At the Dubai Sevens we caught up with Wallaby great Nathan Sharpe. In a stellar 14-year career former Queensland Red and Western Force lock Sharpe won 116 caps, played in three World Cups and is the third most capped lock of all-time. He also won the John Eales Medal on two occasions. He took some time out to give us a list of the greatest lock forwards he played against.
Victor Matfield (South Africa)
Caps 121 Points 35 (7T)
“I’ve picked Victor Matfield on his ability to run a very clinical lineout. Over the years he has built a real presence on the field for the Springboks. I think he understands the game of rugby very well and takes real pride in doing his homework around his lineout, something he’s still doing pretty well at 37. As well as being very organized he is also a fine athlete who is a tremendous lineout jumper. Knowing him as I do, he’s also very, very competitive. He’s one of the best in the business.”
Brad Thorn (New Zealand)
Caps 59 Points 20 (4T)
“Brad Thorn is a hard man and so resilient – which is why he’s still playing when he’s nearly 40! He made the difficult transition from League to become one of the most important cogs in the All Blacks team that lifted the Rugby World Cup in 2011, which was some achievement. Physically he’s an absolute beast, a real specimen, but if anything tops his physical stature it’s his mental toughness. I’ve heard he’s making a good impression at Leicester. I would guess he certainly commands respect.”
Paul O’Connell (Ireland)
Caps 103 (96 Ireland) Points 30 (6T)
“Paul O’Connell is one gritty player. He’s been the main man in the Irish pack for such a long time now and you can see he really drives them through a game. He’s good in the air and in the tight exchanges and he never yields an inch. He’s everything you want in a modern lock. He hits rucks, makes yards and puts his fair share of tackles in. He’s the ultimate warrior in green and one tough bugger to play against.”
Chris Jack (New Zealand)
Tests 67 Points 25 (5T)
I played a lot of rugby against Chris Jack growing up in the age-grades at U19 and U21s. For a long period of time in the early 2000s, he was the dominant lock for the Crusaders and the All Blacks. Chris had some great skills. He was a really good all-rounder.
Tests 29 Points 5 (1T)
Andries Bekker was another tough Springbok. At 6ft 10in, he’s very tall – even for a lock and that made him a real threat an the lineout. He’s a technically gifted in the lineout lineout but he was also pretty quick around the park. He used to get through a lot of work, hitting rucks and making the tackles. He’s been unlucky with injury.
The next generation…
“I still watch a lot of rugby. I was pleased to see Brodie Retallick win the World Rugby Player of the Year. He’s a very talented player, I played against him a bit. Eben Etzebeth is another in the typical Springbok enforcer mould but he’s a very good player and he’s still so young. He has so much potential. Joe Launchbury has all the makings of a great lock too.
Nathan Sharpe spoke to us as an HSBC Ambassador at the Dubai Sevens. For more information follow @HSBCrugby