Our next section of the 100 best players goes from 30-21. Take a look at who makes the cut

The 100 Best Rugby Players In The World: 30-21

30 Sam Whitelock

Next Up: Whitelock is thought to be the next All Blacks captain (Getty Images)

Age 30 (12.10.88) Position Lock

“A deep thinker on the game,” says Steve Hansen of his second-row. An extraordinary footballer to boot, Whitelock is hotly tipped to take over as All Blacks captain when Kieran Read stands down after the 2019 Rugby World Cup. Has years left in him at the very top.

29 Jonny May

Prolific Scorer: May certainly knows where the try line is (Getty Images)

Age 29 (1.4.90) Position Wing

He might have had a stressful season with Leicester but the phenomenally quick May had the time of his life with England and individual awards came his way. He scored in five consecutive Tests last year and bagged six more tries in the Six Nations, including a hat-trick against France. England attack coach Scott Wisemantel has likened him to a Ferrari.

28 Richie Mo’unga

Pushing It: Mo’unga is keeping Beauden Barrett honest for the starting 10 All Blacks jersey (Getty Images)

Age 25 (25.5.94) Position Fly-half

So good in guiding the Crusaders to successive titles that debate has raged over whether Mo’unga should start ahead of two-time World Player of the Year Beauden Barrett. He has exceptional feet, thrives challenging the line and his cross-field kicks regularly break open defences.

27 Maro Itoje

Born Competitor: Itoje fights for everything on the park (Getty Images)

Age 24 (28.10.94) Position Lock

Perhaps we’re harsh to demote Itoje since our last top 100, but his propensity for conceding unnecessary penalties is holding him back. It’s the only criticism you could lay on him for in every other way he is an utter marvel – a muscular menace to haunt all rivals. His USP? “He competes for every single moment. He fights for that extra 1%,” says Pat Lam.

26 Malcolm Marx

Familiar Story: Marx is might over the ball but could still improve his throwing (Getty Images)

Age 24 (13.7.94) Position Hooker

A powerful scrummager and carrier, Marx is a fine athlete and acts as an auxiliary loose forward for the Lions and Springboks. He wins penalties by slowing down ball at the breakdown, which is why the odd errant lineout throw is forgiven. If he improves his throws, he’ll be the complete player.

25 Rieko Ioane

Try a Game: He has 22 in 24 All Black Tests at the moment (Getty Images)

Age 22 (18.3.97) Position Wing

Still only 22, Ioane has racked up 22 tries in 24 Tests for the All Blacks. He’s a wing who manages to reach top speed in the relative blink of an eye. A great sidestep and an improving fend make him one of the pre-eminent finishers of the era. A New Zealand Herald report last year stated that he is probably the fastest All Black in history too.

24 Emily Scarratt

Classy Centre: Scarratt rarely puts a foot wrong (Getty Images)

Age 29 (8.2.90) Position Centre

Scarratt returned to 15s from sevens on a pro deal at the start of the year and helped England win a Grand Slam. A classy operator who makes powerful breaks and boots the ball long distances, it’s her vision that puts her among the best in the game.

23 Hamish Watson

Indestructible: He has to be one of the most difficult players tot tackle in world rugby (Getty Images)

Age 27 (15.10.91) Position Back-row

“Rampage.” A word repeatedly used to describe Watson’s cameo in the final quarter of the Six Nations match against Wales. In a 15-minute reintroduction to Test rugby after a spell out with injury, the Edinburgh pinball handed off half the Welsh team. With his five carries, Wales missed ten tackles on him.

For all the memes, gifs and commentary this produced, it was not a one-off. Later in March, a clip of him did the rounds. In it he is seen against Leinster, peeling off the back of a drive, escaping one tackle and handing off Rhys Ruddock two or three times as he plunged into opposition territory. When he went down he had attracted three defenders. He also started six of Edinburgh’s seven Champions Cup games as they reached the last eight.

This all stands out because in the past Watson has faced questions about his size. In 2017, the 6ft 1in, 16st openside said: “You just work on your strengths, and it’s harder for bigger guys to get down and compete with my jackling.” In 2018 he told Scrum magazine: “Lining up in the tunnel, I’m probably one of the smaller players bar the nines.”

In 2019 we are only talking about the scale of Watson’s impact.

22 Danny Cipriani

Flawed Genius: Lack of adaptability has probably cost Cipriani many England caps (Getty Images)

Age 31 (2.11.87) Position Fly-half

Some see Cipriani as an enigma. Wrong, being enigmatic is nothing to do with it. His genius depends not so much on the opposition but on his own team and coach. It is impossible for genius to flow if you are surrounded by 14 mental clodhoppers. And he cannot flourish unless the coach trusts him to run the whole attack.

His strength is to call for the ball from the forwards when he thinks fit – and to make the next plays on the hoof, no set move, just a basic framework of runners at different angles. The speed at which he can find the best option for his pass is breathtaking.

He was the ideal ringmaster at Wasps with Jimmy Gopperth outside him, Elliot Daly and Christian Wade out wide and Willie le Roux at 15. At Gloucester, alongside Billy Twelvetrees and Mark Atkinson, he’s been similarly effective.

What you cannot do is sign Danny for your team, then insist that he conforms to what is already there. Which is why the Premiership and RPA Player of the Year so rarely gets chosen by England.

21 Michael Hooper

Unflappable: Hooper just keeps on playing and performing at the highest level (Getty Images)

Age 27 (29 October 1991) Position Back-row

Super Hooper likes to get things done fast, whether snaffling turnovers, busting defences or clocking up cap tallies. He raced to a half-century of Wallaby appearances in a record three years four months, and is on course to become the youngest Test centurion.

He should win his 100th cap during this year’s Rugby World Cup – two years earlier than Sam Whitelock and George Smith, who reached their milestones aged 29.

He’s already hit one century this year, running out for the Waratahs for a 100th time, and has been far and away the best tackler in Super Rugby. No wonder Rugby Australia pinned him down to a five-year deal 12 months ago, one that will take him through to Rugby World Cup 2023.

Bernard Foley describes Hooper as “the soul” of the Waratahs and hails his team-mate’s work ethic, saying: “He buries himself so much in games and then he pulls his head out of a ruck and his eyes are going every which way.”

Hooper’s captaincy, too, is vital – never more so than during a challenging period for Australian rugby that centred on the sacking of Israel Folau.

Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson says: “The major growth when I’ve been here is his development as a leader. He’s very driven to make sure he is the best leader he can be. It’s often said that if you had 15 like him you’d never lose.”

Fortunately for the rest of the world, there’s only one Michael Hooper!

Don’t forget to follow Rugby World on Facebook and Twitter.