Our next section of the 100 best players goes from 80 to 71. Compiled at the end of 2017, take a look at who makes the cut
80 Jordie Barrett
Country New Zealand Date of Birth 17.2.97 Position Full-back
It’s been said that Jordie will be a better player than brother Beauden, the back-to-back World Player of the Year. Let’s just say it’s a talented family.
Jordie enjoyed a sensational 2017 Super Rugby campaign, his telepathic-like relationship with Beauden making the Hurricanes unstoppable at times.
The Canes list him as a 12 but most of his fledgling first-class career has seen him at 15, from where he’s able to step into first or second receiver or attack in the wide channels. His skill-set is extraordinary. He’s strong in the air, as he should be at 6ft 5in, he kicks goals and he fizzes out powerful passes with little or no backlift.
There’s a YouTube clip of him catching a kick inches off the ground with his fingertips, whilst a try he got against the Stormers – ripping the ball from a startled Nizaam Carr over the line – might make you laugh in incredulity.
He marked his first Test start with a try in the 15-15 draw against the Lions, but was then sidelined by shoulder surgery. We can’t wait to see him back.
79 Don Armand
Country England Date of Birth 23 Sept 1988 Position Back-row
One England cap off the bench represents a sparse return for Armand, who failed to make Eddie Jones’s autumn squad following his debut in Argentina last June.
Jones wants evidence that the Zimbabwe-born back-row can carry through traffic but the proof is there – just watch his tries in Exeter’s Champions Cup win in Montpellier.
He may not look like a steamroller but he’s surprisingly difficult to stop. “He’s electrifying at brushing through contact and running into space,” says Rob Baxter, Chiefs’ director of rugby.
His gain-line and tackle success compares favourably to fellow England contenders, with Armand often used one out from rucks or in the wide spaces. He’s rapid enough to chase down wingers and an athletic ball-winner and stealer in the lineout.
He’s been a key figure in Exeter’s rise, being named Man of the Match in their Premiership final triumph, and the call to reward him with further England honours has become a clamour. The back row is a competitive area but RW is backing Armand’s case.
78 Guilhem Guirado
Country France Date of Birth 17.6.86 Position Hooker
The France captain started in the back row before learning the front-row arts while packing down between Nicolas Mas and Perry Freshwater at Perpignan. He’s solid at the set-piece and relishes getting the ball in his hands – against NZ last year he made more carries than any player bar full-back Nans Ducuing. His temperament is also noteworthy.
77 Amanaki Mafi
Country Japan Date of Birth 11.1.90 Position No 8
Tonga-born, Japan international, Australian Super Rugby Player of the Year. That’s Mafi! He scored four tries in three games for Bath in 2016, has excelled for the Rebels – with more carries (196) than any other forward in Super Rugby last year – and uses his power to great effect for Japan.
76 Duane Vermeulen
Country South Africa Date of Birth 3.7.86 Position Back-row
To see the Boks of late has been to watch a former great stagger sideways and then look up, puzzled, hoping for answers. Some of this comes down to on-field leadership, so what they would give for a force like Vermeulen. With him they look both balanced and abrasive. Many see him as the skipper they need. Alas, he is so often stranded in Toulon.