Our next section of the 100 best players goes from 60 to 51. Compiled at the end of 2017, take a look at who makes the cut
60 Matt Toomua
Country Australia Date of Birth 2.1.90 Position Centre
He spent his first year in the Midlands injured but this season has proved how valuable he is. Leicester will be delighted that he’s extended his stay until 2020; he’s brought a different dimension to their back-line with his creativity and ability to spot space.
59 Joe Launchbury
Country England Date of Birth 12.4.91 Position Lock
Five Man of the Match awards in his last 14 England starts – that says it all about the lock whose Lions omission stunned so many. The Wasps captain is adding leadership credentials to his impeccable lineout and breakdown skills, while his work-rate is illustrated by a chart-topping 85 tackles in last year’s Six Nations.
58 Hamish Watson
Country Scotland Date of Birth 15.8.91 Position Back-row
John Hardie’s fall from grace has been hastened by the emergence of Watson, who’s made the Scotland No 7 shirt his own in the past 14 months. One of the game’s most proficient jacklers, Watson has rapidly come to terms with the new ruck directives that mitigate against turnover specialists and he’s become a more dynamic ball-carrier than his 6ft frame would suggest.
Accused by CJ Stander of being tackle shy, he responded with 19 tackles in 49 minutes against Ireland last year, setting the tone for Scotland’s best Six Nations since 2006. His breakdown work kept the Scots in contention in Paris and he produced a staggering display to nullify Wales’ two opensides at Murrayfield.
More than anything it’s his physical toughness that one admires – he didn’t flinch when Sekope Kepu smashed him in the head in the incident that saw the Wallaby prop sent off in November.
Watson spent most of his youth in England but never lost touch with his Scottish ancestry; he qualifies through Glaswegian grandparents. Defeat and
a yellow card made his 2015 Test debut against Italy an inauspicious occasion, but his mental fortitude meant he was always going to bounce back.
Scorer of the scintillating try that beat Australia in Sydney, he’s become a man that Scotland can rely on.
57 Ben Youngs
Country England Date of Birth 5.9.89 Position Scrum-half
Youngs shows quality on and off the field. On it, with his sharp service, sniping runs and a killer dummy, he is one of England’s most-capped nines. Off it, he forsook a Lions place to support brother Tom and his terminally ill wife.
56 Rabah Slimani
Country France Date of Birth 18.10.89 Position Prop
A controversial choice. The Clermont tighthead has become indispensable for France but he’s on the radar of World Rugby, with refs told to look out for him pushing across and pulling opponents down at scrum time. Team-mates have rallied around him, with calls of bias against the French. A cult figure.