Rugby is New Zealand’s national sport, and the country is renowned for being a strong contender in both domestic and international arenas. With many legendary players carving out a positive reputation, it’s hard to pick out the most iconic. But here are that have made a difference. Let’s exploce New Zealand’s Most Legendary Rugby Players below.
New Zealand’s Most Legendary Rugby Players
The openside flanker was the star of the first Rugby World Cup in 1987, with the All Blacks clinching the title. Jones had exceptional athletic ability and changed the role of the modern openside. Former coach John Hart, who first selected him for Auckland, labelled him “almost the perfect rugby player.”
Considered one of the greatest, Fitzpatrick was a mainstay of the All Blacks at hooker for a decade from 1987, leading them from 1992 as a record breaking captain. He led the All Blacks as captain on their stunning run to the 1995 World Cup final, only for the team to fall to the Springboks. Was at the helm as they ventured into professionalism later that year, and then to a historic away series win over South Africa in 1996.
Admired by all, feared by many with impressive speed, an imposing physique and a penchant for charging right into the defending side, Jonah Lomu quickly became a force to be reckoned with upon making his debut in 1994. Opponents viewed him with equal parts admiration and fear especially after witnessing his daring rampage through several England players at the 1995 World Cup to score one of the most memorable rugby tries in history.
Over the course of his career, Lomu scored 37 tries 15 of which were during World Cup matches and played 63 tests for New Zealand. His unexpected death in 2015 was lamented by fellow players and colleagues from across the globe. Rugby’s first global superstar and the most physically dominant player of his generation, there’s been no one like the wing since. His 15 tries across two World Cups in 1995 and 1999, and the manner in which he attained them still marvels. The late, great Lomu single-handedly changed the sport, on the field and off it.
An incredible athlete who skippered New Zealand in nine Tests from 1972 to 1973, Kirkpatrick is attributed with evolving the role of a blindside flanker to the specialist position it is today. A tough uncompromising flanker who could also score tries, Kirky was at one point New Zealand’s leading try scorer with 16. Most notably of his tries was his 60m effort against the Lions in 1971 still regarded as one of the greatest solo All Blacks tries.
Colin Meads: New Zealand ‘Player of the Century’
Colin Meads is widely regarded as the most iconic rugby player of his time. So much so that he was named New Zealand’s Player of the Century in 1999. He was deemed the most famous rugby forward of the 1960s by the International Rugby Hall of Fame, and was also made a New Zealand Companion of Merit (the local equivalent of a knighthood) in 2001.
His size and presence made him known as the ‘Pinetree’, a nickname originally coined by fellow teammate Ken Briscoe. Meads made his provincial debut in 1955, playing 139 games for King Country, and joined the All Blacks during the 1957 tour of Australia.
George Nepia was only 19 when he was selected to play on the 1924 to 1925 Invincibles tour of the United Kingdom and France. Not only did Nepia play fullback in all 30 games of this tour (something that would be unheard of in present times), he also played two more games on the way home. He played his last test match in 1930 after being barred from touring South Africa because of his Maori ethnicity and he is one of the all Blacks’ first superstars.
Richie McCaw: A legendary captain
Richie McCaw’s impressive career is, for many, just as commendable as if not more remarkable than Colin Meads’ achievements. He made his debut in the All Blacks in 2001 and was on the field for 32% of all the victories the team had in its lifetime. McCaw is also known for playing a total of 148 tests in his career and captaining the national team into two Rugby World Cup victories. This is once of New Zealand’s Most Legendary Rugby Players.