomu (New Zealand)

Once described as a "freight train in ballet shoes" by writer Peter FitzSimons, Jonah Lomu was arguably the first rugby player to transcend the game and he has been touted as one of the greatest athletes in sporting history.

Despite never actually winning the Rugby World Cup and only appearing in two instalments of the tournament, Lomu is joint-top of the Rugby World Cup all-time try scoring list with 15 and his rise to prominence with the All Blacks paved the way for the sport's international growth.

10: Fly-half - Jonny Wilkinson (England)

Jonny Wilkinson is responsible for England rugby fans' premier sporting memory, but the fly-half offered much more than a single World Cup-winning drop goal in 2003.

He scored 32 points on his World Cup debut in 1999 and went on to appear in three more tournaments, becoming the first player to score points in two separate Rugby World Cup finals, while he still holds the Rugby World Cup points record with a massive 277.

9: Scrum-half - Joost van der Westhuizen (South Africa)

One of the stars of the Springboks' Rugby World Cup triumph on home turf in 1995, Joost van der Westhuizen will live long in the memory for his tackle on Jonah Lomu in the final and is among the greatest scrum halves to ever play the game.

Standing at an unusually-tall 6ft 2in for a scrum-half, Van der Westhuizen starred in three Rugby World Cups and made 89 Test appearances for South Africa before his retirement in 2003.


1: Loosehead prop - Os du Randt (South Africa)

A full 12 years passed between Os du Randt's two Rugby World Cup medals with South Africa, and this longevity is what made the loosehead prop such a force to be reckoned with.

He retired as the most-capped forward in Springboks history with 80 caps and drew the curtain on a remarkable career by winning the 2007 Rugby World Cup final against defending champions England.

2: Hooker - John Smit (South Africa)

John Smit will live fondly in the memory of Springboks fans after leading South Africa to their second Rugby World Cup win in 2007, despite only just recovering from injury in time to play in the tournament.

His leadership was evident throughout the 2007 tournament and he retired in 2011 as the most-capped South African player in history, racking up 111 appearances.

3: Tighthead prop - Adam Jones (Wales)

Wales may never have made a Rugby World Cup final, but Adam Jones helped them to their joint-best performance in 2011 as they reached the semi-finals, with the tighthead offering a platform for the team to build from before an unfortunate injury ended his semi-final in 10 minutes.

That was Jones' third Rugby World Cup in a playing career spanning 18 years, in which he won four Six Nations titles and three Grand Slams.

4: Lock - Martin Johnson (England)

Captain of England's 2003 Rugby World Cup-winning side, fellow legend John Eales claimed Martin Johnson's performance in the final was the best ever by a lock and he is regarded as one of the greatest of all time in his position.

Johnson captained England in 39 matches, reaching the quarter-finals in 1999 before winning the 2003 final, drawing the curtain on a glittering international career that spanned 10 years.

5: Lock - John Eales (Australia)

A two-time Rugby World Cup winner with Australia, Eales played a key role in both the 1991 and 1999 tournaments with his unmatched stamina and excellent kicking ability.

Unusually for a forward, the Wallabies lock kicked 34 penalties and 31 conversions for his country and was the most-capped of all time in his position when he retired, although that record has since been surpassed.

6: Blindside flanker - Richard Hill (England)

Another star of England's 2003 Rugby World Cup-winning side, Richard Hill was ferocious in the back row and set the stage for his more glamorous teammates to shine.

Hill was known for his huge hits and overall well-rounded game, making him one of the best flankers of his generation.

7: Openside flanker - Richie McCaw (New Zealand)

Widely recognised as one of the best rugby players of all time, Richie McCaw is the only man to win successive Rugby World Cups as captain and has won the World Rugby Player of the Year award a joint-record three times.

McCaw looked destined for greatness after being awarded man-of-the-match on his international debut against Ireland in 2001, and the former Crusaders and Canterbury player went on to captain New Zealand for nine years before his retirement in 2015.

8: Number eight - Zinzan Brooke (New Zealand)

Scorer of 17 tries in Test matches for New Zealand - a previous world record for a forward - Zinzan Brooke was extremely mobile with excellent kicking ability, illustrated by a massive 48-metre drop goal in the 1995 Rugby World Cup.

New Zealand went on to lose the final to South Africa that year, but Brooke rightly goes down as one of the greatest number eights in All Blacks history.

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