All Blacks still top list of world's best players

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    18 Jul 2017     Getty Images

The Western Mail in Cardiff, the main newspaper in Wales, still has first five-eighths Beauden Barrett as the No.1 player.

They said of him: "The bill-topper going into the Lions series, Barrett didn't manage to quite steal the show, but still provided enough moments of individual brilliance to underline his status as the game's most exciting talent – remember that one-handed pick-up in the first Test? His goal-kicking was the Achilles' heel, but he is the first name down on anybody's world XV and gets our vote as the best in the business."

All Blacks captain Kieran Read was named at No.2.


"A totem of New Zealand rugby, who led the world champions impressively during all three Tests. Defied a six-week injury absence to produce a monumental display in the opening Test against the Lions and edged his No.8 battle with Taulupe Faletau," the newspaper said.

The only non-New Zealand player in the top six was England lock Maro Itoje.

Fullback Ben Smith was at No.4. "A proven try-scorer who, like many of his compatriots, is blessed with a knack of making the right decisions at the right time."

And lock Brodie Retallick was ranked No.5. "A towering presence in the opening encounter against the Lions, the 2014 world player of the year continues to set the second-row bar mightily high. Powerful and aggressive in the contact, Retallick also possesses a smart off-loading game."

Hooker Dane Coles didn't fire a shot during the Lions series due to illness but he was still ranked at No.6.

"Not seen so far this summer because of a worrying head injury, but has revolutionised the hooking role with his ability to throw out passes any three-quarter would be delighted to put his name to."

Second five-eighths Sonny Bill Williams came in at No.12. "Lions fans will argue otherwise, but it was a crying shame we didn't see the full Sonny Bill repertoire during the Test series. An enigma to some, there isn't a better off-loader in the game than the former rugby league star."

Halfback Aaron Smith was placed at No.14 where the Mail said of him: "Like Barrett, the Highlanders halfback wasn't the attacking force the New Zealanders had hoped to see during the series, but Smith remains an integral cog in the All Black machine with his slick delivery and eye for the gap."

Flanker Sam Cane was ranked No.20. "The player who was handed the toughest job in rugby, filling the void left by the retirement of All Black great Richie McCaw. Will never reach the same heights as one of the game's icons, but the apprentice has turned into one of the leading opensides in Test rugby, highlighted by his combative first Test display against the Lions."

And just behind him at No.21 was lock Sam Whitelock. "He and Retallick have long established themselves as the best second-row pairing in the game. The Crusaders skipper puts in the graft, but like so many All Blacks forwards, is comfortable with the ball in his hands and is a rampaging sight in the loose."

Completing the entries in the rankings is wing-fullback Israel Dagg at No.28. "Started all three Tests against the Lions and when you consider the calibre of back-three player left on the sidelines during the series, that speaks volumes for how highly the Crusaders star is rated by Steve Hansen. A potent counter-attacker, can leave defenders rooted by a blistering sidestep."

Interestingly, given the dominance the All Blacks scrum achieved in the Lions' series, there is no place for tighthead prop Owen Franks in the ranks, although Lions tighthead Tadhg Furlong is rated No.13.

The full list is: 30.Stuart Hogg (Scotland), 29.Alun Wyn Jones (Wales), 28.Israel Dagg, 27.Wesley Fofana (France), 26.Agustin Creevy (Argentina), 25.Louis Picamoles (France), 24.Kurtley Beale (Australia), 23.Michael Hooper (Australia), 22.Taulupe Faletau (Wales), 21.Sam Whitelock (New Zealand), 20.Sam Cane (New Zealand), 19.Bernard Foley (Australia), 18.Facundo Isa (Argentina), 17.Eben Etzebeth (South Africa), 16.Leone Nakarwara (Fiji), 15.Sergio Parisse (Italy), 14.Aaron Smith (New Zealand), 13.Tadhg Furlong (Ireland), 12.Sonny Bill Williams (New Zealand), 11.Billy Vunipola (England), 10.Conor Murray (Ireland), 9.Israel Folau (Australia), 8.Jonathan Davies (Wales), 7.Owen Farrell (England), 6.Dane Coles (New Zealand), 5.Brodie Retallick (New Zealand), 4.Ben Smith (New Zealand), 3.Maro Itoje (England), 2.Kieran Read (New Zealand), 1.Beauden Barrett (New Zealand).