The scrum-half or number 9 position in rugby is a crucial role in rugby, the scrum-half is the kingpin, the fulcrum that connects the forwards to the backs or three quarter line, basically, a pivot between the powerhouse of hefty players to speedsters or athletic runners. The scrum-half is usually the smallest player on the pitch, a quick thinker, agile, fast and follows the ball whether it is with the forwards or the backs. It is well know that referees when asked which is their pet-hate in rugby, they invariably mention the scrum-half. This is because the N.9s are renowned for being over confident to the point of displaying arrogance and are notorious for starting ungentlemanly behaviour during a game drawing the attention and protection of the big and powerful forwards. However, rugby enthusiasts admire and love to see a scrum-half with zest, flare and bold actions, to be an above average scrum-half requires a special talent and way of thinking, here are some of the world’s best ever N.9s
Sir Gareth Edwards, CBE, KB – The Welshman is regarded as the Greatest Of All time (GOAT) in the number nine position. The fiery human dynamo weighed 54Kg and stood at 1m 60cms and slipped through defenders hands like a bar soap in a shower. He represented Wales 53 times throughout the 60s and 70s. His iconic and most memorable try against Scotland in 1972 cemented his reputation as the world’s best ever scrum-half to have played rugby.
George Gregan – He was born in Zambia but played for Australia as his father was Australian. His playing career saw him capped 139 times for the Wallabies, which still remains a world record, in 13 years from 1994-2007. Described as a modern thoroughbred N.9, his style of quick distribution, stamina and command of the game earned him the captain’s armband in 1999 and obtaining another record of 55 caps as Wallabies captain, a mighty athlete at 1.73m tall and form weight of 80Kg.
Joost Van Der Westhuizen – The S. African Joost was the only solo man who could tackle the powerhouse Jonah Lomu to the ground as seen in the 1995 RWC final. He was, however, a bigger scrumhalf than usual at 1.88m and 90Kg. He captained the Boks 10 times and enjoyed 3 RWC finals. Tragically, Joost was diagnosed with motor neurone disease which took him at the early age of 45 years. A true Springboks Legend with 89 appearances and scoring 190 points.
Matt Dawson – Played for England from 1995 until 2006 and made 77 appearances and captained England in the 1998 RWC. Matt was a determined player and an unsung hero but noted for his fingerless glove wearing period. He fought off stiff competition to hold on to his N.9 shirt and quietly led England to some memorable victories, winning the RWC in both the 1993, 7s and 2003,15s formats. His playing form weight was 83Kg and 1.78m tall.
Terry Holmes – Another Welshman who stamped his authority on the game for Wales in his twilight years from 1978 to 1985. He only made 25 appearances but his impact was legendary, larger than normal scrumhalf at 1.85m and 88Kg, in his earlier days he also played loose head prop. His special talent was scoring tries close to the line with scrums or mauls due to his size and experience as a forward. He replaced Sir Gareth for Wales when the GOAT retired.
Augustin Pichot – Yet another national team captain, Augustin led his Argentinian teammates out onto the field between 1995 to 2008. The Buenos Aries man also played for top club teams in France and England. He chalked up 71 caps for the Los Pumas in his career. He is one of Argentina’s most decorated players and inducted to the IRB Hall of Fame, he also became WC Vice-Chairman after retirement. His influence on and off the pitch is everlasting from this 1.77m, 77Kg speedster.
Nick Farr-Jones - Regarded as Australia’s greatest N.9, noted for his accurate high velocity ball passing skill and fearless tackling, Nick earned the skipper’s title 36 times for the Wallabies and played in 83 matches. His golden years from 1984 to 1993 saw him win a world cup final in 1991. Height – 1.78m, weight – 84Kg
Two modern day scrum-halves that are set to become legends in the near future, although they are already superstars of rugby are Antoine Dupont and Faf de Klerk. Both players will be on show in the 2023 RWC to be held in France.
Antoine Dupont – Nicknamed ‘The Gifted’, this French born 25 year old rugby multi-millionaire pro-rugby player has been voted the world’s best player in 2022. He is also the captain of Les Bleus. His stocky physique of 84Kg in a body of 1.73m aids him with his unique style of play plus his talent for anticipating moves in the game. This mild-mannered Frenchman will lead Les Bleus to a win the RWC in his home country.
Francois ‘Faf’ de Klerk – Already an RWC winner in 2019 with S. Africa, the Springbok player has established a legendary status worldwide with his cheeky chap attitude and scintillating skills. The 1.70m, 80Kg Bok is currently playing in Japan, however, the 2023 RWC will probably be his final appearance in the competition and the excitement to see the two best playing scrum-halves in the world is immense. The 30 year old earns a cool £1,000,000 a season playing for Japan’s Canon Eagles Rugby Club, Yokohama City.
Rugby is for everyone, big, small, stout or tall but to shine as a scrumhalf requires the x-factor or... attendance at the Krakow Rugby Festival :)